I would like to introduce you to my new series of Magnificent Creations. These are handmade chocolates I am making in small quantities from rare beans or exceptional ingredients that I have found on my travels. They really are the chocolates of my dreams. I only sell them on my website in my Chocolate Tasting Boxes, they are not in any shops.
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.
You can find these Japanese Creations in The Discovery Tasting Boxes. The only other way to try them is to Join my Chocolate Lovers’ List and every few months we will send out a link to a hidden page on the website where you can buy them individually. We only have very limited numbers so not everyone can have them. You will have to have the link!
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!
TO GET THESE CHOCOLATES
Alternatively sign up to join my Chocolate Lover’s List and every few months we will email you a link to a hidden page on my website where you can buy them individually.
November 18, 2020
Many people ask me if dark chocolate is always vegan and the answer is yes. Mine contains simply cacao, natural cocoa butter and raw cane sugar because when it comes to flavour I’m a purist. Actually the majority of chocolates I make are vegan, I suppose because that’s where my taste naturally lies.
I grew up on Horse Island, an island off Southern Ireland, with my parents and five brothers and sisters leading as close to a self sufficient life as possible. We grew and milled our own grains, kept goats for milk and cheese, foraged for everything and even evaporated off sea water to make our own salt. So my taste has always been for the natural, and I’m not big on dairy or sugar. When I reach for a chocolate bar it is always a dark one, and when I drink hot chocolate it is a vegan version made with 100% cacao and water. The Aztecs didn’t realise they were vegans!
The other reason I love dark chocolates so much is that they enable you to taste the flavours of the beans in their most pure form. For all my chocolates I use the best single estate cacaos in the world – I have to be one of the luckiest people alive, because my quest to make great chocolate takes me on the cacao trail across the world, around the Equator, in search of the finest beans. Every trip turns up something new.
These beans are like fine wines, each one is totally different because of its genetics and the soil and conditions it is grown in. Take a look on my Flavour Map. So both Las Trincheras 72 and Rio Caribe 72 are both made from Trinitario beans, both come from Venezuela and both are 72% cacao but they taste really very different. Then compare these to the astonishingly juicy, fruity Madagascan Sambirano and you will be blown away. I want to introduce everyone to real chocolate with these long forgotten flavours. People are so used to generic brown chocolate, they don’t realise that mainly what they are tasting is sugar, vanilla and lecithin, not the cacao at all!
My early life also meant that when it came to making chocolate, my natural instinct was to go back to the basic raw materials and to make it from scratch. So about 20 years ago, I was on my cocoa farm in Venezuela wanting to set up a chocolate factory in the UK, and everyone told me I should simply buy bulk liquid chocolate and remould it like other companies did. But this was not in my nature. I wanted to choreograph every step of the dance. So I ended up setting up the first ‘bean to bar’ chocolate factory in Britain for hundreds of years, to start with making just 100% cacao cylinders with no added sugar or milk or anything.
My cylinders are what I use to make my Hot Chocolate. I have one religiously every morning made Aztec style with 100% cacao, water and a little sugar, so it is dairy free. It’s a wonderful caffeine free way to get a little energy boost and lift. The theobromine in cacao stimulates your body to produce endorphins which is what makes you feel good after taking exercise. And it is slow release so you don’t get an unpleasant spike. It is quite powerful stuff, so you can drink it in smaller quantities than a milk hot chocolate – treat it a bit like an espresso. To make a more classic vegan hot chocolate just use an Oat Milk or similar with my Hot Chocolate powder which simply contains cocoa powder and raw cane sugar.
If you haven’t had dark chocolate before, I would always say to try my Las Trincheras 72 first. It has soft nutty notes and is gentle and welcoming. Some people get put off dark chocolate because they find it bitter. Often enough this is because people using lower quality beans give them a heavy roast (like some coffees) in order to give them a flavour – this is what creates the bitterness. I always give my beans a light roast – just enough to bring out the flavours. If you like this, you could move on to my Dark Tasting Box which will take you on a journey to discover the different tastes of different beans and how I pair them with different ingredients in my flavoured bars. And of course you will get the incredible Japanese inspired Magnificent Creations. For me to join you in your tasting, virtually that is, watch my Tasting Videos.
I will sign off with a quick mention for my No Added Sugar bars, also vegan. These are my answer for the increasing number of people wanting to reduce the sugar they eat, but don’t like the idea of artificial sweeteners. They are 100% cacao naturally sweetened with fruit and nuts and make wonderful afternoon snacks. The Pistachio Date and Raisin Hazelnut get their sweetness from the dried fruits, while lovers of the Pure Gold 100% Sur del Lago cacao bar will find Orange Almond more similar to that as it has less than 2% naturally occurring sugars.
Each month I create Tasting Boxes on a particular flavour theme. One is always all dark chocolates, so suitable for vegans and the other one includes milk and white chocolates too. They are a wonderful way of discovering new flavours because each contains 10 bars, 2 of which are handmade chocolates made specially for that particular box. They are not available in any shop and when they have gone they have gone.
Take a walk on the dark side
December 30th, 2020