There are some foods that however much you love them, they take so long to make you can really only do it once a year. Christmas seems to have a lot of these, and amongst my favourites are candied orange peel dipped in chocolate and caramelised rum-soaked cacao nibs to sprinkle over desserts or make into a chocolate. This Christmas my Magnificent Creations are using both.
If you would like to watch my tasting video for this Christmas Discovery Box you can go to www.williescacao.com/willies-world/willies-tv/. Otherwise here is a bit of background to the different chocolates.
As ever, make sure your chocolate is at room temperature, before you taste it. It really wants to be at body temperature because that’s the temperature it melts at, and when it will happily release all its flavours. Let’s start with the dark chocolates.
Rio Caribe 72 with its coffee, nutty notes is a classic that stands tall in the bean world. A beautiful trinitario bean from the palm fringed Paria peninsula, when I close my eyes and think of chocolate it’s these nutty, coffee layers of flavour that roll in. Now let’s get fruity and move south to Peru. Of all the fine cacao varieties, criollo beans are one of the most highly prized and this is what you are tasting in my Chulucanas 70 with its soft notes of raisins and plums. These beans are usually paler in colour and are famed for their delicate flavour notes. You wouldn’t find them in mass market chocolates because they have lower yields and are more susceptible to disease.
Don’t you love cracking into whole nuts on Christmas day? I say cracking, it’s really more smashing with bits going everywhere. So let’s move on to Almendra, Sur del Lago 70 dark chocolate with Marcona almonds that I have roasted myself. These nuts are something special, and freshly roasted they are just extraordinary. Health food shops really all need mini roasters! Then Ginger Lime and Luscious Orange, another pair of festive favourites both made with the honeyed Baracoa bean.
Milk of the Stars is this month’s milk chocolate, with the rich, toffee caramel notes characteristic of its bean from the volcanic soils in Surabaya, Indonesia. This is what’s known as a dark, milk chocolate as it has 54% cocoa solids. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk says it has just 20%. Sea Flakes is made Rio Caribe 44% milk chocolate, with crunches of Cornish Sea Salt playing against the sweetness. And this leads me to the glorious El Blanco. If you have always found white chocolate a bit sickly this is the one for you. Mine is made with just 30% raw cane sugar (most use 50-60% refined sugar) and natural not de-odourised cocoa butter pressed out of fine cacaos. With all these natural flavours coming to the party there’s no need for the vanilla you usually find. It is light, creamy and simply sublime just the way it is.
Talk about handmade chocolates, I have been candying, soaking, drying and caramelising for months in preparation for these.
St Clements, white chocolate jewelled with Candied Orange. Candied Orange Peel dipped in chocolate is a fabulous Christmas snack. But it takes hours of work, boiling the peel and rinsing it in cold water multiple times to remove the bitterness before you can candy it. A labour of love… I’ve done it for you!
Navidad, Sur del Lago 69 dark chocolate with caramelised, cognac soaked cacao nibs. I have soaked these nibs not just in any old brandy, but in 10 year old VSOP artisan cognac. It takes me back to Christmas in Venezuela, soaking nibs for months so that when they are dried and caramelised you still really catch the rum. This one takes even longer to make than the candied orange peel, but boy it’s worth it.