Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Choc Full - Stocking Fillers for Christmas

Thankfully there seems to be a growing trend in the UK and elsewhere towards high quality independently produced food. Just as farmers' markets have grown in popularity, online delicatessens offering artisanal products are also springing up; these delights are now much more accessible to those of us who don't have a fantastic deli just around the corner - it's a great time to discover excellent products you've never heard of before, especially with Christmas just around the corner. I'm all for it.

Yumbles

Yumbles is one of these new food sites and its shelves are laden with the kind of stuff I like: sauces, spices, cheese, oil, antipasti, cakes and yes, chocolate. The site is growing rapidly and the range ever expanding. Shopping is made simple, with a clear, easy to navigate menu. You can shop by category, event, gifts for him or her or by collection.

I am delighted to be associated with Yumbles in the capacity of chocolate food explorer. I was given a small budget to choose something from the site. Strangley, I went straight to the chocolate section. It wasn't easy making a choice as there were so many gorgeous items I wanted to try. And they were all good quality, real chocolate. Would it be chocolate Christmas tree baubles, a raw chocolate bar, chai chocolate almonds, rose petal drinking chocolate or a box of chocolates from the cocoa garden? In the end, it was none of these things. As some of you may have sussed by now, I have a particular weakness for salted caramels - you could say I'm a sucker for them.

Salted Caramel Chocolates by Benjamin Chocolatier - a box of twelve caramels containing three different flavours each using a different salt. The packaging was elegant simplicity in a sturdy purple box with matching ribbon; when the chocolates are finished (it won't take long), the box can be used for other purposes. I loved the styling of the chocolates which were in the shape of cocoa pods. They weren't just a visual feast either, CT and I both thoroughly enjoyed them. I like a high caramel to chocolate ratio as I find chocolate can often overwhelm the caramel. Not a problem in this instance - Benjamin's chocolates have a thin chocolate shell with plenty of caramel inside. The chocolate itself was good and rich with a high cocoa content. All of the caramels were lightly salted so as not to overwhelm the other flavours - overly salted caramels are, unfortunately, far too common. £14.95

The call went out on social media; could I tell the difference between the salts, I was asked. Well, yes I could. It was hard to put a finger on what the differences were and even more difficult to describe them. I pass on the challenge and leave you to do a better job of describing them than I.

Muscovado Caramel with Malden Sea Salt - heady aroma of rich dark chocolate with a light caramel undertone. A bonfire toffee taste was the first thing to hit the tongue, followed by a medium saltiness and finished off with rich, dark chocolate.

Traditional Salted Caramel with Fleur de Sel de Camargue - a soft, but not liquid caramel with a mild saltiness that had a slight tang of the sea. Seaweed was the first word that sprang to CTs lips after he tried one.

Palm Blossom Caramel with Himalayan Pink Salt - the taste of raw sugar was very pronounced; it reminded me of jaggery. This one had a slightly more pronounced mineral salty flavour than the others.








The Chocolate Society

On a slightly different tack to Yumbles, The Chocolate Society makes all of the chocolate it sells. Established in 1991, it is a small artisan company that creates real fresh chocolates using Valrhona couverture and other fine ingredients. I have reviewed their chocolate covered honeycomb before so knew I was in for a treat when I received a box of Christmas chocolates from them to try.

Chocolate Society - Christmas Selection

These chocolates were fun to look at with their festive Christmas appearance. Looks aren't everything though, so I was pleased to find they were also delightful to eat. The warm winter flavours are interesting, but also quite subtle with the various complex notes and tones unfurling slowly in the mouth. They taste like the real thing rather than "essence of". CT reckoned they didn't patronise the taster by making the flavours unrealistically powerful - "yes, we do know what orange tastes like"! Neither were the flavours  masked by a surfeit of sugar. Similarly to the salted caramels, the packaging was simple and refined; the chocolates came in a red gift box that can easily be reused and was tied with a white ribbon matching the wording on the box. This box of 18 chocolates has something for everyone to enjoy and costs £24.50.

