Sweet Success


Brooke (Behringer) Joyner ’95 continues a delicious family tradition

It could be the macabre opening of a psychological thriller: A cargo van pulls up to the office of a Florida prosthetic limb company. The van’s doors open to reveal hundreds of neatly stacked gift boxes that each contain…a human leg. Only when the camera zooms in do we see that the perfectly formed limbs are made of chocolate!

The woman behind the legs—as well as countless other delicious chocolate creations—is Brooke (Behringer) Joyner ’95, proprietor of Peterbrooke Chocolatier in Atlantic Beach, Florida. She is, in fact, the Brooke of Peterbrooke. Her mother, Phyllis (Lockwood) Geiger ’65, founded the company in 1983, naming it for Brooke and her brother, Peter. After licensing dozens of Peterbrooke Chocolatier franchises throughout Florida and the Southeast, Geiger sold the company in 2009.

That same year, Joyner purchased the Atlantic Beach store. Today, in addition to offering the tempting assortment of dipped and filled confections you’d expect in a high-end chocolate shop, she specializes in sculpting custom chocolate creations for local businesses. A number of her clients—including Orthotic Prosthetic Centers, in Fort Lauderdale, which each year orders a truckload of chocolate legs as holiday gifts—are in the medical field.

“If you can think of it, I can make it in chocolate,” Joyner explains with a laugh. “Legs, hearts, brains…it’s like I’m putting a body together.”

For each creation, Joyner starts by casting melted chocolate in a mold. The hollow legs are then filled with the store’s best-selling chocolate-dipped popcorn. A brain (which she made for a neuroscience facility) and a heart (for a cardiac practice) were filled with solid chocolate.

If such skills interest you, Joyner offers chocolate-making classes where customers can try their own hand at techniques such as tempering (evenly cooling melted chocolate so it retains its shine) and dipping. Get good enough and you might be able to make the company’s signature Freezer Truffle, a decadent confection developed by Joyner’s mother, assembled from a chilled cube of ganache, coated in chocolate and then dusted in cocoa powder to resemble a truffle mushroom. “They take a couple days to make,” says Joyner, who insists she will never get tired of eating chocolate. “It’s like silk on your tongue.”

Joyner left Florida for Williston for her junior year, continuing a remarkable family tradition. In addition to her mother, her aunts—Nancy Whitcomb ’71 and Laurel Bradshaw ’72—are also Williston alums, as is her grandfather, Howard A. Lockwood ’33. Another aunt, Isabelle Bourrie, is an honorary member of the class of 1965. Joyner says she loved her time in Easthampton—except for the cold weather. “I just couldn’t get used to it,” she says.

Now back in sunny Florida, she is married to Seth Joyner, whose family also owns Peterbrooke franchises. Her return to the chocolate business after forays in real estate was not something she expected. “I wanted nothing to do with the business,” she says of her earlier years. “I respected all the work that went into it, but I wanted to create something that was mine, that I could put my signature on.” Fortunately, chocolate has now given her that leg to stand on.

Follow her on Instagram @peterbrookeab

Chocolate 101

Given her expertise, we asked Joyner to give us a crash course in chocolate. Below are her tried-and-true tips.

What should we look for when selecting chocolate?

Look at the ingredients. Real chocolate has cocoa butter, cocoa, and chocolate liquor. A lot of companies extract the expensive cocoa butter to use for other things, and then introduce vegetable oil. The FDA says if you remove all the cocoa butter, you cannot call it chocolate. So look at a package. It may say “chocolatey.” The vegetable oil allows chocolate to have a longer shelf life in a grocery store, and prevents it from going out of temper so that it will always look shiny. But it creates a waxy taste.

What are those white streaks you sometimes see in chocolate? Does that mean the chocolate is old?

That’s called blooming. When chocolate solidifies at the wrong temperature and it hasn’t been tempered, you’ll see these white streaks in it. It looks bad. A lot of people think it’s old. But it isn’t bad. You just melt it down and then you temper it by cooling the chocolate at an even temperature. You pour it on marble and you take two spatulas and you spread the chocolate around. And then when it dries, it’s shiny in the way it should look.

How should we store chocolate?

Solid chocolate lasts for a long time, two years if it’s in the right environment—not near garlic, say, or perfumes. We can’t wear perfume at work because the chocolate will absorb it. One of the big mistakes is people put it in the freezer or the fridge. That actually causes condensation on the chocolate, and if it’s real chocolate, the cocoa butter will absorb surrounding flavors. The best way to store chocolate is at room temperature, out of heat and direct sunlight, which can make the chocolate come out of temper.

What’s the proper way to melt chocolate for making dipped treats?

Chocolate burns really easily. If someone wants to learn how to melt it on their own, I always recommend a double boiler. When I do it, I use the microwave, but I know how. I know the temperatures. You have to watch it closely—do like maybe 25 seconds at a time, and check it after each.