Guilty chocolate pleasures

Published on Foodepedia on 13th January 2011:

There’s a lot of talk about January detox but admit it, how many of you have already fallen off the bandwagon? And even if you’re still going strong, isn’t the best part of the detox the day when you get to retox?

And there’s nothing so tempting as the guilty pleasure of chocolates so that’s why I’ve brought you the ultimate guide to chocolate in the next few months.

Demarquette www.demarquette.com

Award winning British Chocolatier Marc Demarquette has put together a Nutkeeper’s Collection which is available in store and online now. It’s a collection of four hybrid praline caramels in hand painted 71.1% pure origin chocolate shells. The pralines are flavoured with Kentish cobnut, Provençal almond, Persian pistachio and American pecan and maple. Along the caramel route, Demarquette has also introduced a Cornish Sea Salt Caramel Box.

Choccy Munchy Seeds www.munchyseeds.co.uk

Completely new to the market, Choccy Munchy Seeds are a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pieces of dried apricot all coated in Belgian milk and dark chocolate. It’s produced by a small family company based in Suffolk, who have been producing sweet and savoury coated seeds for over 12 years. The new Choccy Munchy Seeds are available now from their website or in Lakeland stores from March 2011.

William Curley www.williamcurley.co.uk

Consider putting your feet up and letting the chocolate come to you by joining the Curley Chocolate Club. You can sign up for either a three, six or 12 month membership and get a selection of William Curley chocolates delivered right to your door. You will receive everything from couture chocolates and truffles to Jaffa Cake and crystallised almonds. You will get something different every month but expect to try the latest products, best sellers and award winning chocolates.

Leiths School of Food and Wine www.leiths.com

If your ambitions are more active then think about taking on the Leiths Chocolate Workshop. You will spend a day learning about the history of chocolate, tasting different varieties of chocolates as well as making chocolates to take home. The one off course will take place at the school on the 7th of April 2011, visit their website for more details.

Hotel Chocolat www.hotelchocolat.co.uk

You probably always thought that Hotel Chocolat was just for adults but they have just put the finishing touches to their new children’s range. There are two heroes in the new range – Nibblatron the robot and Twinkle Toes the fairy. Beware, these are so cute that you will probably end up buying them for yourself. The new range is available online and in store now.

Thornton’s www.thorntons.co.uk

Eating chocolate isn’t all about indulgence though. This January, Thornton’s will be launching their new limited edition Chocolate Blocks made from Haiti cocoa beans. 91p from every bar will be going to Save the Children’s educational programmes in Haiti. The first of the series to be released is milk chocolate with mango and is on sale in all Thornton’s stores and online now, priced at £1.79.

But that is not all for Thornton’s – 2011 also marks the chocolate company’s centenary year. To celebrate, Thornton’s will be releasing limited edition Centenary boxes, which will include chocolates made according to 100 year old recipes from the Thornton’s archive. They will also release boxes with one hundred chocolates in.

Artisan du Chocolat www.artisanduchocolat.com

It may only be January but things are definitely hotting up on the love front at Artisan du Chocolat. The chocolatiers have teamed up with New York designers, Bureau of Communication, to create a special limited edition Declaration of Romantic Feelings box. As well as the romantic mad lib in the box, there is also a selection of 54 assorted couture chocolates. A heart shaped XOXO Box, a sweet No.14 Passion Fruit Caramels and a bewitching Love Potion No. 9 are also part of the Valentine’s collection. All are available online and in store now.

Divine www.divinechocolate.com

Love is also in the air for fair-trade chocolate company Divine. It is launching two new chocolate products – milk chocolate praline hearts and dark chocolate covered salted fudges which are both on sale in Oxfam stores nationwide now.

Paul a Young www.paulayoung.co.uk

Paul a Young Fine Chocolates will be releasing their spring collection in February and will feature flavours such as pink pepper truffle; saffron, green cardamom and vanilla bean; and sultry chilli with ginger and nutmeg. For Valentine’s day, the chocolatier will also be releasing wild strawberry and champagne truffles and a rose water heart. The collection will be available online and in store.

Harrods www.harrods.com

Harrods have launched yet more exclusive chocolate products. This time it’s a series of hand-crafted chocolate trees, designed for dinner party centrepieces or as quirky alternatives to flowers. The trees are created by a mother and daughter-run family business, and includes a strawberry champagne truffle heart, a milk chocolate truffle tree and a marshmallow heart terracotta pot.

