April 4, 2017
For charm and deliciousness, look no further for your Easter chocolates!
2017 has been a bit of a whirlwind so far for me, with the result that I was slightly incredulous when the Easter chocolates started to appear. Really? It was Christmas last week, surely? I wasn’t sure I was ready for another flurry of rich food and present giving. But it is testament to the truly delightful creativity of the UK’s chocolate makers and chocolatiers that as soon as their Easter treats started to arrive I got properly excited at what I was seeing, and tasting.
There is something here to delight every family member or Easter guest. And I have morphed into a ludicrously impatient Easter Bunny, dying to see their faces light up at the deliciously inventive 2017 stash.
British chocolatier Artisan du Chocolat win my prize this year for the charm of their designs. They have an array of pretty, whimsical and downright glamorous offerings. Their salted caramels are justifiably famous, and feature widely. The pretty fabric bag above is filled with them, and there are caramels of many flavours accompanying the wonderfully happy-making ‘balloon’ egg, and the divinely pretty, lace butterfly adorned egg.
All the details are beautifully done. Just look at the patterns on this lovely chest. The little drawer pulls out to reveal a plentiful selection of caramels and filled chocolates. Quite exquisite, and truly gift worthy.
5D have a variety of eggs on offer, all handsomely done. This Disc’O egg is very smart, and solves that problem of what type of chocolate to buy; crowd pleasing with all three. Clever and good looking.
Paul A Young’s boudoir-fabulous boutiques always look tempting. At Easter the proliferation of treats on offer make a visit an essential. And you will not be disappointed. There are many things to choose from, including this splendidly generous egg with gold decoration. At half a kilo of 72% dark chocolate from US bean to bar chocolate maker Guittard, this is the egg with which to adorn your Easter lunch table. There will be plenty to share with your guests.
Of course Easter is largely about eggs, rabbits and chicks. But if seasonal shapes aren’t essential to you a box of chocolates is where you get to sample the newest flavours on offer. All that I sampled from Paul display a focus on, and love of, spices and herbs, in intriguing combinations. Stem ginger and nibs in a solid milk chocolate cocoa pod shape is easy to love, tasty and with great texture. Blood orange, basil and honey is a very pleasing – the fragrant sweetness of honey and a green basil note well balanced with a round fruitiness. Possibly my favourite is the most unusual; Golden Milk. A white chocolate ganache, rendered yellow and given a gentle sweet spiciness by an expertly balanced infusion, is complimented by a deep, smoky, dark chocolate shell. Delicious.
I have come to expect consistently exceptional chocolates from Winchester Cocoa Company. The new flavours for Easter and 2017 bear this out, and include some stunners. The Marc de Champagne mini-egg rewrites the old favourite. I always find these overly sweet and insipid, but made by Chris Attewell I love them! The dark chocolate is a far more successful partner than the usual milk and the right amount of booze completes the transformation into something full flavoured and warming. My new favourite might be another boozy egg; the Twisted Nose gin and grapefruit. There is again enough of the alcohol for this to be warming, but it is delicate and aromatic. The zesty bitterness of the grapefruit brings out the juniper note in the gin. The dark chocolate used chimes perfectly with all these flavours and the result is wonderful.
And if while you are ordering your Winchester Cocoa Company filled chocolates you want something cute as well, no problem. How about this fabulous bunny, made from Felchlin Maracaibo Venezuela Grand Cru 65% dark chocolate. Or the ‘real’ egg. The white and yolk are crafted from white chocolate and the whole is filled with Chris’s excellent, deep flavoured salted caramel.
Seasonal shapes are always a strong point at Chococo. The funkily splattered duck is fabulous. And these foil covered eggs come in milk or dark chocolate (as do most of their offerings), and rattle pleasingly with their filling of chocolate beans. The chocolate used at Chococo is always fine quality and delicious.
And they have a new kid on the block. The Chococo Megamilk egg, made from a new 65% Madagascan milk chocolate is a special offering. This chocolate combines the comfort factor of milk chocolate, with a high percentage of fine and fruity Madagascan cacao. And look at the mould, it’s beautiful!
Newly launched in October 2016, R Chocolate pleased at Christmas time with festive chocolate chalets, trees and Santas. I was intrigued to see what Easter would bring. The above display in their Belgravia boutique and cafe is very tempting.
The trio of three colours is proving a bestseller, like the 5D egg it covers all bases. And this nut studded egg really caught my eye. I haven’t seen many large eggs this year with inclusions (although Chococo do have some with nibs or honeycomb inside that are great). The combination here of the fine Original Beans Esmereldas milk chocolate with this generous crunchy feast is quite yummy. Perfect for the milk chocolate and nut lover in your life, a classic combination, stylishly delivered.
On the high street Hotel Chocolat have again created their Extra Thick Eggs for all tastes, adding a patisserie egg filled with pastry inspired chocolates. I have the Rare & Vintage, each side a different chocolate worth savouring, and plenty of it. It is generously filled with nut and caramel rich filled chocolates, all of which I thought truly tasty. I particularly like the hazelnut and orange; a smooth praline, infused with orange zest, which is done with an 85% dark chocolate, which stops the whole from being too sweet. It is balanced, grown up, delicious.
And lastly, special eggs from two young bean to bar British makers, who have this year fashioned eggs from their own-made chocolate. At Dormouse in Manchester the aptly named Bean to Egg is a lovely thing from her 72% Guatamalan chocolate. In the neat utilitarian-chic packaging Dormouse have included four foil wrapped truffles from the same chocolate. When eating artisan chocolate direct from the maker it is a great thing to be able to taste the chocolate itself and then the ganache, to see the difference in flavours revealed by different treatment. And don’t forget that Dormouse also now have a subscription service for their limited release bars.
In West Sussex, J.Cocoa are going from strength to strength. The large Easter eggs are beautiful, and the ganache filled mini-eggs (see lead photo) are quite delicious. The ganache has a fine buttery quality, the flavours combining deep caramel with a dark, almost marmalade note. I loved them! Both the milk and dark chocolates are deliciously accomplished. The new milk Nicaloso 30% chocolate combines a butterscotch note with molasses, a creamy melt and a cafe au lait ending. Great stuff.
So, Happy Easter friends, my job here is done. Now it just falls to you, the impossible task of what to choose!