Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 21, 2024

You probably already know that Hopkins is diverse community. We have writers, doctors and engineers, athletes, artists and bookworms. You probably didn't know, however, that we have on our campus a true chocolate aficionado.

Meet Jamasen Rodriguez. Your seemingly average student, he hails from California and is an avid runner. Yet unlike many others, Jamasen has dreamed of becoming a pastry chef since the age of five.

Even more unusual, Jamasen has not simply lived with this dream, but he has acted on his passion by developing his own perfect truffle recipe and creating his own truffles and hot chocolate business, Jama Cocoa. He explains, "Chocolate has always been a passion and creating Jama Cocoa brings me one step closer to my passion."

As ultimate foodies ourselves, we were inspired by Jamasen's drive and wowed by his delicious melt-in-your-mouth truffles. We decided to ask him a few questions and we've been impressed by his story!

The News-Letter (N-L): Where did this passion begin?

Jamasen Rodriguez (JR): It started when I was five and learning math. 1 cup of flour plus 1 cup of sugar is 2 cups of dry ingredients. That's how I learned math, and the baking part just stuck with me.

N-L: When did you start making truffles and hot chocolate?

JR: I have been making truffles for about 2 years, but it wasn't until this past summer that I have created my own recipes.

As for hot chocolate, I have been experimenting with Mexican hot chocolate and other flavor blends, but it wasn't until this past October that I finished my own recipe.

N-L: Describe the process of making the chocolates.

JR: To make truffles I use milk chocolate, cream and flavoring, depending on which type of truffle I am making. The chocolate is broken into small pieces to aid the melting process. I bring the cream mixture to a slight boil, then I add a bit of chocolate to the cream mixture so that it can thicken and cool. If I were to pour the cream directly in the entire bowl of chocolate, the chocolate would seize due to the heat. Not good.

Once the chocolate has melted in the cream mixture and cooled slightly, I add the entire cream and chocolate mixture to the rest of the solid chocolate. Once all the chocolate is melted, this mixture is now called a ganache. I let the ganache cool for 3-5 hours, preferably overnight.

When the ganache is cool, I bring dark chocolate to a temper. Tempering chocolate is the process of heating up chocolate to its melting point then bringing the temperature back down to 90 degrees exactly. At this point the chocolate is ready to use as a shell and will give a nice crack when set.

I create a small ball of ganache and roll it in the tempered chocolate to give the truffle a thin shell. Then immediately place the truffle in a bowl of 100 percent cocoa powder. When the tempered chocolate is set (you can tell by the matte finish on the chocolate) I roll the whole truffle in chocolate to give a very light coating of cocoa powder. There you have a finished truffle.

The hot chocolate is a much simpler process. Bring dairy, sugar, vanilla, and tea to a boil. (This depends on the flavor of the hot chocolate; I don't use tea for original.) When it has reached a boil I add dark chocolate and use an immersion blender to make sure the chocolate is well incorporated. Done!

N-L: How did you learn to make truffles? How did you come up with this recipe?

JR: Watching a lot of Food Network and trial and error. I developed this recipe through trial and error, a whole summer of non-stop measurements and taste tests. I wanted to create a light ganache, and most ganaches I found recipes for were thick and rich. Mine aren't.

N-L: Do you have a favorite brand or type of chocolate, which one?

JR: I would have to say my favorite brand would be Valhrona. Their Manjari 64 percent Cacao chocolate bar is delicious.

N-L: Where do you make your truffles at Hopkins?

JR: At the moment I make the truffles in my Wolman kitchenette. Soon I will be working out of a restaurant kitchen to adhere to all health codes.

N-L: Do you need any special kitchen equipment?

JR: Just a stove top and few pots. Nothing too special. Although many other tools would make the job a lot easier. A heat gun for example. An infrared thermometer. An immersion blender.

N-L: Do you cook other things?

JR: Simply put: anything dessert related.

N-L: How did you end up making a business out of this? Could you tell us a little about the name and how you run the business?

JR: Just start. The one thing that people don't do is start. So by what I do best (trial and error) I wanted to see how to sell truffles by simply giving out samples and selling.

Jama Cocoa — In high school, friends used to take the first part of my name (Jama) and add on random nouns that would pertain to my desserts like ‘Have you had a JamaShake yet?' referring to milk shakes, or ‘Have you had one of Jamasen's JamaCakes?' obviously referring to cakes. So Jama Cocoa is the name of the company because we deal with chocolate in various forms, powder, solid, liquid etc. Cocoa captures all of that.

And I've created an urban theme for Jama Cocoa; there just had to be something different and interesting.

N-L: How does this urban theme take shape?

JR: The urban theme refers to the packaging that the truffles will eventually be in. It's somewhat of an urban look. Matte black boxes with artwork or photographs inside presenting the truffles. The box is something you wouldn't want to throw away. That's what we're aiming for.

I strongly suggest you take advantage of Jamasen's availability on campus as soon as you can. Based on his professionalism and his determination to achieve perfection with his chocolate, he will not be creating his cocoa delights in a Wolman kitchenette for much longer.

If you'd like more information about Jamasen's truffles, check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jamaCOCOA. Also, find Jamasen on campus because your first Jama Cocoa truffle is free. But be warned: after your first truffle, there's no turning back.


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