Caraway Praline - This was a first for me, I've never eaten caraway in a chocolate before. Crunchy praline pieces and dark chocolate ganache gave this an interesting texture as well as flavour. It reminded CT of Eastern European rye bread and we both found it quite intriguing.

Cranberry & Morello Cherry - A fruity aroma arose from this pink moussy confection enrobed with dark chocolate. The cherry flavour was delicious and not at all overpowering as is sometimes the case with this fruit. It was also not overly sweet and had a slight tartness from the cranberry.

Christmas Cracker - Salted caramel with crunchy bits and popping candy made this one quite surprising, but definitely interesting.

Christmas Tree Caramel - This tasted like a subtle mint caramel, which we thought highly unusual. However, when I looked on the website, I found it wasn't mint at all, but pine needle which makes it even more unusual.

Nutmeg - A smooth truffle filling with a fairly pronounced nutmeg flavour, I found this one particularly nice. It reminded us both of egg custard - the smallest egg custard CT's ever eaten and one of the nicest, he reckoned.

Winter Apple - This was pure apple crumble with a hint of cinnamon and tasted as though the clotted cream had already been added. This was one of my favourites.

Amaretto Affogato - Tiramisu in chocolate form. It tasted quite strongly of coffee and was multi-layered with cream and crunch.

Mulled Wine - This was a very good impression of mulled wine and I'd have happily consumed more than my half share given the chance. CT's bah humbug comment was "just like mulled wine, but without the interminable conversations that go with it".

Gingerbread - Another delicious ganache that tasted more like lebkuchen than our Great British gingerbread.

Chocolate Snowball - This was nice, but compared with the others, nothing special we thought. It had a white chocolate creamy filling with chewy pieces of coconut.

Whisky Caramel - There was no mistaking the alcohol and Scottish oaky notes to this one. It got a big thumbs up from both of us.

Champagne Truffle - A milk chocolate truffle that really tasted of Champagne - ooh la la.

Grand Marnier Truffle - Another one for the spirit lovers, this had a citrus tang. It was fresh tasting with a scent of newly peeled oranges.


Totally Fudged

A new small batch fudge company run by Ed and Jim from a family kitchen in West Sussex is taking our fudge eating nation by storm - or if it isn't, it ought to be. The ingredients are few with nothing in there for me to disapprove of. Totally Fudged is a great name and a great product. Three flavours, three textures, three mouthwatering sweet fudgy delights. CT and I got to try all of them. Three 150g packs costs £9.

Double Chocolate - butter, sugar, milk, salt, evaporated milk, milk chocolate, dark chocolate.
A creamy yet firm and chewy fudge which is almost brownie like in texture. It has a good rich chocolate aroma and flavour and it isn't overly sweet. Containing both milk and dark chocolate, I found this fudge really appealing.

Sea Salted Caramelbutter, light brown sugar, milk, sea salt, evaporated milk, white chocolate
This is the least sweet of the three, even though it has a definite caramel flavour. It has a grainier texture than the other two and reminds me of Scotch tablet. It has just the right amount of salt and the brown sugar and white chocolate add to the overall caramel taste.

Madagascan Vanillabutter, sugar, milk, sea salt, evaporated milk, Madagascan vanilla.
This is the sweetest of all which is rather too sweet for me. It has a lovely flavour and texture with a rich creamy smell - rather reminiscent of an Indian sweet.

Personally, I would be delighted to find any of these in my Christmas stocking. They are all quite special and would make excellent gifts for the discerning foodie. Are you listening, CT?

