27 Mar 2014

Duffy's the Bean to Bar Chocolate maker

Roasting the cacao beans
Roasting
This trend is being talked among the chocolate community lately. The most recent to announce to join that trend is Paul a Young, which unfortunately I've been absent from his announcement of his bean to bar chocolate. My story takes me north to a town by the name of Cleethorpes. Visiting the chocolate festivals in London I met Duffy Sheardown and asked in the past as I was curious to see how you make the chocolate from the bean if I can visit. Finally a couple of weeks ago Duffy said I could come and see the magic.
My first memory of a quality chocolate is Swiss chocolate in the Alps with snow peaks and water falls, but dream aside Duffy's workplace is industrial estate. In relatively small unit he manages to do everything. Duffy told me there isn't air condition so in the summer it can't get quite hot, but I assume solid chocolate in comparison to truffles aren't so sensitive to the British sun.

Chocolate conching machine
Conching
Duffy and the visitors Duffy explained us the process he follows to produce the chocolate. He receives bags of cocoa beans from Central America. The beans before packed and shipped are fermented. The beans when arrived are roasters first in the oven. Duffy experiments with different temperatures and time to obtain different flavours. The next stage the shell is being removed and disposed and what is inside the bean is transferred to the conching machine. After so many hours the beans are transformed to a smooth paste, which is our chocolate. The next stage to increase the shelf life and to have the snappy sounds when breaking the bar. The chocolate is tempered. The tempering is a process of warming up the chocolate and then cooling it down (you can read more about tempering chocolate here). Duffy uses a tempering machine and after the chocolate is tempered it's transferred to a mould to cool down.

Check the video to find out more about the process:

 

19 Mar 2014

Welsh Chocolate?

That was the reaction of most people I spoke before I travelled to Wales a month ago and for me it was also a self discovery tour of what Wales offers in the food arena. It all started about a year ago. I met in one of the food fairs in London the lovely couple Nick and Kitty and talking about chocolate they told me about the Taste Trail, which I decided to try.

Untitled I packed a small bag on a mild mid week morning and together with a friend headed north west. The drive in England is on motorways, but when we reached Shrewsbury (still in England) which was our first stop, the roads become narrower and quite often we were stuck behind a slow truck. Shrewsbury is very pleasent and walking on the high street toward the castle we discovered the first chocolate shop of this journey The Chocolate Gourmet. They stock some good quality chocolate bars, but the truffles are all imported from Belgium as I expected to find some local chocolate. The best option if you want to try local chocolate is to head to the market where Julia from Toot Sweets Chocolate sell her stuff. I tried her awesome chocolate in Ludlow Food Festival a few months earlier.

UntitledLeaving England behind and entering the unknown territory of Wales. Even if you miss the sign Welcome to Wales you noticed straight away on the narrow roads the Slow writing on the road is replaced by the Welsh equivalent of Araf. It took us another couple of hours to get to our first chocolate stop in Wales. Visiting Nick and Kitty from Chocolate Fusion. The weeks before our visit brought a lot of rainfall to Britain, which caused to the roads to be flooded. I set my SatNav App to the given postcode and had the instruction was given by Kitty, but due to the storms the sign fell off and only passing by the house the second time we realised we are in the right place, but be aware the mobile signal in this area is quite poor, not talking about 3G, but I'm talking about 2G.
Untitled Nick and Kitty bought a farm house in a small village and on the same plot got their workshop. They confer the barn into the existing chocolate factory and told us they work on building a visitor centre. We were welcome into the factory kitchen and been served with the latest truffles they were working on. There were few versions of each truffle experimenting with the flavours. We tasted the Blackcurrent marshmallow coated Ecuadorian chocolate, Chili cinnamon and cardamon and Banana spices rum and caramel.
Sarah Bunton chocolate
The next chocolate place in our list was Sarah Bunton Chocolate. Situated in Y Caban, Devils Bridge. The home of the Devils Bridge Falls is a couple of minutes by foot and the last stop for the steam train from Aberystwyth.
Teifi farmhouse cheese
Consuming so much sugar made me crave for some savoury food, so the next 2 stops we visited cheese farms. The first one was Caws Teifi Cheese  that also produce spirits by Dà Mhìle Distillery in the same farm. The second is Caws Cenarth Cheese. Both farms produce tasty cheese. Small selection can be purchased in top delis and department stores in London.

Accommodation 
We spent the nights in a lovely B&B by the name Ffynnon Cadno and run by the couple John and Jill. The house is on the A44 road just outside Aberystwyth. This place is highly recommended. Jill works at Y Caban making chocolate she can tell you some secrets about making chocolate.

Fredericks Chocolatire Heading back to London we passed by No 14 Chocolate House in Fishguard, but due to renovation the shop was closed and the last stop was at Fredericks Chocolaterie in Narberth with their delicious truffles. A short drive east of Narberth will bring you back to the motorway.

Another gem I visited another time is the Black Mountain Gold Chocolate in the pretty town of Crickhowell. I haven't been here for over a year, but the town and the chocolate shop worth a detour of the M4.



