Tasty chocolate

I found this chocolate at the Co-op. I know its not supposed to be cool to shop at the Co-op but actually if you are a fan of fairtrade and also of local foods they are actually very committed to both these things. Much more so that pretty much any other supermarket.

P1000687

This chocolate is dark, has a nice smooth texture. The orange spicing is mild and subtle and balances well with the chocolate. Naturally I like it best with a cup of coffee.

Best of all its sensibly priced at just over a ??1 a bar. You can’t say fairer than that.

A chocolate super hero

Superhero

Ka-boom. Wowzer. Bam. Pow. OMG.

Wonderful. Amazing. My taste buds and brain are in overload.

I’m at Paul A Young. I’m tasting chocolate. Beautiful chocolate. I’m riding on taste sensation after taste sensation. I thought I knew chocolate but I didn’t know all of this. It’s a whole new set of experiences. How to convey it all to you?

Its passion, its craftsmanship, its huge knowledge. It’s wanting to save the world from bad chocolate and show everyone the way of good chocolate. Its superhero time. Okay so as far as I know Paul doesn’t zoom about wearing a cape and mask, or his pants over his trousers, but like Desperate Dan has his cow pie, Paul has his sea salted caramel. Like Batman he has his underground cave and his estimable sidekick. Like, erm, well lets just get on with it shall we. But be certain, very certain, he’s going to try to save as many as he can from the evil of things masquerading as chocolate that are merely confectionary.

Paul takes us on a journey through chocolate. We start by tasting different chocolate bases and bars as a route the greater understanding of the bean, the terroir, the blending and the nuances of the taste and aroma. We go from raw cacao beans, through malty milk chocolate via milk chocolate some would shun as dark to a range of every increasing cocoa content choices (11 different samples in all). We end at 100% Valrhona Manjari pate. Mind blowing. Delicious, fruity, intense. Mind blowing. Oh I already said that. There’s lots of opinion in the room about which is the best moment and everybody finds out something new about their chocolate tastes. We are educated and excited about really good chocolate. We are slightly frightened by the prices of some bars but we know there’s probably no turning back, in a short time our palates have experienced the wonders to truly beautiful chocolate from some of the worlds finest makers (Amedei, Cluizel, Valhrona). And really we could stop there and go home happy. But we don’t. Oh no there is more to come.

Paul, and his business partner James, tell us about a new brand from America they are stocking (currently they are the only UK stockist). Tcho has a Silicon Valley high tech start up approach to top quality chocolate. It’s a blend of science, art and craftsmanship. They have analysed chocolate’s components and characteristic flavours and built bars to accentuate some of these. Their commitment to sourcing fairly purchased beans is admirable. Paul and James are animated and enthusiastic about the products. We sample each of the “Chocolatey”, “Fruity”, “Nutty” and “Citrus” bars and admire their rather lovely packaging. I’m somewhat underwhelmed. The chocolate is good but it doesn’t seem startling, the key characteristic comes through well in each but I think my head, heart and stomach are still with the Valrhona Manjari hit. As part of our end of evening goodie bags we each get a bar of Tcho. Mine turns out to be the “Citrus’ bar, which I good because I’ve just established a love affair with Madagascan citrusy chocolate. When I try it over the next few days I like it much more and can see why Paul is excited about the product. I guess on the night it was overwhelmed by the preceding wonderful sensory overload.

And still we aren’t finished. Its time to bring on the truffle type things. Paul doesn’t make chocolate from raw cocoa beans he takes some of the worlds finest chocolate and then blends some of his own bars and also crafts beautiful looking truffles and filled chocolates.

Now a confession. When I was a kid I recall I loved the filled chocolate selections at Christmas. Roses. Quality Street. After Eight. I’d fight anyone for the last caramel barrel. But as time has marched on I’ve become a bit a chocolate purist. I like my chocolate dark and in bars, fillings and truffles are mostly not my thing. You can’t beat a good bar of chocolate; the joy of the snap as you break off a few squares, the taste of simply the chocolate. Unadulterated pleasure. When people buy me filled chocolates, even good ones I mostly pass them on to my husband. I make exceptions for delicately flavoured bars but that’s about it. Give me a bar any day and others can fight over the filled chocolates.