Thanks to Yumbles, The Chocolate Society and Totally Fudged for the samples. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Claudia Roden's Gateau au Chocolat - Random Recipes #45

November can be a bit of a miserable month, so thank goodness for Random Recipes which lights the darkness on the downhill run to Christmas. Dom tasked us this month with rifling through our magazine cuttings and other such clippings to pick a random recipe. I was hoping to strike lucky with something suitable that I could make as a thank you to our fabulous next door neighbours. Not only do they take most of our parcels when we're away, but they helped us out in a real crisis last Saturday; part of our bedroom window fell away, ripping off some tiles in the process - not great at the best of times, but especially not in all the wind and rain we've been experiencing this month, with a lot worse to come.

So I gathered together my various 'chocolate' clippings and asked CT to close his eyes, have a root around in them and pull one out. I couldn't have wished for a better recipe, it was Claudia Roden's Gateau au Chocolate torn out of an old issue of the Food Magazine.

Coincidentally, Chocolate Log Blog has been shortlisted for the Food Reader Awards from this very same magazine and I would of course love to have your votes. It's a very quick process, you do need to leave an e-mail address, but you don't have to sign up for anything.

This is a rich flourless chocolate cake, so perfect for anyone on a gluten free diet. It is also simple to make and quite delicious. Although I have made similar cakes to this in the past, I put a little of the batter into a muffin mould so I could try it - quality testing is sooooo important. I decided to use my chocolate cake mould for this and to top it with a chocolate sauce, the idea being for it to run down the gaps and look shiny and decadent. Things didn't quite go according to plan and I have to confess this is not a looker. However, our neighbours were very happy with it and the empty plate came back in less than an hour along with a beaming smile and a report that it was very good and had been polished off rapidly.

This is how I made:

Claudia Roden's Gateau au Chocolat with my Chocolate Sauce

  • Melted 125g 70% dark chocolate in a pan over gentle heat along with 50g unsalted butter and left to cool a little.
  • Separated 3 duck eggs.
  • Whisked the yolks with 35g cardamom sugar (golden caster sugar) until the mixture was thick and pale.
  • Folded in the chocolate butter mixture along with 50g ground almonds
  • Whisked the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff, then folded into the cake batter.
  • Scraped into my silicone chocolate mould (an 18cm or 20cm pan would probably be about right) and baked at 180℃ for 20 minutes when the cake was well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle came out clean.
  • Allowed to cool in the mould for a few minutes, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Melted 50g of 70% dark chocolate in a pan with 75ml water and 1 scant tbsp golden syrup.
  • Brought to a simmer and let bubble for a couple of minutes.
  • Removed from the heat and added a small knob of butter.
  • Allowed to cool a little, then poured over the cake. Annoyingly I had allowed my chocolate to bubble away for a little too long, so the mixture was a bit too thick to pour well.

I am sending this off to Random Recipes over at Belleau Kitchen.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Paris Truffles - Giveaway #54

Well this is a first for me. I've heard much about the rise of real chocolate in the USA, but I have not had the opportunity to try any of it - until now, that is. As the name suggests, Paris Truffles is a company offering elegant and fashionable chocolates. It also has an interesting and quirky range of flavoured 85g chocolate bars which I find particularly appealing. Husband and wife team Robert and Paige Leavitt established  the company back in 1984. Robert spent his childhood hanging around in French chocolate shops (somebody's got to) while Paige travelled the world. They've combined their passion for chocolate and world cuisine to make a range of bold flavoured bars. Kettle corn and maple bacon may not be for me, but an emphatic yes to any of the others. I'd certainly like to try the chilli crunch bar - 35% milk chocolate with toasted tortilla and the world's hottest chilli.

I was sent six bars to try and although I didn't get the chilli bar I'd hoped for, I received two others that contained this indispensable spice. I found the bars really interesting and great fun, but if subtlety is what you're after, these are probably not the ones for you. These flavours are strong and punchy and I loved them. The smooth couverture chocolate is mixed with the key ingredients in their natural state for added texture.

With Christmas just around the corner, these bars would make a fabulous gift or stocking filler for the adventurous chocolate lover. Enter the giveaway below and you might be lucky enough to win six bars for yourself - wherever you are in the world.

