COME WITH ME TO JAPAN…
I would like to introduce you to my new series of Magnificent Creations. These are chocolates I am making from rare beans or exceptional ingredients that I have found on my travels, and are impossible to make on a commercial scale. They really are the chocolates of my dreams. From now on I will make new Magnificent Creations every month to put in my Subscriptions Boxes. This is the only way you will be able to try them.
I don’t know about you, but there is nowhere in the world I find more inspirational for food than Japan. It’s their astonishing palate of ingredients and obsessive perfectionism. So when I came to make my first special edition chocolates that’s where my mind immediately took me.
I started by making both Dark and White Yuzu chocolates. Yuzu is a citrus fruit unlike any other, more aromatic and floral, almost other worldly. In the white chocolate I took the sugar right down to just over 20% because the flavour is so delicate I didn’t want to drown it. 20% is really low when you think a 70% dark chocolate has 30%. In the dark chocolate I paired it with the Baracoan bean that has natural honey notes. This is a match made in heaven. The two chocolates are very different and equally delicious depending on the kind of chocolate you prefer.
Yuzu is widely used as an ingredient, not just in sweet dishes… you can easily imagine a Yuzu sorbet. But at The Yuzuya Ryokan in Kyoto, it was the theme of their whole menu and this was quite honestly some of the best food I have ever had.
I first had it in Gen Yamamoto’s cocktail bar in Tokyo. This is an experience. There is space for just 8 people so you book your place as you would in a restaurant and sit back and watch as magic is conjured. There is a set menu of perfectly conceived cocktails. This sounds daunting but it isn’t about the alcohol, the alcohol is simply there as are carrier of flavour. Spices are ground, juices are squeezed and there isn’t a whiff of anything as prosaic as vodka or rum… rather fresh Sake or Shochu. It is like 3 Michelin star menu in liquid form. I hope he would enjoy my Yuzu chocolates as much as I do his cocktails!
Then in the dark box you have a chocolate that I have called Super Oishi. That means super delicious and it was the chorus that followed me around Japan as went from city to city doing tastings and events as part of the Salon du Chocolat. It is said that 80% of all chocolate in Japan is sold in the lead up to Valentines Day, and I can believe it. Hundreds of people queued for hours to get into the events… not this year I fear.
My Super Oishi is an Awajun 70 dark chocolate with Black Garlic and Miso. The Black Garlic is nothing like fresh garlic. It has complex smoky caramel notes and is packed with umami. The miso provides a background savoury note and so the overall effect is something like a Japanese version of Salted Caramel. All I can say is wow!
You make black garlic by slow cooking whole bulbs for c. 3-4 weeks at c. 60 degrees without letting it dry out. This is something worth perfecting because its price puts it in the Special Treat category! I experimented with fat bulbs from markets in France and it got pretty good, but for these bars I bought it from The Black Garlic Company because I simply couldn’t make enough myself. To get your genuine Japanese miso in the UK go to The Wasabi Company… European made equivalents really don’t cut it. While you’re there try their Stream Junmai Daiginjo Sake, it’ll transport you straight to your favourite back street Izakaya.
The final Japanese Magical Creation is the Hojicha. We had Hojicha for the first time at a tasting with a Japanese tea master near Kyoto. A French lady working with the tea master saw the Matcha Mousse cake I put on twitter and asked if I wanted to try their teas. As it happened I was about to go to Japan so I went to visit them and we had an eye opening tasting. The tea master could actually taste the fields each tea was grown in and when it had been picked… that was extraordinary. Hojicha is made by toasting green tea in porcelain pots over charcoal which creates its signature smoky, caramel notes that are simply sublime in white chocolate. It is widely used in ice creams and deserts in Japan and is set to take over the foodie world much as matcha has before it. We get all our matcha and hojicha direct from these tea farmers now and have been back to visit twice. The second time we went with them to the Suntory distillery that was very close by, to taste old Hibiki whiskies. You didn’t even need to drink the 5ml of Hibiki 35 year old that we had… it was enough to smell it!
MORE MAGNIFICENT CREATIONS
If you were one of the early birds to take out a subscription in October, your second box should have dropped through your letterbox by now. The flavours this month are Fruity, one of which Hibiscus, a flower that tastes more of red fruits than they do themselves. I have them growing all the way up the path to my house on the farm in Venezuela. Check out that pink.
December’s Creations are full Christmas joy and are real labours of love. I have already started candying orange peel and I am going to be chopping this and putting it in both dark and white chocolates. Then for something that takes even longer to prepare, cacao nibs soaked in rum for a couple of months, dried, caramelised and left nestling in Sur del Lago 69 dark chocolate.
These are the most super indulgent of them all, and the only way you will get them is if you take out a subscription before the end of November.
TO GET THESE CHOCOLATES