Chocolate Week starts today! Of course every week is chocolate week in our household, but I’m actually referring to the official event which runs from 13th-19th October. You’ll be hard pressed to miss the numerous activities and promotions happening throughout the land. I’m celebrating by giving you a daily taste of what’s out there in the chocolate world and will be posting every day this week. Here goes …
Chocolat Chocolat is a chocolate shop in Cambridge offering a range of luxury chocolate products. Founded in 1999, it now has an online shop in addition to its high street one. It is particularly well known for its handmade sheet chocolate sprinkled with such ingredients as French sea salt, Turkish hazelnuts and Dutch speculoos. It also offers the ability to create your own chocolate bars – now what a fabulous idea indeed. These are great fun and make an extra special treat for yourself and a great present for anyone else. You choose your chocolate base bar then add up to three toppings of your choice or, if it all gets a bit much, you can go with one of the suggested combinations. The base bars come in a choice of: dark 70% or 55%, milk, caramel or white. Then it’s over to choosing your toppings which are far too numerous to mention here, but include, nuts, fruit, spices, herbs, flowers, confectionary and even gold leaf. A final touch is a gift tag on which you can compose your own message. The bars all weigh 100g and three bars cost £14.95.
Mine got into a bit of a muddle as there was a website glitch whilst I was creating my order. I was sent an e-mail detailing what I had ordered and to let them know if anything was wrong. It wasn’t quite what I ordered, but I was remiss and didn’t get back to them so I have no-one to blame but myself for the rather unlikely bars I actually got. The packaging was simple but elegant; chocolate brown cardboard together with the turquoise and gold Chocolat Chocolat logo looked particularly stylish. In amongst the chocolate bars was a little label informing me who had made them. A surprise miniature Dolfin bar was also included in the package which put an even bigger smile on my face. Dolfin are one of the better Belgian chocolate brands which I first tried on a trip to Ghent a few years ago and I’ve not yet been disappointed by any of their chocolate. This was a nice touch which gave a subliminal message that I was in for a treat.
Pecan Nuts, Liquorice and Cinnamon on a caramel milk 34% chocolate bar. I love cinnamon, so was very happy with this, but I’m not entirely sure that I asked for liquorice on the same bar; cinnamon is a dominant flavour and drowned out pretty much anything else. The nuts provided an interesting and welcome crunch.
Chilli and Caramelised Pistachio on a milk 34% chocolate bar – This was a very tasty bar with the pistachios giving texture and a sweet crunch. I couldn’t however taste any chilli. Maybe my habit of eating chilli for breakfast has reduced my sensitivity.
Chopped Apricots on a 70% dark chocolate bar – This was delicious and surprisingly, for me, my favourite. The chocolate was smooth with fruity notes. It was not at all bitter and went down far too easily. The pieces of soft and sweet apricots punctuated the chocolate in a most delightful way.
I was sent three Chocolat Chocolat bars to try. I was not required to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
I had a birthday cake to make for a friend and given free rein to make what I thought fit, I was in the mood to create a salted caramel cake. A once unfamiliar concept on British shores, it seems to have taken the nation by storm and is now everyone’s favourite flavour – it’s certainly one of mine.
When I saw the recipe and accompanying pictures for baked jam doughnut muffins over at Lavender and Lovage, I knew it was only a matter of time before I tried them myself. As ever, Karen’s photographs are beautiful, but it was the recipe itself that enticed me. I love doughnuts, but never buy them as they are, somehow the epitome of junk food. I’ve been wanting to try some of these baked doughnut style muffins for ages, but as soon as I come across a recipe, I lose it again. This time I bookmarked it.
Ginger in biscuit form is one of my favourites. Last month I made a batch of Delia’s crystallised ginger oat biscuits for a MacMillan coffee morning. It was the first time I’d made ginger biscuits with oats and they were so good I was hard pressed to hand the batch over. Those chunks of chewy flavoursome crystallised ginger raised them to something above a humble oat biscuit and gave a certain air of sophistication. Whatever the reason, I was determined to make a batch for ourselves as soon as possible.
Chocolate may be my number one passion, but there is nothing quite so refreshing as a good cup of tea. For me, the best cuppa involves loose leaf tea and plenty of room for the leaves to swirl around, expand and infuse. Some of you may remember the IngenuiTEA and Adagio tea samples I reviewed earlier in the year and that particular pot gets plenty of use in our house. However, when I am on my own, a pot of tea is not always what I want, the tea can get cold before I get around to finishing it.
Luckily Adagio now has a new line which is perfect for such occasions: a porcelain cup with infuser. It may be called a cup, but it’s actually a large mug, with accompanying lid and infuser. The infuser is also large allowing plenty of room for the leaves to expand and it handily fits into many other drinking vessels if you fancy a change. Made of stainless steel, it’s also good and sturdy; I’ve had metal infusers before, which have been so feeble they’ve given up the ghost after very few uses. This one looks as though it’s here for the long haul. It also makes washing it up nice and easy as there is no fear of it breaking. I do find the solid base a bit annoying as the liquid is unable to escape properly thus leaving a rather mushy pool of leaves and tea behind – but this is a minor quibble. The cup, lid and infuser are all dishwasher safe. The lid is not only essential when the leaves are infusing, but it can be used to keep the tea warm in between sips. Handily, it doubles as a receptacle to place the infuser on when the tea has been steeped to your liking. This no fuss, no mess method makes it ideal for office use as well as at home. I chose a bright red one, called barn for some reason, but there are five other colours to choose from. Hmm, maybe I should have gone for the chocolate one.
So what of the teas? Two of the three samples I was sent to try were black teas, which are not generally a favourite. However, I have been surprised by black teas in the past and I am always happy to try new ones. The third one was a herbal and struck me as distinctly odd as I’d never come across that combination before.
Pu Erh Spice – I’d heard quite a bit about pu erh and that the name is perhaps quite apt in terms of smell. However, this one had a sweet heady aroma both when opening the packet and as brewing tea. With an added spice mix of cinnamon bark, orange peel, ginger root and aniseed, I guess this shouldn’t have been a surprise. It’s like a lighter version of masala chai and is very tasty with the warming and zesty flavours of cinnamon and orange to the fore.
Yunnan Jig – the scent emanating from the packet on opening was not at all what I expected from a black tea. It was pure summer – sweet grassy newly harvested hay. Large sticks of tea that unfurled into leaves in the infuser and tasted just as good as they smelt. Light and fragrant as it was, is seemed more like a green tea than a black one. The world of tea never ceases to fascinate.
Foxtrot – Although the scent of chamomile is one of my favourites, I’m really not that keen on drinking it; when I saw that this herbal tea contained chamomile, my heart sank a little. It perked up on further reading when I saw it contained my favourite tea rooibos too. But I thought it a very odd mix of flavours with chamomile, peppermint, rooibos and rooibos vanilla. Chamomile and peppermint both have strong scents and I felt the aromas were fighting each other rather than melding or complimenting. Strangely when water was added, the scent improved and I found myself liking it. The proof would come in the drinking. Weeellll, it’s actually not bad. The mint is refreshing and the chamomile and vanilla give a sweet note, though I’m not quite sure where the rooibos comes in. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to drink this, but it makes for an interesting change.
You can read another account of the cup with a different selection of teas over at Fork & Good.