Now there isn’t much that is more likely to get me into the festive spirit than some decadent Christmas chocolates. So when The Signature Christmas Collection from Hotel Chocolat arrived on my doorstep, a rendition of Jingle Bells involuntarily emerged from my throat.
The design of the box is elegant; this immediately sets you up for an expectation of nights of sophistication and indulgence. The box wouldn’t look out of place in a milliners piled on top of all the other hat boxes. However, when I opened it, I was not met by a fascinator but concentric rings of chocolates laid out like gems in a display cabinet.
The collection consists of nineteen chocolates with eleven different flavours, which as you might expect are full of spices, nuts and alcohol – the very flavours of Christmas. It’s a diverse mix with something for everyone: dark, white and milk with centres including truffles, pralines, marzipan and caramel. As mentioned, alcohol features too. I’m not much of a drinker, but I do find a drop of something strong combines well with chocolate and adds a pleasant warmth as well as a feeling of decadence. There were some unusual flavours as well, which for me adds to the excitement and allure. If you can no longer fit into your sparkly ball gown, don’t worry, a box of these by the fire alone (or with friends) will provide ample solace.
For the purposes of review, ahem, it was encumbent that I sampled every one. So, in the order in which I tried them:
Mulled Port – a truffle containing Hotel Chocolat’s own ruby port and spiced with pimento leaf and bitter orange was the first to catch my eye. Not only did I like the sound of it, but with my love of warm colours, the bright orange and ruby top drew me in. The inside of the truffle caught me by surprise; I was expecting a dark ganache, but the colour was lilac, which didn’t really make me think of mulled wine. The flavours were all present and correct however and left a warmth in the back of the throat and a spiciness on the tongue. CT particularly liked this one.
Hacienda lara Dark Salted Caramel 90% – Ooh my, this chocolate was amazing. For such a dark chocolate, it was rich like I’d expected, but also smooth and not at all bitter. It melted beautifully in the mouth releasing a sumptuous salted caramel as it did so. Made with organic beans from Ecuador, this one got an extra seal of approval from me. Sadly, there was only one of these in the box. Poor CT.
Pistachio Praline Crunch – there is something so exotic about pistachios, I just can’t resist them; I’m fascinated by their green colour. They have such a delicate flavour, it is easy to overwhelm them and I did feel the addition of cherry pieces and rose here was a little heavy handed.
Christmas Star – this was marzipan flavoured with orange liqueur and wrapped in dark chocolate. I adore marzipan, so I was not going to miss out on this one. I enjoyed it, but felt the dark chocolate shell was too thick and rather overwhelmed the marzipan. However, it did leave a lovely warm taste in the mouth from the orange liqueur which was particularly pleasing.
White Caramel Pralines – an unusual mix of praline and caramel that went surprisingly well together. Both layers were delicious in their own right, but mixed together they were more than the sum of their parts. The heavenly flavour of hazelnut permeated the palate. Nice.
Christmas Mess – filled with four layers of different shades of pink fruitiness and creamy white chocolate ganache in a dark chocolate cup, these were a lovely mouthful and pretty to boot. It was flavoured with strawberries and meringue sprinkles for authenticity but with tart cranberries too for that touch of Christmas.
Caramel Supernova – I just can’t resist a caramel. Salted ones are my absolute favourite, but any liquid caramel is likely to do it for me at some level. This one was delicious despite the lack of salt, with the caramel notes coming out loud and strong. I often find caramel is far too sweet, but this one was not overpowered by sugar and in any case was nicely counterbalanced by the 70% dark chocolate shell.
Rum & Raisin Truffle – now this took me right back to my favourite bar of Old Jamaica when I was young only this really did taste of rum. My mouth not only filled up with nostalgia, but also with a warming melange of alcohol, nutmeg and orange.
Hacienda lara 63% Ganache Milk – a sophisticated and not too sweet truffle this was one of my favourites. Like the first Hacienda, this was made with organic beans from Ecuador and it left a rich chocolate taste in the mouth.
Cranberry Cups – I often find white chocolate a bit too sweet and cloying to eat on its own. Luckily, this one was filled with a tart cranberry ganache that brought out the creaminess of the chocolate rather than its sweetness.
Nutmeg & Almond Pralines – Pralines used to be my favourite chocolate. If ever I was offered a chocolate from a box, it was always the pralines I went far. These days, I generally find them too sweet, which is a real shame. Less sugar and more nuts wouldn’t go amiss. This one, however, was a delight. The chocolate on the outside was sweeter than the almond praline and it tasted nutty. It was also surprisingly smooth and the hint of nutmeg gave it a sophisticated air. You never know, it might rub off on me.
Check this video out to see what’s hiding in the Hotel Chocolat box of delights.