Yes, it’s Christmas and yes, there will be chocolate. Yes, there will probably be a tray or two of those gold-foiled balls that The Ambassador is ever-determined to really spoil you with and yes, you will probably miss out on the green triangles in the Quality Street – the ones which, with their fleeting resemblance to proper pralines, are the only choice of the cocoa connoisseur.
But c’mon. Quality Street? Surely some rather better quality chocolate is up your alley. Santa is known to stuff any old sweeties in stockings, so you’d better add this little lot to your gift list to prevent him presenting you with summat substandard on Christmas morn…
If you eat with your eyes you’ll be full to the brim when you take these in. The Choc Soc’s box rocks, with a full 14 flavours including a crazily-creamy coconut snowball, a gingerbread ganache, a Christmas tree-infused caramel and a few merrymakers like mulled wine, triple-decker amaretto affogato and a selection of spirited truffles.
Were there a secret ingredient in Marc’s chocolates, it would be glee. This chocolate maker revels in his craft, and never more so than at Christmastime. These colourful creations look as jolly as a Christmas jumper, and are in rather better taste – 38% milk shells concealing fruited Cornish cream caramel centres – cranberry, citrus, and spiced apple.
Chocolarder’s Cornish bean-to-bar chocolate is always a treat, but this limited edition creation is truly fit for (three) kings, be they Oriental or from Leyton Orient. The intensely cocoa-y, long-conched 65% Peruvian Criollo chocolate is the perfect foil for the incense-like flavours of frankincense and myrrh. The gold leaf? That just adds snazz.
All that glitters is not gold. Zotter’s bits of bling are made with Biofekt chocolate, but to lovers of offbeat treats they’ll be as precious as that very metal. Various gems include baubles bearing limoncello and almond, pumpkin seed nougat, raspberry brandy, honey-candied ginger and grappa-spiked coffee.
If Hotel Chocolat encourages quality chocolate appreciation amongst the cocoa-craving masses, the same company’s refined Rabot range takes it to the next level. This subtle, sleek selection is a treat; feat. mini domes and prettily-patterned single origin snowflakes. Raspberry & hibiscus, salted caramel, and plain truffles will suit a sophisticat.
You might spread it on bread but this is nothing like Nutella. Smoother; more melty; praline-like, not plasticky. The 50% milk chocolate base is nicely intense, yet doesn’t hide the hazelnuts, spice and all the things that make this so nice. It’s pretty much a European Christmas market in a tub.
For liquorice lovers (of whom I am one), Johan Bülow is the Pied Piper. The young Dane’s company LAKRIDS sells everything under the sun that it’s possible to make from the stuff, and probably more besides. This especially festive, lavishly-labelled tub is choc-full of white-choc coated sweet liquorice nuggets; gold gilded and raspberry-infused,
Fortnum’s has a knack of working with the best British producers to yield very good goodie, especially when it comes to chocolate. A festive shopping trip to the department store is a must for this Cocoa Nut, if only to stare at the wonderful window displays and nab a bar or two of this spiced, fruited, nutted 60% chocolate.
Mince pies, in my eyes, are fine fodder for sweetening up Santa but not much cop to eat as a treat. I like the idea, but rarely the execution. However, I am on board with Aneesh Popat‘s dried fruit-infused water ganaches; each piece pebbledashed with pastry crumbs to accurately emulate the experience – but with added chocolate.
Cocoa pods don’t all grow on trees, and can be cultivated in Dorset; at least, that’s what one might discern when their eyes alight on this lifesize, lifelike, handhewn Chococo number. The glitzy, suedelike shell is made with Venezuelan 43% milk chocolate and filled not with pulp’n’beans but lots and lots of chocs.
If a single slice has to suffice as your serving, ensure you get an end. Yule like the whole is Montezuma’s log, but the best bang for your buck comes with those two prized pieces; comprising not only a wonderful whirl of sticky, sumptuous plain and chocolate marzipan, but also a thick disc of its crisp chocolate coat.
These bars are billed ‘bizarre’, so don’t be too surprised if they widen eyes. Fruity, spicy Yuletide and Cherry Xmas Bizarres will be slightly less divisive than the cracker, cheddar’n’ cranberry Festive Cheeseboard, or Crimbo Dinner – a full-on feast of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, onion and cranberry sauce. Decidedly different.
This fine chocolate collection could be called ‘confectionary’, but solely in the sense that the box is full of sheer eye candy. The bright bits are solid, single origin chocolates chunks – Madagascar 69%, Ghana 70% or Tanzania 75%; either plain or paired with flavours like coffee, mint, or award-winning ginger.
One for globe-roving chocolate chompers, Fifth Dimension’s typically offbeat box is stuffed with exotic flavours called for cities. Perhaps most apt for Chrimbo is the parsnip’n’lime ‘Brighton’, whilst other delicious destinations include Penang (pandan), Hangzhou (chrysanthemum), and the sweet-spicy Meaux (mustard).
There will be times over Christmas where you’ll be expected to eat entire meals with no cocoa content, and that’s not on. Luckily, it’s good old Uncle Roy to the rescue with this chillied, chocolate-y condiment that’s perfectly acceptable eating alongside cold cuts, cheese, or even with turkey – think Mexican mole.
Come Boxing Day, most of us are really scraping the bottom of the (biscuit) barrel, picking at pappy pink wafers because they’re the only remaining option. Unwrap a pack of these choc-coated salted caramel, fig & oat, chili & chocolate, ginger & sultana, and vanilla & walnut biscuits and stick the kettle on.
La Maison’s whipped praline-filled chocolate batons prove irrefutably that good things do indeed come in small packages – and sleek ones, at that. The slim, sophis’ cigars come in three flavours – dark chocolate with crispy crêpes or almonds, hazelnuts and caramelised biscuits; or milk chocolate with roasted coconut.
Sir Hans’s handsome chocolate cocoa pods look great, and refreshingly, their fine form informs their function. The whole pod is popped into a cup with hot liquid, the shell slowly melting to unleash a further coshel of loose pure chocolate beads contained within. A nice novelty that results in a damn decadent drink.
Not a fan of the Christmas cannonball passed off as ‘pudding’? Melt’s chocolate version might change your mind; delicately-detailed and filled with all sorts of treasures including choc-coated nuts and Rudolph-red cranberries. Just don’t douse it in spirit and set it alight…
Ummm.. You’re gonna need a bigger box. Because one each of the nine fine specimens in Paul’s Christmas collection is nowhere near enough. White port and Wensleydale, sweet potato pie, and Brewdog porter ganache with ginger molasses cake and cocoa nibs are especially arresting – read about the remainder here.
Feast your eyes on more festive chocolate:
- For a guide to the best chocolate coins for Christmas, click here
- To read a full review of Paul A Young’s Christmas chocolate collection, click here
- To read about Christmas chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat, Lidl, Montezuma’s, & more, click here
- To read about Christmas chocolate from Lakeland, Hotel Chocolat, Bord Bia & more, click here
- To read about Christmas chocolate from Valrhona, Sous Chef, Carluccio’s & more, click here
- To read about Christmas chocolate from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, & Marc Demarquette, click here