Saturday, March 29, 2008

Brownies made by me!

Whenever possible I give people chocolate brownies in their goody bags on the chocolate tours. This week I wasn't organised in time so I didn't have any ready for today from Cocoa Loco, in Sussex, so I made my own!

Here they are in the container before I packed them into plastic bags this morning. Made with organic free range eggs, organic butter, organic flour, organic sugar and Belgian chocolate. We tried them last night and they were pretty darn good (if I may say so myself!).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chocolate tour this Friday 28th March

There are still a few spaces! No more after this until May 31st.
Book now if you want to come along!
(The link keeps playing up, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Email me if you want to come along!)

Hope you all had a fabulous Easter! I made the cookies from the recipe on my website. Soooo good.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cake made with Willie's chocolate

This one was cooked, not like his Cloud cake. It's very good. I'm going to putthe recipe in my Easter newsletter which I'll send out this week. You can sign up for it via the free cookie recipe form on the left of the Chocolate Ecstasy Tours homepage.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

No French chocolate in the French Alps

A week in the great outdoors. Well, the great, manufactured outdoors. As we were skiing in France I didn’t take any chocolate with me, assuming that, being France, good chocolate would be easily accessible everywhere. Bizarrely, whilst all of the supermarkets had a slightly different selection, the majority of the chocolate was Swiss. Having said that, the closest airport is Geneva so I expect this is not so bizarre as I first thought. Fortunately the Lindt Caramel Creation got me through the week! This isn’t a bar I’ve seen in the UK and although it has the tell-tale ever-so-slightly overroasted taste to the chocolate, the thin caramel and mousse layers that this chocolate enshrouds more than make up for this lacking. Towards the end of the week I found a patisserie that had a selection of bon bons (small, filled chocolates) that were made in house (according to the sign, at least). My French and the assistant’s English could not get me to a point of understanding what couverture they used but the passionfruit filling in one of the chocolates was scrumptious, nonetheless. (If you go to Val Thorens it is in the little shopping centre where the pharmacy is, but, again, it's only the fillings that are good, rather than the chocolate.)

We had two days of lovely weather when we first arrived, while I slowly tried to remember what to do with these things strapped to my feet, and then the weather turned sour on Sunday night I had to wonder on Monday as I traversed the grey slopes in the biting cold, what the appeal of this skiing thing was. The miserable weather continued through until Wednesday, the nightly snowfall making the slopes too powdery to appeal to a pretty ordinary skier like me, especially as the winds revealed icy patches by the afternoons. But when the sun came out again Thursday and gave us three days of continuously cloudless sky it was easy to forget that I had vowed never to bother coming skiing again. I love it! Ah, so fickle.

So, today, I am going to bake something with Willie's chocolate whilst the washing machine churns through load after load. Part 3 airs tonight. I keep getting contacted by people who say they have seen me on TV, but I've not seen the trailer myself. I kind of forgot the cameras were there.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cocomaya in this very chocolate-y week

I had planned to write about my chocolatey exploits of last night, where I experimented with Willie's 100% chocolate liquor, clotted cream and St Dalfour cherry jam (on ciabatta from Wholefoods, it was gooooood). So good, in fact, that I repeated it tonight with an M&S mixed berry smoothie and some honey instead of the jam. This version was also all too moreish.

OK, so I have ended up telling you about my homely chocolate feasting, but much more briefly than I might have because in my inbox this morning I fortuitously actually read the Daily Candy email that arrived and discovered that Cocomaya opened in Connaught St, W2. I heard rumours a few weeks ago that a new chocolate shop was opening in the area and, lo and behold, here it was, opened!

I was delighted to be able to get there in my lunch break, and even more thrilled that two of the three masterminds behind it were in-store to chat to. Lovely chaps indeed, as were all the others in store, too. The store is beautifully decorated in purples and greens with butterflies in frames on the wall and unique cake stands that delicately display delicious chocolatey delights. I was so enthralled in the chatting and tasting that I forgot to take any pictures. It's fortunate I have no plans for a career in photo-journalism. In Cocomaya the chocolate-making happens at the back which you can observe through a glass partition. My next tour version is launching in May but it looks like I'm going to have to add No 3 to the mix shortly afterwards!

It's always inspiring to see how each chocolatier creates their own unique chocolates, therefore making visits to all of them essential (I can see how that could be a bad thing, I suppose). What's unique here? Strawberry chilli truffles, milk pomegranate domes and sour cherry truffles. More too, I'm sure. The milk and honey ganache I tried this evening from my take-home box was a delight. In the next few weeks Jonathan (the chocolate master) will complete his range, of around 35 chocolates in total. I'm going to have to go back soon to check out what else he comes up with.

Tomorrow I'm off to France, with limited internet access. Hopefully with unlimited chocolate access. Ski slopes or hot chocolate? Hmmm... tough one.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sir Hans Sloane Hot Chocolate

We went to the Liberty Cardholders' evening tonight. When the invitation arrived a few weeks ago I immediately spotted the chocolate tasting with Sir Hans Sloane Chocolates. I was excited to get to see the lovely Bill McCarrick again, and particularly to taste more of his chocolate. He scolded me for not having been down to see him yet. I've really wanted to!! I will get down there in April - diaries permitting - and give you all a full report of his chocolate studio.

His chocolate was even better than I remembered. We came home with a few of his bars and a tin of his hot chocolate. I tasted this just after he discovered it, when he spoke on my full day chocolate tour last October. Crunchy sugar granules that are sprayed with layers of chocolate and spun in a metal bowl until they shine, it is both pretty and delicious. As we had a pint of organic whole milk in our fridge (very rare for us) we decided to mix some up when we got home. Taking great care not to boil the milk we mixed up our nightcaps, then frothed them with the mini electric frothing gadget we got as a gift last Christmas. Yum. Well, actually, I prefer to eat it straight from the bag. As a drink it's a bit sweet for me (but then I am a fan of 100% chocolate!). The other half was thrilled with his cup, made meticulously to Bill's directions. I added some of Willie Harcourt-Cooze's (of Willy's Wonky Chocolate Factory) 100% Hacienda El Tesoro and some Valhrona cocoa powder. The kitchen is now a lovely chocolatey mess and when I went for a shower a short time ago I discovered I'd even managed a chocolate smudge on my forehead. If you saw Willy's Wonky Chocolate Factory you'll know that 100% chocolate isn't really the best thing to have at bedtime. While milk contains tryptophan that helps encourage sleep, chocolate gives you a buzz, hence this rapidly written post. Oh well. I'm tired enough I'm sure I'll get to sleep anyway. I used to be such a morning person. Somewhere in the last few years I transformed into this night owl who gets far more excited and active and productive late in the evening. I do love mornings though. I've been making more of an effort to set my alarm earlier and go for a short run. It's not much but it helps keep me awake during the day, and now that it's getting lighter earlier the sky is gorgeous when I'm out.

It's hard to discern whether it's chatting to chocolate people or eating the chocolate that gets me so excited. I think a mixture. I get excited speaking to anyone who's passionate about their work. I always get excited about chocolate too, and together it's compounded.

So, I should probably lay my weary (and buzzing) head. I have written some posts in the last few weeks that I haven't published yet. I just need to find them!

One more thing: I found out Willie's chocolate is on sale in Waitrose too! Very exciting for him. You can get Sir Hans Sloane chocolate in Liberty (obviously), Selfridges and The General Trading Co. Go and get some of his pralines. I wish I had.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Willie and the Chocolate Factory starts tonight!

Ahead of plan people! 9pm Channel 4 tonight. Watch it!!