Now watch the video of the chocolate visit:


and a slide show of the photos from the trip

18 Feb 2014

Chocolate infused food

Five years ago Willie Harcourt-Cooze came to my awareness when he appeared on his Channel 4 documentary Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory. Until that moment chocolate for me was confectionery. Willie in his kitchen demonstrated how to use the pure chocolate in savoury dishes.  For example the recipe on Channel 4 cooking website of Pheasant or duck and cacao casserole recipe.

Lamb marinated in cacao nibs at Rabot 1745
Visiting London you wonder where can you find a cacao infused food? First I had savoury chocolate food was in the London Chocolate Festival.
Anne Mae's had a stall where they sold Mexican style food infused with Cacao and come · con · ella  reported about it in her blog

But that was just on a special occasions, especially as Anne Mae's is a street food business which doesn't have a permanent location and you can find them in markets and events.
Tasting dinner at the Chocolate Museum
In late 2013 the people of Hotel Chocolat opened in London their restaurant Rabot 1745 in the same spot where they used to have the chocolate shop in Borough market Rabot estate. In the beginning of February I had the chance to dine together with a few fellow chocolate enthusiast. We had the set menu and we all enjoyed the food. What you shouldn't expect is to get a shank of lamb in a sweet chocolate sauce, but the cacao and cacao nibs are used to enhanced the flavours. In the example of the lamb, they marinated it in cacao nibs. I tried the mashed potatoes with cacao butter and here they used the cacao butter instead of dairy butter.
Another place to dine is the Chocolate Museum in Brixton, but here the chocolate dinner functions on a pop up basis. I had a 5 course tasting
dinner made by Chisom. You need to check on the Chocolate museum website for future events.
Hotel Chocolat got another restaurant up in Leeds, but I haven't been to Leeds yet.

22 Oct 2013

The Chocolate Capital

It was a time to pack and travel north tracing the chocolate smell. 
On a nice mild autumn day we jumped on the train and headed north to York. It is just over a couple of hours from London to the chocolate capital of England.
The history of the chocolate here started by the Quakers who in days had the Rowntree and Terry's chocolate factories.
You can read more about the history of Rowntree http://c.hocol.at/historyOfYork and Terry's http://c.hocol.at/historyYork

Besides following the York's Chocolate Trail as was recommended to me by Sophie from York Cocoa House. I traveled to watch the play Blood and Chocolate. This play tells the story of the soldiers from York who fought during the I World War and received one Christmas a chocolate tin from the Lord Mayor of York. The story took us through the streets of York and the buildings and monuments of the city acted as the setting.



So what there is to do?

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Betty's Yorkshire Fat Rascals
Many people told me I have to try Betty's. Betty's is a cafe still run by ancestors of the founders who migrated here from Switzerland. The place is the way a real English Teahouse should look like, but in the taste of the cakes and looking carefully in the menu you can see the Swiss influence. We visited here on a Monday afternoon and the place was packed, I wonder how the place look like on the weekend. They have 2 cafes in York plus a few more in others towns in the North West. The famous cake here is the Yorkshire Fat Rascals. It doesn't look very appetising to a non English eye at the first eye. So I decided to keep it for my return train journey. I was amazed how moist and lovely that cake is.

Chocolate business

There are 2 chocolatiers, 1 cafe that sells huge choice of English chocolate bars (besides Betty's that stock their own brand), 1 chocolate experience (new style museum) and several confectionary stores spread all around the city.

York Cocoa House
York Cocoa House
  1. York Cocoa House was open by Sophie a couple of years ago. They have a good size seating area and they service drinks and food. Sophie mentioned to me that they a monthly chocolate supper club so check with them if you fancy to taste food infused with chocolate.
  2. Hairy fig is a little cafe (there's also a deli next door with the same name) that is a good place for lunch. The cafe is at the back of the shop and at the front they sell chocolate and coffee.
  3. Licc suppose to be the best ice cream in York. Not that there are many ice creams hops around. I didn't have the chance to try their ice cream.
  4. Monk Bar Chocolatiers proud to sell only their own produce. They got 2 shops I visited the little shop in the Shambles (one of the main attractions of York).
  5. York's Chocolate Story is a guided tour through the history of York's chocolate and by interactive means and big screens show how chocolate is made. It's advised to book the tickets in advance as it's a guided tour you'll have to join a specific time slot and could be busy especially on school holidays.

A list of chocolate related shops in York


This list is Powered by 4sqmap

If you travel all the way here. There are few others things not related to chocolate you could do. Including walking the wall and visiting the interesting National Railway Museum. Also several people offer ghost tours and those tours seem very popular. We had over 50 people on our tour. The tours start between 7:30pm to 8:30pm. If you plan to visit many attractions you might want to buy the York Pass. York Tourist Information website consist a lot of vital information about the city.

18 Oct 2013

A crowdfunded chocolate experience


Calling all chocoholics! The Tower Hotel’s Brasserie Restaurant recently crowdsourced a chocolate dessert menu suggestion for a competition aimed at chocolate lovers across the UK.
Now the winner, author of the Lucie Loves blog gets the chance to see her creation come to life. 

