Not much beats supping a cupful of Paul A Young‘s mulled wine hot chocolate in the middle of summer as you amuse yourself perusing the clever chocolatier’s Christmas collection… except, perhaps, for lighting the fire on an unseasonably chilly August evening and snuggling up to sample a box of those chocs.
My nice little nonet contains nine fine specimens; one each of the full festive range. I start by p-p-picking up not the Penguin of the well-known slogan, but a Persian; enrobed in an elegant white coat concealing a pale pink body that’s prettily perfumed with rose, spice and all things nice. Not a person, of course, but a chocolate inspired by Persian princess, chef and food writer Sabrina Ghayour.
After speaking with Sabrina, who could fail to feel passionate about Persian flavours? And Paul found that they find favour with white chocolate; combining select spices with cinnamon; that ‘top-of-the-shop spice mix, ras-el-hanout; and sour barberries that stop the treat being too sweet.
Too sweet, too often, is that American holiday favourite, sweet potato pie. But I’d give thanks after eating one of Paul’s pie-truffles at any time of year. The deep, earthy notes that make it so worthy of note are achieved by slow-roasting plump potatoes until the flesh is dry and the sugars completely caramelised. Mixed with maple syrup, nutmeg and white chocolate, it makes a gorgeous ganache made all the more lovely when lavished with a layer of caramelised milk chocolate.
There’s more milk chocolate in the gold-dusted, cacao pod-shaped fruit and nut chocolate. Crammed with currants, hazelnuts, almonds, it’s a treat that does exactly what is says on the tin – a simple pleasure that tastes far better than similar branded bars that one might fish from a tin or the toe of their stocking come Christmas.
When it comes to sea salted caramels, rival chocolate companies will try to convince you that there are many more fish in the sea than just Paul’s particular products. But don’t take the bait, or fall for the fallacy hook, line, or sinker. A good salted caramel is a wonderous thing – and the thing is, quality renditions are really rather rare, made by a small pond of producers amongst whom Paul is a big fish.
Put simply, Paul simply doesn’t do duff stuff. But he does do Duffy, making extensive use of the British chocolate maker’s creations. Duffy’s 55% Ocumare occurs in the Christmas collection, in a marvellously-marmaladey pickled orange, Sacred rosehip cup’n’cardamom truffle that’s the warming wintertime answer to Paul’s Pimms summer special.
If prefer to pass on Pimms in favour of being passed the port, a rich Valrhona milk chocolate filled with white port-spiked caramel and crumbs of Wensleydale cheese will please. And please don’t protest that it sounds strange; just close your eyes and think of cheesecake. Or leave that one ’til later, and let a dark rum-sozzled tonka bean truffle get you in the spirit as it gets some spirits into you.
Paul’s Christmas collection is becoming a bit of a booze cruise. The penultimate chocolate sounds like my ultimate dream; a Brewdog porter ganache with ginger molasses cake and cocoa nibs. One nibble, and I am indeed nobbled. It tastes like eating sticky spice cake whilst drinking a pint of chocolate-malted porter. Paul has done his best Willy Wonka here – I’m like Violet Beauregarde chewing confectionary and tasting a full feast.
There’s nothing like a richly-roasted, freshly-ground coffee on Christmas night, so it’s only right that I close my Christmas chocolate sampling ceremony with the Caravan coffee ganache with hazelnut praline. The description always applied to a certain brand of toilet paper seems rather better applied here – this is soft, strong, and the finish is very, very long.
The long and short of it? Paul’s produced yet another cracking Christmas collection.
As if there was ever any doubt. Only 129 days to go…
- The Paul A Young Advent Calendar in the main picture comprises 24 wooden houses filled with truffles of your choice, and is available from November, priced £69.
- Read about other products in Paul A Young’s Christmas 2014 collection here.
- Read about Paul’s Marmite brownie here.
- Read about Paul’s whole bean bean-to-bar chocolate here.
- Read about Paul’s 2013 Christmas chocolates here.