So could Mr Young convince me otherwise? His chocolates are award winning. The sea salted caramel is renowned as a thing of beauty, a multi award winning one at that and his marmite truffle is reputed to be an amazing umami-lovers nirvana. So we proceed to the chocolates as opposed to the chocolate.

First the sea salted caramel. It’s domed, its very glossy. I think food porn may have been in someone’s mind when they designed it. I pop it in my mouth. It explodes in, well a sea salty caramel type way. Its sweet, very sweet. Its good. If you like caramel then this is likely to be the best you’ll ever eat. But for someone who left behind the sweet side of chocolate at age 12 there is no turning back. Its good but I’ll generously leave it to others to oooo and aaaaa over.

So to the marmite truffle. Now I’ve never knowingly eaten marmite before. Ever. No really, never ever. Its brown, its gloopy, its smells bleugh. But I’m being offered a marmite truffle in a very upmarket chocolate shop, now is not the time to do an eight-year old style tantrum. In it goes. Oh and actually it’s rather nice. Chocolatey and erm well sort of rich and savoury all at once. I’m not sure you’d know it was marmite if you hadn’t been told. This of course, any real marmite lover will inform you is the true genius of marmite, its adaptability, its umami-ness, its ability to not taste of itself. Anyway I’d eat this one again, I might even shove someone out of the way to get one. But I’d still prefer a big bar of Madagascan chocolate.

Finally on the chocolates front we have the port and Stilton truffle. This is a seasonal special for the autumn and Christmas. Paul’s quite keen on doing specials as it gives him chance to play with new flavours and push the boundaries of the regular collection. He’s not a man who wants to stick with the known and the easy. Last year he did a Stilton only version but it dried out to much so the addition of port is partly to capture that classic English combination and partly to try to make the chocolate work better. Its pretty good though the port seems to lead a little too much.

Finally we nip down to the underground den and see where the chocolates are crafted. The marble slabs, the raw cocoa butter, bag loads of Valrhona, handmade moulds. It’s tiny and brightly light. I don’t spy a batmobile but I do think I catch a glimpse of the cape and face mask, or maybe the theobromine has got to me and I’m hallucinating.

A big thank you to Paul, James and Kate for inviting me to experience the chocolates (for free) with a group of other food bloggers.

Paul A Young regularly does tutored tastings at his Camden Passage store (price £45/head).

Making chocolate: an experiment

A few weeks back Julia at ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie‘ was offering 5 Mayan Magic Chocolate kits to food bloggers who promised to blog the experience. Sounded like fun and as I love chocolate I rushed in and bagged one. It arrived a few days later but it sat untouched for a while – I was busy and wanted to do it justice and also blog as much of each step as I could…..so here is what you get and do:


1. The kit:

2. What’s inside:


3. The butters:

4. The powders:

5. My chosen flavours (lavender, cardamom, lemon zest). I hardly used any of each:
6. The butter ready to melt in a bain marie (i.e. over hot water):

7. The powders after sieving (they needed it they had gone quite solid):

8. The melted butters:

9. Whisking in the powders (I added a little of the agave at the end for some sweetness but it didn’t need much):


10. Then I spilt it into 4 lots and added the flavours and kept one lot plain. I learnt here that you need to keep each lot warm else it cools so quickly you can’t pour it into the moulds properly and it becomes all mis-shapen (see later)

11. I poured (and pushed!) it into ice cube trays and got 4 ‘cubes’ per flavour so 16 cubes in total. Then it went into the fridge to set for 1.5 hours (or in my case overnight).

12. Next morning at coffee time so we popped the cubes from the trays.

13. Some worked:

14. Some looked a bit mangled:


And the taste:

The flavours were nice but over-powered any chocolatey-ness (and I only used a teeny bit of each), the plain version was okay but not brilliant.

The texture:

Very grainy/gritty and not smooth at all, disappointing. Alex over at ‘A Brit’s Dish a Day‘ had the same problem so I’m guessing that’s how it is rather than us getting it wrong.

Fun?:

A bit. But the instructions aren’t clear that it will cool so quickly and become difficult to pour into moulds. I made it hard for myself by doing 4 flavours with one kit – the instructions anticipate one flavour being added to the melted butters before the powder.

