If you’re at a loss at what to buy for presents this Christmas, draw inspiration from the creative world of British chocolate. Gold and silver foil-wrapped chocolate coins are, of course, a Christmas stocking staple but there are is a wealth of witty chocolate novelties to choose from.
Hotel Chocolat° offers a Christmas Jumper anyone would be pleased to receive – as it’s in the form of a milk chocolate slab – while their Portly Penguins are too adorable to eat – almost! Long-established Yorkshire company Bettys°, famous for their baked goods, also have a great eye for charming chocolate creations. This year Bettys offers stocking fillers including a truly handsome white chocolate polar bear, toy soldiers made from milk chocolate and jolly milk and white chocolate owls. Look out, too, for Chococo’s chocolate robots, angels and chocolate camper vans.
The rise of bean-to-bar chocolate is one of the fascinating aspects of the artisan chocolate scene. Based in Orford in Suffolk, Pump Street Bakery, run by the charismatic and committed Chris Brennan, has made a name not only for its notable sourdough bread but for its wonderful bean to bar chocolate bars. These are made with a meticulous and loving eye from the selection of the beans and the careful roasting to maximise the cocoa beans’ flavour through to the maturing and tempering of the chocolate into bars. Choose from single country of origin bars and their bestselling Sourdough and Sea Salt bar – perfect gifts for anyone who appreciates quality chocolate. Championing bean to bar chocolate from around the world, Cocoa Runners offers a quality chocolate lover’s club service, sending out carefully chosen bars. Choose from gifts such as a Three Month Tasting Course or opt for one of their curated chocolate bar collections, such as Best of British, World’s Best Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Aficionado.
Chocolate truffles, of course, are a luxurious treat, perfect for a present. Talented and creative British chocolatier Paul A. Young has come up with a characteristically inventive Christmas 2014 collection, with flavours including Brewdog porter and ginger molasses cake, Port and cheese and the Orange preserve and sacred rosehip. Rococo’s talented chocolatier Barry Johnson has made a name for himself with his award-winning, elegant caramels (pictured right), exquisitely flavoured with ingredients such as passion fruit, mandarin and kalamansi lime. Now available in the appropriately named Award Winning Caramel Box, this stylishly packaged collection is a treat anyone would be thrilled to receive. Discreetly packaged, William Curley’s Couture Chocolate collections are a sophisticated treat, offering a range of subtly flavoured, rich, ganache-filled chocolates. For an eye-catching, Artisan du Chocolat’s gold or silver boxes of Assorted Pearls are filled with chocolate ‘pearls’, filled with ganache and praline dusted with edible gold and silver dust to wonderfully decorative effect.
For a person who loves cooking with chocolate, whether using it in baking or making their own truffles, Will Torrent’s new cookbook Chocolate At Home° (from Ryland, Peters & Small) would make a perfect present. A truly talented, award-winning pastry chef, Will Torrent here shares his recipes for treats such as Salted Brown Sugar Caramel Truffles, Billionaire’s Shortbread and Chocolate Waffles. The tempting recipes, together with the scrumptious photography, will have anyone looking through the book so hungry, that they’ll be tempted to lick the pages! Also for those who enjoy getting into the kitchen and cooking with chocolate, rather than simply eating it is an array of useful kit from Lakeland. From a chocolate makers granite slab for tempering or a handy Thermospatula for accurately monitoring temperatures as you melt chocolate to assorted moulds, there is lots to choose from. Alternately, a wonderful present would be to buy someone a chocolate cookery class, so they can really learn how to handle this special ingredient. Handily located in central London, close to Oxford Circus, cookery teacher Rosalind Rathouse’s award-winning Cookery School is noted for its clearly thought out, hands-on approach to passing on cookery skills. Their day-long Chocolate Making course (coming up in March and May 2015) is focussed on how to work with chocolate, including how to temper it and make ganaches, so a delicious opportunity to get a real insight into chocolate.