 

Willie’s Chocolate Bible by Willie Harcourt Cooze

Published on Foodepedia on 27th November 2010:

When Willie Harcourt-Cooze first burst on to our TV screens in 2008, immersed in a bath of chocolate, it was the stuff of children’s books. He was in a documentary about making the best chocolates in the world from bean to bar.

This was a man so passionate about chocolate that at the start of his journey, he sold his home in London and moved to Venezuela where he bought a cacao farm – Hacienda El Tesoro. For over a decade, he produced the cacao beans himself and turned it into bars to sell locally before bringing his 100% chocolate to the UK market. These days, the hacienda still produces cacao for Willie’s chocolate factory in Devon, but he also sources selected cacao beans from elsewhere to produce his selection of quality chocolates.

Harcourt-Cooze’s first book, Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cookbook, came out not too long ago in April 2010. Now we have a second cookbook from the chocolate fanatic, Willie’s Chocolate Bible.

When it landed on my carpet, it took my breath away.

I hadn’t anticipated its size – with over 300 pages, it’s really quite hefty. Neither had I expected it to look so incredible. The beautiful cover resembles a navy blue door so when you turn the page, it feels like opening the door to a world of chocolate. And in many respects it is – to the world of Willie’s cacao.

A quick flip through the book revealed an astounding number of recipes that I wanted to try. So which one first? I tweeted at the man himself @WilliesCacao who replied “start with the Cacao and olive bread then toast it for a nutty flavour!” And that is precisely what I did – I made bread.

I love freshly made bread but it’s generally a whole lot better when someone else has done all the hard work. But in the name of recipe testing, I got down with the yeast and made a bit of a mess of the kitchen. It’s not a recipe without a downside I’m afraid. Getting all the ingredients was a rather costly exercise and Harcourt-Cooze doesn’t really suggest any alternatives. But then I guess for him and for chocolate connoisseurs out there, chocolate is a bit of a luxury. And so it should be.

When you sit down to read the accompanying narrative, you discover the tremendous process that chocolate has to go through to get from bean to bar. There was the harrowing tale of Harcourt-Cooze’s journey from buying the hacienda to opening his chocolate factory and creating the recipes. Then there was the story and the history behind chocolate itself. It has served to both entertain and educate in the few hours between the first and second proof of the dough and the actual baking of the bread.

In fact, making the bread took me the best part of a day but that’s nothing compared to the amount of time taken for the chocolate I used to make its way into my kitchen. At the end of it though, while my bandaged hands (small accident when chopping the chocolate) smelt like beer, my house smelt of wonderful freshly baked bread. As soon as I popped a soft, warm piece into my mouth, I was hooked.

The recipes are mostly sweet but there is also a healthy helping of savoury ones like roast wild duck with a chocolate and orange sauce. With beautiful food photography, delicious recipes and incredible tales, this book is for keeps.

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Chocolate Week Event Guide

Published on Foodepedia on 11th October 2010:

Hey chocolate lovers, we know that Chocolate Week is like Christmas for you. So for Chocolate Week this year (11-17th October), we’ve put together a few other things that you could do to celebrate. In case you are not au fait with Chocolate Week, it is a week full of chocolate related events ending with Chocolate Unwrapped at the Vinopolis. You can also read the pick of Chocolate Week Treats here.

Chocolate making:

  • Artisan du Chocolat will be running a ‘bean to bar’ day at their Kent atelier on the 9th of October. This is a little ahead of Chocolate Week but it is a very special event because for the very first time, they will attempt to make 300kg of chocolate from Jamaican beans on site. This means all the roasting, winnowing, grinding, conching and refining. You can book in for the event for free by emailing irena@kitchencommunications.com and telling her why you should be invited. Of course if you can’t attend this, Artisan du Chocolat are also hosting free tastings of their bean to bar chocolate at their shops in Westbourne Grove, Lower Sloane street and Selfridges, Oxford Street.
  • William Curley will be setting up shop at Claridge’s on the 15th and 17th of October to spread his wisdom on truffle making and seasalt caramels. With classes at £100 per person, you can expect to walk away with some truly extraordinary chocolates. Call 0207 409 6307 to book. If that’s a bit pricey then you can still enjoy some William Curley specials during the rest of the week for Claridge’s Afternoon Tea or at one of his London stores. William also runs truffle master classes and other bespoke tutorials at his London stores, POA.
  • If you just fancied a hand at making chocolates at home, why not pick up a chocolate making kit from ChocChick? One pack has everything you need to make basic chocolate bars or get creative and add your own special ingredients. Kits are from £11.99 and are available on www.chocchick.com.