We were intrigued by a recent competition organised by The Tower Hotel’s Brasserie Restaurant. Instead of their chef picking the next dish on their dessert menu like normal, they asked the chocolate-loving public to tell them what chocolate dessert they'd love to be able to order instead. 

The winner (Lucie, who writes the Lucie Loves blog) got to see the dish she dreamed up (a scrummy chocolate and chilli fondant with clotted cream ice cream and salted caramel sauce) featured on the restaurant’s menu. 


She was also given the chance to pop into the hotel to see senior sous chef Patrick Graf show her how he translated her idea into a restaurant dish. When we were invited (along with Jennifer Earle from Chocolate Ecstasy Tours) to join Lucie, we couldn’t turn down the chance to see the inside of a professional kitchen and sample the winning chocolate dessert. 

We were all given chef whites and got stuck into helping Patrick prepare the dish. He talked us through all the techniques needed to pull it off, including making the hard-to-master salted caramel sauce. 

All our hard work in the kitchen was rewarded when we got to taste the finished dish ourselves, which was delicious. 

If you want to try Lucie and Patrick’s chocolate dessert for yourself, you can do so at The Brasserie at The Tower Hotel throughout October. Enjoy!

13 Sep 2013

Scandinavian chocolate

This year I had to visit in Copenhagen and Stockholm. So I would like to share with you my findings about the chocolate in those countries.
I'll start with Copenhagen as I visited there first. Copenhagen is the home to one of the best restaurant in the world by the name of Noma.
This was my second visit in this colourful city. This time I had a full day and I decide to dedicate it to ramble in the city centre. Copenhagen is known of its designers and everywhere you see stylish shops and even the B&B was furnished in good taste according to the local standards.
I couldn't resist though checking the chocolate shops in Copenhagen and I contacted Richard from Chocolate and Love who sent me a list of the best shops.
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Summerbird
The first in the list is Summerbird on Kronprinsensgade 11 although they have a few shops. This boutique was the most convenient one for me to visit due to its location. The shop is small compare to the next onesI visited in the city. As a Scandinavian chocolatier I enjoyed the most from my purchase the liquorice wrapped with chocolate. Unlike buying the liquorice of the big brands, it's more delicate and will suit better the palette of a non Scandinavian. The next thing you should buy here is the Flødeboller. It's a chocolate coated marshmallow. According to Wikipedia it was first created in Denmark.
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A XOCO
Next on the list is A XOCO on Gammel Kongevej 115. It's the premium brand by Anthon Berg, which his chocolate bars I've seen in several Duty free shops worldwide. They experiment with unusual flavours so you might find chocolate truffle wasabi or filled with goat cheese.
Opposite A XOCO located Peter Beier Chokolade on Gammel Kongevej 98, Frederiksberg. They stock huge range of chocolate and you can sit here and have hot chocolate. They make more traditional chocolate.
I visited just before Easter which means it was snowy so I didn't look for any ice cream place and all the shops had Chocolate Easter eggs.
If you're already visiting this area you and fancy something savoury you should try Meyers Deli, by the way they stock chocolate too. They stocked AMMA Chocolate which I discovered a couple of years ago in Salon du Chocolat in Paris. It hasn't reached the shores of Britain yet.
The last one in the list is the department store Mad&Vin that has a deli floor including good selection of chocolate. Here I bought the famous Scandinavian liquorice Lakrids but unlike the one of Summerbird you need to be a fan to like it. In the past Sugarsin in Covent Garden in London used to stock it, but I think they discountinued. Each flavour has different number. Some of them are coated with chocolate and others flavours.
We cross the Øresund Bridge into Sweden and heading to Stockholm. I visited here in July and the day I arrived was very warm even in global standards so the first stop after I checked in to my hotel was StikkiNikki. It has several shops and one kiosk by the harbour which is open only during the summer. StikkiNikki was open by an American lady and it's probably the best ice cream you'll experience in Sweden. If you're courage enough try the liquorice flavour.
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Chokladfabriken
I was recommended by Sugarsin in London to visit Chokladfabriken. They got a few shops in Stockholm and I visited the one on Renstiernas gata 12. You can glimpse into their kitchen and enjoy hot chocolate. They got seats indoors and outdoors.

2 Aug 2013

Chocolate and Wine pairing

Recently I had the chance to join the chocolate & wine pairing masterclass organised by Vinopolis. If you haven't heard of Vinopolis ask any person in London who appreciate wine as they specialised in wine tasting and are based in Borough market.
We had a young French man who is expertise is in wine, but has also a broad knowledge of chocolate even if you are a chocolate fond. We had 6 variety of wine and 6 different chocolate from dairy milk of Cadbury up to dark chocolate by Valrhona.
I'm definitely not an expert when it comes to wine though I enjoyed to find how different wine are matched better to different variety of chocolate. In general the rule if thumb is that wine goes better with dark chocolate, but as we all have different taste buds we found out that different people had different favourite combination of chocolate and wine.
Vinopolis doesn't run this workshop very often, but they do have one in September. Check http://c.hocol.at/pairWine for full details.