When someone offers you a taste of their latest – and potentially greatest – chocolate, only a fool would turn them down. This Cocoa Nut certainly wouldn’t; and didn’t when Miss Witt sent a brand-new creation my way.
Hampshire-based Kerry Witt’s signature local Hildon water-based ganache ensures the chocolatier’s bold flavours are not watered down in any way. These are chocolates where the middles truly melt in the mouth; seguing from solid to liquid in seconds. Flavours linger lengthily, but the finish is clean, not creamily cloying.
With her own kitchen garden and sharing her New Forest workspace with Naked Jam’s founder, Jennifer Williams, things sometimes get rather fruity. Local produce and preserves creep into chocolates like the blackcurrant, tarragon and star anise ‘A Shooting Star’; Strawberry-and-Champagne ‘A Tingling Taste’; and ‘Sevillian Days’ – a milk choc’n’marmalade number.
New Forest fruits are also present in my gift from Miss Witt – a kirsch-laced, griotte-stuffed cherry creation whose added ingredients simultaneously enhance and are enhanced by Montecristi’s very cherryish Ecuadorean chocolate. It should be in Kerry’s Christmas chocolate collection, so if you’re planning to be a good boy or girl for the remainder of the year, ask Santa to pop one in your stocking.
Ginger-lovers should stock up on the Peruvian number which features a double hit of the spicy stuff paired with 65% dark Alto el Sol chocolate; each piece bearing a pretty pattern on its evenly-tempered top.
One suspects little Miss Witt would do well to enter the forthcoming Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge – pink peppercorns appear in her rose-patterned ‘A Unique Fragrance’ creation, whilst ‘Thai Scents’ is laden with coconut, lemongrass, ginger and lime leaves. Both take inspiration from a dessert Kerry created as a pastry chef; comprising Thai ice cream, mango, papaya, and pink peppercorn syrup.
This chocolatier evidently enjoys a drink; both of the hard and soft variety. English-grown ‘Earl Grey’ tea adds its soft smoke to a blue cornflower-sprinkled, white chocolate Afternoon Tea chocolate; and ‘Black Russian’ packs a pair of punches- the first in the form of coffee, with vodka providing the second knockout blow.
It would be nothing short of remiss not to mention Miss Witt’s win at 2015’s Academy of Chocolate Awards, where her caramel won Bronze in the Best Filled Chocolate category. But it would be worse still not to tell you more about the maker. Kerry Witt is a long-time lover of all things chocolate, and has been so since she was knee-high to a cacao pod. Peppermint creams were her childhood piece de resistance, but as a pastry chef working with Alex Aitkens at Le Poussin in Brockenhurst and Terence Conran at Bluebird, her creations became ever more exotic.
But then a double-disc replacement operation before Kerry even hit her mid-twenties threw a spanner in the works; leaving her with arthritis that made life in a professional pastry kitchen impossible. She browsed cookbooks constantly, considering her conundrum, until chocolate saved the day – or, more specifically, a plea from Naked Jam’s Jennifer Williams for Kerry make some chocolates for a customer did.
And so a new career path revealed itself; and, working for herself and working around her arthritis, Miss Witt revealed herself as someone who’d found their true calling – taking inspirations from her background in pastry, local, seasonal produce, and requests from a rapidly-increasing customer fanbase including Lymington Market shoppers and local boutique hostelries such as the Captains Club Hotel, for whom she dreamt up a duo of chocolates: the sea salted lavender ‘Ocean Days’ and booze-infused strawberry jam ‘Red Russian’.
She’s already going great guns, and if Kerry carries on like this, she’d better prepare herself for a fair more to jump aboard the bandwagon. Keep your wits about you and your eyes well peeled: Miss Witt is one well worth watching.
- To find out more about Miss Witt, visit the website here, follow @ChocolateMsWitt on Twitter, and ‘like’ Chocolate By Miss Witt on Facebook
- To read more about Montecristi’s Ecuadorean chocolate, click here
- To read more about the 2015 Academy of Chocolate Award-winners, click here
- To read more about exciting start-up chocolatiers and makers, click on the respective names: JK Oliver, La Fleur de Chocolat, Dormouse Chocolates, Matthieu de Gottal