Introducing Peacetree Mountain Truffles

Bite into a Peacetree Mountain Truffle, and you’re tasting the work of three hardworking local mothers. United by faith and their families’ participation in a local homeschooling co-op, the trio is committed to making delicious, high-quality truffles and sharing them with love.

Linda Armes, who came up with the idea for Peacetree Mountain Truffles, had a brush with culinary greatness in 2004, when she and her son David (then 13) won a “Cook With Your Kids” contest for an Emeril Live online cooking contest. Their winning entry was called Caramel Cinnamon Graham Apple Pie with Caramel Pecan Whipped Cream, and its merits won them a free trip to Orlando and the chance to appear on the Food Network show.

At first Armes looked into selling the pie commercially, but eventually concluded that marketing an individual pie would be an expensive and complicated process. Still, the mother of seven (three children at home, four grown up) was intrigued by the idea of having her own small business. For Christmas 2010, Armes gave homemade truffles to friends and family as gifts. “As soon as everybody tried them, they said, ‘Mom, you could do this,’ as a business,” Armes said. So she started experimenting with recipes, testing them out on her family of willing guinea pigs. Before long, two fellow mothers from the homeschooling co-op that the family belongs to stepped forward with offers of help. The women decided to join forces as a business, and Peacetree Mountain Truffles was formed.

Gretchen Handlos, an administrator at the Kelley School of Business, became the director of operations, and psychologist Lisa Hornibrook became director of marketing. As director of research and development, Armes would continue on the path she’d started on, developing new products. All three help make the cooking contest. Their winning entry was called Caramel Cinnamon Graham Apple Pie with Caramel Pecan Whipped Cream, and its merits won them a free trip to Orlando and the chance to appear on  the Food Network show.

The business would be about more than chocolate, they decided. The name, Peacetree Mountain, reflects the women’s spiritual beliefs. All three are evangelical Christians, and their faith guides their decision-making for the business. This extends to the quality of the ingredients they choose, the purity of the flavors they create, and making sure their dealings with customers are done with the utmost integrity. It also means that involving their families is important.

“All three of us, I believe, are deliberate about involving our families as much as possible for several reasons: to lighten the load, spread the knowledge, and enjoy time together. Although I appreciate and value planning, there is also a great lesson to be learned in living one day at a time. Therefore, I start each day with a plan of how to meet obligations, but also am constantly reminded that life is not about tasks but relationships,” Handlos said. Nevertheless, sometimes managing so many responsibilities can be a precarious balance. Armes and her partners carve out evenings and portions of the weekend for truffle making, which takes place at the kitchen space they’ve rented at Food Works on Washington Street.

Truffle research involves a lot of time in the kitchen, testing out new flavors. So far the company has launched its Cookie Truffles (available at all three Bloomingfoods stores), which incorporate Newman-Os, organic sandwich cookies sold at Bloomingfoods that come in chocolate and mint chocolate. The peanut butter cookie truffles contain Bloomingfoods’ own peanut butter cookies. Armes has found that the simple ingredients in these cookies lend themselves well to truffle-making. Once, on the suggestion of a friend, she tried making some truffles containing a mainstream children’s cereal,  and they turned out sponge-like. “You could tell how chemically processed the cereal was,” she said.

Armes is also developing a line of truffles using local wines. She has recently been working with Oliver wines, and has incorporated them into the ganache of the truffle for a sophisticated after-dinner treat. The truffles made with the sweeter wines also include homemade jelly made from the wine. Running with the local theme, Armes has also been experimenting with Dillman Farm jam truffles. Right now, Bloomingfoods is the only retailer of Peacetree Mountain Truffles, but the owners would like to expand to the point where they can support themselves off the business. They’d also like to serve as an inspiration for others.

“Our greatest hope for Peacetree is that our business will be able to inspire others to take a risk if they believe a small business is their calling,” Handlos said.