When I was perusing the Paris Truffles website, the Thai satay bar was the first one that grabbed my attention. How very interesting. So when I found it was in the parcel of bars I received, I was delighted and it was the very first bar I tried.

Thai Satay (35%) - sugar, whole milk powder, cacao mess, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, peanuts, sesame, coconut, cayenne, Thai birds eye chilli, sea salt.
This had an almost savoury scent that was indeed reminiscent of satay sauce. Salty peanut was the first flavour to make its presence felt, followed by the coconut and sesame. It was then the chilli decided to say hello and wow, it had a kick. Not one but two types of chilli in this bar. All this wrapped up in 35% milk chocolate which helpfully allays the chilli - just a little. As regular readers will know, I am a chilli fiend and am often disappointed at how mild some chilli chocolate can be. I was not disappointed with this bar, my mouth and throat glowed for quite some time. Not subtle, but totally moreish.

Siena Fig Bar (64%) - cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, figs, pistachios, pine nuts, sea salt.
I am a fan of both figs and pistachios, so this was the second bar I tried. The first thing I did was breathe in the fruity aroma of figs that emanated enticingly from the packet. Then I broke off a piece and tasted. It was just right with a good balance of fig to salty pistachio, although the pistachios were a little too salty for my palate. The mild 64% dark chocolate showcased the flavours beautifully. A delicious Christmassy chocolate bar.

English Garden (64%) - cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, French candied violets, basil, Meyer lemon, olive oil, thyme, salt.
Thyme was the dominant flavour here, but I could certainly detect the others too. The rich dark chocolate had subtle violet overtones, a sensation enhanced by the crunchy candied violets. I didn't feel there was a need for salt in this bar. I was, however, heartened to find leaves of thyme contained within the chocolate - a nice authentic touch.

Orange Passion (60%) - cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter. soy lecithin, vanilla, orange zest, passion fruit powder, sea salt.
This bar had a strong zesty orange scent which livened up my tastebuds, even before it passed my lips. The chocolate was almost smooth and had a good snap. It tasted of real orange with bursts of tart passion fruit. As with the English Garden, I would have preferred this chocolate without salt - it really wasn't needed.

Salted Almond Toffee (60%)cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, almonds, pure cane sugar, butter, sea salt.
I think this was my favourite. Not too salty, and with a nice crunch from the chopped almonds punctuated with little bursts of toffee. The dark 60% chocolate was more noticeable for some reason and felt quite luxurious. It  melded well with the caramel flavours. For some not entirely obvious reason, it reminded me of a sophisticated Snickers bar.

Raspberry Lime Espelette (65%)cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, espelette chilli powder, raspberry powder, sugar, limes, sea salt.
The only word to describe the scent of this bar is gorgeous. It's a seductive mix of rich chocolate and fruity raspberry that really had my mouth watering. It had a really good snap to it and was smoother than the other bars I tried, although it still had some bits in it. It had a nice level of heat, not nearly as powerful as the Satay bar, but there is no mistaking its presence. The raspberry and lime was a nice combination with neither flavour overwhelming the other, nor indeed, the chocolate. Really quite delicious.

Thanks to Paris Truffles for sending me some of their chocolate bars to try. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.


Giveaway
Paris Truffles Chocolatier have kindly agreed to give one of my readers six bars of their chocolate. To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Gleam widget below. You will need to leave a comment on this post, answering the question, which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Gleam will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified. This giveaway is open to those living anywhere, but you must be aged 18 or over to enter. Winners will need to respond within 7 days of being contacted. Failure to do this may result in another winner being picked.

Prizes are offered and provided by Paris Truffles Chocolatier and Chocolate Log Blog accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of said third party.

Closing date is Friday 19 December 2014

Do take a look at my giveaway page to see if there is anything else you would like to enter.


Paris Truffles

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