Would I buy one?

Having looked up the price (£14.25 plus shipping, as far as I can tell, for 150g of chocolate) I had to lie down. I can get 3 different flavored Rococo bars (70g each) for this money or about 14 Divine plain bars (100g each). I’m sorry to have to say that I wouldn’t buy this either for myself or as a gift. It wasn’t enough fun, its pricey and the taste/texture wasn’t the tops. 

Not currently a winner – it needs some re thinking I feel.



Easter chocolate selection

Everyday is a great day for eating chocolate as far as I’m concerned but today there is the extra opportunity for a sneaky bit of chocolate if the Easter bunny has dropped off some chocolate eggs whilst on his/her rounds. I haven’t found any so far but I did try out a different chocolate bar as a special treat.

Today’s chocolate is “The Co-operative truly irresistible Fairtrade dark chocolate with spices and orange oil”. Sounds interesting, and with Fairtrade ethics to boot to ease my conscience while I’m munching away. I’m quite a fan of Green & Blacks Maya Gold which is also based on orange and spices so it will be interesting to see how I like the Co-op product.


Like most ‘luxury’ bars of chocolate it only weighs it at 100g but priced at £1.25 (currently with 20% off its £1.00) it’s a lot cheaper than a lot of other options. Its split up into 8 big squares – that’s it – but actually psychologically this works – you can kid yourself you are only having just 1 square not the 4 its probably equivalent to in a Maya Gold bar. 

 

Taste wise how did I get on? 

I really really like it. Its smooth, got a nice dark chocolateyness, a zing of orange and a nice hint of warm spiciness (when I checked on the back its got cardamom, cinnamon and ginger). Plus it snaps in that really pleasing manner (Green & Blacks doesn’t quite snap right for my liking as the bar is quite thick, this is more like a Rococo snap but at about 1/3 the price).

Overall a bit of a winner – I think it’s the cardamom that does it.

Another coffee and chocolate pairing

For those of you who haven’t guessed yet I’m a big fan of both coffee and chocolate and one of the highlights of each day is sitting down mid morning for a little bit of both. I like to try different pairings to see what works and what doesn’t. Mostly I like my coffee and chocolate pretty strong and intensely flavoured so some of my favourites won’t be for the faint hearted. I usually have my coffee made in a cafetiere and drink it black no sugar, occasionally I go for the extra hit of an espresso made in a lovely little Bialetti Moka Express stove top pot – wonderful but watch for the hit.

Today’s pairing was:



Coffee: “Paddy and Scott’s” All Day Coffee sourced from the North West Andes and roasted here in the UK by Paddy and Scott themselves. 

Chocolate: The Wicked Fruit Co, Wicked Lavender chocolates (a Great Taste 2007 gold winner).

So how was it for me?

Well the coffee is a good easy drinking one, a little tangy and slightly smokey. It’s a strength 3 and for me it’s a little on the weak side for mid morning but for those who’d rather not blow their head off with caffeine at 11am then it’s a great choice. Basically I’m a one coffee a day girl as a rule so I’d rather have something startling (in all respects) than drink several cups of a milder blend. I’ve also had Paddy and Scott’s After Dinner Blend before (though rarely actually after dinner!) and that’s more up my street – intense, spicy yet still smooth.

And the chocolate? Well this was the first time I’d tried anything from Wicked Fruit Co and when I saw they did lavender ones I knew I had to give then a go. I just love lavender in cooking, check out my Lavender Biscuits post, and I’m also a fan of lavender jelly with roast lamb (The Bay Tree Food Company is my current choice). The chocolate lived up to expectations (which were very high I must say). The chocolate itself was smooth with the lavender adding a rich yet delicate note. It’s quite an acquired taste in many ways, very unusual. Of course I just had to have a second sample to check my thoughts and again the chocolate delivered with the lavender seeming more intense – at this point I thought it best to stop before I hit overload (plus, like many a good thing in life, its quite pricey so you have to ration yourself or go for bankrupt). Definitely worth the price though as a treat for someone who likes the unusual.

The pairing of the coffee and the chocolate was okay but not outstanding, the chocolate was too unusual for the coffee but each on their own were very good.