I am all about flavour and as far as I am concerned the best, natural ingredients make the best flavours. So having scoured the equatorial regions of the globe for the finest cacaos, I am very picky about what other ingredients I put with them. They have to be 100% natural and they have to taste of exactly what they are supposed to. No half measures allowed!
Both salt and nuts are classic dancing partners for chocolate. Salt plays off the sweetness, but it has to be the right kind of salt, more flavour than saltiness is what I’m after. With nuts the key is not just in the quality but also in the toasting.
The theme for this month’s Chocolate Subscription Box is Nuts, Nuts, Glorious Nuts! I roast my nuts in a beautiful old nut roaster which looks like a rotating barrel. It gets a lot of use! Roasting nuts, (or maybe toasting is a better word for it) really brings out their flavour. As well as crisping them up it removes the raw, green slightly astringent flavours and brings out their deeper softer side.
One of the Magnificent Creations I made for this Tasting Box was The Salty Dog, Rio Caribe 44 milk chocolate with roasted almonds and Cornish Sea Salt. I give the almonds a light roast to bring out their deeper flavours and add sea flakes as the magic dust. What a bar!
Finding the right salt has been super important. Commercial salt is too harsh, so I now use The Cornish Sea Salt Company’s flakes. The joy of these is their soft minerality – they are more about the flavour than the salt if that makes sense. They come from the Atlantic waters off the Lizard Peninsula, and contain over 60 natural minerals. This makes them perfect as the salt for my Sea Salt Caramel Pearls with their cascades of molten caramel and Cornish Sea Salt riding the waves.
It also makes all the difference using flakes not grains. No one wants to eat a generally salty chocolate, what you want is to bite into the chocolate or Praline Truffle and find it jewelled with little bursts or crunches of salt. In fact I named my milk chocolate with sea salt, Sea Flakes.
Making the Magnificent Creations each month is giving me a great reason to spend lots of time in the test kitchen. This month I have been playing with old favourites like almonds and hazelnuts, but also the more exotic pistachios and macadamias. Nuts take you to all corners of the globe, deep into ancient culinary traditions, and have the added benefit of being packed full of heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Macadamias are particularly extraordinary and are in fact the world’s most expensive nut, sadly making them too expensive to appear in my normal chocolates. Their slow growing tropical evergreen trees take seven years to produce a crop, but it’s well worth the wait. They are highly nutritious and have an incredible sweet, buttery flavour and creamy texture that makes them a pure delight in chocolate. Here I have paired them with some yellow raisins that I have been soaking in rum. Hey Ho and a bottle of rum!
Each month there is a different theme for the Monthly Chocolate Subscription . This month it is Nuts! and there are a small number of nutty tasting boxes that you can buy without having a subscription. In each there are ten bars, two of which are limited editions that are not available in any shop. I call them my Magnificent Creations.
Salty Dog. Rio caribe 44 milk chocolate with almonds & sea salt
Get the best almonds you possibly can and give them a light roast to release their nuttiness. A quick chop, then stir them into freshly made Rio Caribe milk chocolate with a flurry of Cornish Sea Salt. That’s all, you salty dog! Pure flavour. Pure pleasure
Jewelled Heaven. Creamy white chocolate with pistachio, yellow raisin & saffron
Joyous, totally joyous! I have taken the sugar right down to make the lightest, creamiest white chocolate. Jewelled with pistachios and raisins and infused with rare and precious saffron, this is one heavenly chocolate.
Macadamia Rum Raisin. Rio Caribe 72 dark chocolate with macadamia & rum raisin
In The Chocolate Factory I am endlessly experimenting. There are jars and jars of different fruits soaking in various alcohols. Here I have taken some rum raisins and dried them out just enough to get them into the chocolate with their best friends, sweet, buttery macadamias.
Arabian Nights. Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with orange, almond & chilli
Oranges and almonds are a classic Mediterranean / Middle Eastern combination. This time I have added a touch of chilli, just a touch… it plays against the natural sweetness and is just enough to bring the juiciness alive. It is remarkably different to its No Added Sugar cousin.