You should most certainly cocoa this Christmas, and, through a series of very pleasant presents, encourage everyone around you to do so too. In the first of a few festive posts, I’m sharing some top-notch chocs, all perfectly suited to the season. My top tip? Wise men (and women) always order in extras in order to sample before they share…
Dormouse Chocolates‘ Christmas Disc Collection is a far better gift than a dodgy greatest hits CD. These are festive flavours to sweetly savour; almost-juicy cranberry and orange, spicy speculoos, and rather fine mulled wine paired respectively with white, milk and dark chocolate. After a little after-dinner indulgence? Send these roundels around the table.
Then there are bars. Dormouse’s candied orange-topped 75% dark Tanzanian chocolate will have real appeal for anyone who’s a sucker for a segment of Terry’s Chocolate Orange; a hint of nutmeg making it more elegant than the latter even in its fanciest foil. Know someone who’s always got their eyes on the mince pies? Stick a bar of the 40% Ghanaian milk chocolate with raisins, biscuit and spices in their stocking.
Winchester Cocoa Company
Chris Attewell’s chocolates are consistently top-drawer, and the Christmas collection offers a great edible introduction to the Winchester Cocoa Company‘s wares. To give you a glimpse; a dash of Red Cat Brewing’s darkest beer gives the Mr. M’s Porter Caramel depth and body, Marc de Champagne is a classic done wickedly well, Coffee & Cognac combines fine Remy Martin Cognac with local Winchester Coffee School espresso, and Caramelised fig and Rum does exactly what it says on the tin, but better than you can imagine.
Chocolate by Ms. Witt
It might be hard to get your mitts on Ms. Witt’s wares, but if you’re New Forest-bound you should make a detour to the Lymington kitchen she shares with Naked Jam to pick up a box of chocs. Whisky warms up both the reindeer-printed Rudolph’s Tipple – a 34% white chocolate Hildon mineral water ganache infused with Jameson’s, cloaked in 40% Ghanaian milk chocolate – and ‘The Laird’, created by Kerry in memory of the marmalade-and-whisky-loving late Mr. Kyd.
This gentleman was a regular customer, and would tell the chocolatier stories and press red wine and ginger nuts upon her when she delivered her wares to his home. Montecristi’s 85% Ecuadorean chocolate and Naked Jam’s Orange marmalade make a tasty pairing, enlivened with just a whisper of whisky. You’ll find more Montecristi in the Christmas range; in a smoky lapsang souchong and apricot number and a morello cherry creation that’s sweet, sour and just a little bit bitter.
Liquorice is Marmite. Well, it’s not, but you know what I mean. You either love it or hate it. And the former crowd will be in ecstasy should they find these baubles in their swag bags on 25 Dec. Each of the three clear spheres contains lustre-dusted choc-coated liquorice balls; go for gold for raspberry white chocolate, silver for minted dark chocolate, and bronze for 2015’s most-favoured flavour – salted caramel.
The Chocolate Society
The Choc Soc’s sleek packaging will please the aesthetically-inclined, whilst the contents will please anyone with a palate for fine chocolate. Caramelised, so-called ‘blonde’ chocolate is A Thing that’s not quite blossomed into A Thing; it’s still relatively hard to come across quality examples of Caramac’s more elegant counterpart. The Chocolate Society has added festive flair in the form of popping candy and metallic biscuit pearls and declared it a ‘Christmas Cracker’.
Know someone who’d go nutty for a mixed selection of pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans? Treat ’em to a bag of Winter Mix, a brand-new creation allegedly adored by The Chocolate Society’s taste testers. Freshly-caramelised, with a thick winter coat of house milk chocolate and a snowy dusting of confectioner’s sugar, they’re a treat that’s all-too-easy to eat.
Cocoa Hernando‘s discs of destination-inspired, flavoured milk and dark chocolate now come packed into smart embossed boxes, inside beautifully-illustrated sleeves that negate the need for wrapping paper. Especially when, for just £2 extra, you can add a 50-character printed personal message to the top. Choose from superb, spicy India (masala chai), fruity beauties China (mandarin) or England (raspberry), or elegant Himalaya (pink diamond sea salt).
Much like their maker Marc Demarquette, these hand-painted Purity Caramels are wonderfully soft-hearted, their centres based on British sugar and Cornish cream from Jersey cows. A 35% house milk chocolate dome is the perfect home for a home-grown Heritage apple caramel infused with with warm winter spices, while rare winter Ivy honey lends sweetness and an intense, inimitable flavour to a salted caramel whose 71.1% dark chocolate shell is a triple gold Great Taste Award-winner.
Marc makes the most perfect praline, painstakingly caramelising, powdering, then pasting the very freshest nuts in a traditional copper bowl; cutting the mixture into little logs; and enrobing them in a velvety cloak of his house-blend milk chocolate, which combines cocoas from Venezuela, Madagascar and Java. If someone you love loves Quality Street’s green triangles, do them a flavour favour and treat ’em to a box of these chocs.
For some, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until they’ve munched a mince pie in at least a dozen different homes, but for every pie-eyed obsessive there’s someone who can’t bring themselves to savour their distinct and festive flavour. A platter of Hotel Chocolat‘s Alternative Mince Pies will appease the former and please the latter; the classic pastry replaced with rich milk chocolate, filled not with spiced dried fruit goop but with roasty-toasty praline and a layer of beautifully-buttery salted caramel.
Coconut Snowballs, meanwhile, add a dose of exoticism to a quintessential British Christmas and would be welcome bounty in any stocking. Excellent evidence to support the statement that white chocolate and fresh coconut are the best of bedfellows.
More mouthwatering gifts for choc-obsessed gastronomes next week – stay tuned…