 Chocolate dinners:

  • How could Chocolate Week be complete without some tea? On the 9th of October, Smugglers in Cornwall will be hosting a tasting master class with a three course dinner, wine and petit fours for £85 per head. The tea will be supplied by Tregothnan Teas, the only producer growing tea in England, and the chocolates are from Demarquette. Call 01872 520000 to book for the event.
  • Richmond’s Michelin-starred restaurant, The Bingham, will be serving up a chocolate themed gala dinner to launch Chocolate Week on the 11th of October. The menu is a collaboration between the restaurant’s executive chef Shay Cooper and chocolatier William Curley and is available for £120 per head. For the rest of the week until the 16th of October, there will be a tasting menu at only £65 per head. Visit www.thebingham.co.uk to book.
  • For a dinner with a different, food journalist and author Sudi Pigott will be hosting a chocolate quiz at Northbank Restaurant, London, on the 12th of October. Tickets are £30 per head and includes a three course meal plus a glass of wine. Call 0207 329 9299 to book.

 Chocolate drinking:

  • There are more than a few Chocolate Afternoon Teas around for Chocolate Week but there is only one which is available all year round. The Hilton, Park Lane, serves up a delicious one called ‘Confessions of a Chocoholic’ with open sandwiches, chocolate tea pots and chocolate chip scones. The selection is usually dark chocolate based but for Chocolate Week only, they are changing their entire selection to milk chocolate. For only £25 per head, call 0207 208 4022 to book.
  • Harrod’s Wine Shop have teamed up with Godiva to do chocolate and rum tastings in-store on the 12th of October with UK Rum ambassador Ian Burrell. Call 0207 893 8777 to book. If you have to miss out, they also do a Godiva Rum ‘n’ Reason selection box.
  • K West Hotel & Spa, London, have created five chocolate cocktails – Liquid Bounty, Choconana, Jaffatini, Peppermint Crisp, Raspberry Blush. At only £5 each, they are a real treat. For more information go to www.k-west.co.uk.

 Free chocolate tastings:

  • Fortnum & Mason will be hosting tastings of chocolates by Master Chocolatier Marc Demarquette throughout Chocolate Week. You can sample one of the seven flavours from the Orient Collection in store and even meet the man himself on the 14th of October.
  • La Maison du Chocolat are hosting a series of chocolate tastings at their Picadilly and Harrods stores during Chocolate Week. They have also launched a limited edition chocolate box which contains Caracas, a plain cocoa ganache with hints of grilled almonds and spices, and Extreme chocolat, an 100 % pure cocoa ganache with notes of roasted coffee, just for Chocolate Week.
  • Harvey Nichols will be hosting hot chocolate sampling with Choc-o-lait at selected stores on the 16th of October. Choc-o-lait is the Belgian company which makes chocolate sticks which you simply dip into hot milk and stir to create tasty hot chocolate. They will also have a number of other Chocolate Week events in store but will vary according to location.

 Other titbits…

  • For some light reading, Food and Travel magazine are doing a chocolate themed November issue with exclusive chocolate recipes from Marcus Wareing. Of course if you have more time, you could always enjoy Sarah Jane Evan’s new book, Chocolate Unwrapped: Taste and enjoy the world’s finest chocolate.
  • Young’s have used their Double Chocolate Stout to create some chocolate brownie recipes. Why not give it a go at home? We have the recipe here.
  • And last but not least, the UK national selection for the World Chocolate Masters takes place at this year’s Restaurant Show, London, on the 11th and 12th of October. The contestants have to create works of art according to the theme ‘Cocoa Quetzalcoatl’s Gift’. For more information, visit www.worldchocolatemasters.com. The event is held at a trade show so if you have anything to do with the restaurant industry, register here: www.therestaurantshow.co.uk.