‘A coconut for The Cocoa Nut’?
Okay, it wasn’t quite how the lovely lady at the Bord Bia Irish food board’s Christmas preview proffered the Butlers Chocolates truffle to me, but it should have been. In fact, the sweet was a serendipitious treat. She’d just explained the entire plate – bar a single specimen. And, being a Contrary Mary as well as a Cocoa Nut, it was that one I wanted.
Of course, it was the only one she was unsure of. As anyone raised on Revels knows, biting into a chocolate blind can often be a bad move. But hey, it was week two of Christmas in July and I was feeling full of festive goodwill… and a little tipsy too.
So I boldly went where no journalist had gone that afternoon, heading over to dark side of the chocolate selection and discovering a truffle with a melt-in-the-mouth coconut cream centre. I called it fate as I ate; I called the revelation that this flavour is found only in the luxury travel choc collections a fatal blow. But fear not – Butlers has an ample selection aimed at the casual consumer.
At the Lily O’Brien’s stand, I casually consumed a few dainty dessert chocs as I listened to the unlikely tale of the founder finding herself in a tropical pastry kitchen in her bikini, having wandered in whilst on holiday and staying put until she’d mastered the art of top choc-making. As a nod to the brand’s origins, I found it only fitting to eat a banoffee pie truffle.
Less tropical but no less unlikely is the story of Hadji Bey Turkish Delight, sold from a shop on a street in Cork since 1908, when Harutun Batmazian was the the only Armenian in the area. The floral fancy was originally sold with a fancy fork and a bib in the lid. It was not traditionally consumed with a dram of the Cool Swan’s white chocolate whiskey liqueur also at Bord Bia’s showcase, but it can and should be.
White chocolate looks suitably snowy, and so say Paul A. Young at Lakeland, where his live demonstrations of the chocolate recipe available through a new app were going down a (snow)storm. Coconut-rolled, fruited’n’spice, these truffles called to mind Christmas but were equally easy to eat in July heat.
Another fruity beauty from Lakeland made their way into my mouth in the form of hand-rolled cranberry truffles – the bright berry centre echoed by the chocolate’s delicate dusting of desiccated fruit powder. A ginger version zinged, taking away the not-altogether-unpleasant taste of the rogue Brussel-flavoured choc I ended up with when playing Sprout Roulette.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to play piñata – Lakeland’s gloriously gaudy candy-centred cakes and cookies were display only. Over at Morrisons, though, there was literally quite smashing fun to be had with bashing in supersized white chocolate spheres with a rolling pin – revealing every kind of edible from rocky road to salty pretzel stars.
The star of a dessert slate at Morrisons was a deep, dark multi-textured chocolate torte; providing the same slow-meltin’ savour as Aldi’s cocoa-coated Moser Roth Fantasy Truffles. The budget brand also brought a salted caramel chocolate tart, a marvellous Manx Christmas pud, and an appearance by Jean Christophe Novelli, to the table – making its festive bash anything but cheap.
High-end kitchenware specialist Divertimenti offers endless diverting delights for the keen cook – and fans of expensive continental chocolate biscuits will fall all over themselves for Mason Cash’s Petit Beurre-making kit. The super little set sets you up with cookie cutters and intricate moulds to enable you to coat those buttery biscuit bases with prettily patterned choc tops.
When it comes to product innovation, Hotel Chocolat is frequently top of the (Christmas) tree, and 2014’s festive collection comprised surprises like raspberry & hibiscus caramels; trend-led ‘Chocolate Tweet’ and ‘Christmas Jumper’ mini slabs; and the clever cocoa-themed beauty products the brand is becoming known for.
Canapes were cracking; no doubt many a canny chocoholic copycat will be rustling up rounds of cocoa gin-marinated salmon with white chocolate horseradish, cocoa nib-studded scotch eggs and cocoa balsamic-glazed pigs in blankets this Christmas. Need to hone those skills ahead of Advent’s advent? A masterclass at Hotel Chocolat’s Cocoa Vaults might be just the thing…
Your Christmas list must be getting longer by the minute, as is mine. But don’t send it off to Santa just yet – next week you’ll need to pick up that pen once again.
- To discover more Christmas chocolate from last week’s seasonal previews, click here.