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Diamond Jubilee inspires British chocolatiers’ creativity

As you might have noticed, 2012 is the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics – a big year for Britain. Across the chocolate world, a wave of patriotic creativity is apparent - from crown-shaped Jubilee pralines in House of Dorchester's Flying the Flag range (below) to Thorntons’ Best of British hamper. Royalty and Britishness are, in effect, flavours of the year, and creative chocolatiers have risen to the patriotic challenge in a number of ways.

For chocolatier Marc Demarquette of Demarquette Fine Chocolates, being creative is at the heart of being a chocolatier. “It’s about what it is to come up with new things and how to push the boundaries of creativity and products.” He also feels this ability to be creative in the food world is very British. “What we’re very much blessed with here is that we don’t have to be in a stereotypical boundary environment that you have on the continent –we’re allowed here to do something different.”

British ingredients, such as Yorkshire rhubarb and British cream, are a feature of Demarquette’s chocolates. For the Jubilee, he has taken his successful Kentish cobnut praline (“which we make from scratch”), awarded Triple Gold at the Great Taste Awards in 2011, and formed it into “beautiful little jewels”, using four traditional jewel shapes. “What better for a Jubilee than praline made using cobnuts and beet sugar grown on our own land? We thought about this last year because we needed to have enough cobnuts. We try to be organised – this is the management consultant that was in me in my previous job coming out – we had to order a huge quantity of cobnuts. The cobnuts are roasted and caramelised lightly, mixed in our couverture chocolate to give it a gianduja taste, but not a smooth paste, as we thought that would be boring, so it does have a crunch to it. We have a lot of British growers and producers making wonderful products; I want to support them.”

This summer Demarquette’s creative chocolate work is also on show in a very public place indeed – on display in a window at Harrods to thousands of shoppers and passers-by is his eye-catching Jubilee crown created for Harrods. “We were invited to adorn a Jubilee crown to represent Harrods. It had to be perfect, it had to reflect what Harrods is about, what the monarchy is about, what our nation is about. When asked, we sat down and thought what an honour but also what a challenge we’ve been set! We’ve relished it though and decided that an inspiration would be Her Majesty’s Commonwealth – once an Empire, now a Commonwealth –and to embrace what the Commonwealth is about, with the Queen in the middle of it, holding it all together. So ingredients like tea, coconut, sugar which represent the Commonwealth countries–– an edible crown that depicted the gastronomic environment, something that will replicate visitors to Harrods’ background. In the centre you have a cocoa pod – cocoa in the days of the Aztecs was the food of gods, enjoyed by the Aztec rulers – so that’s very appropriate.”

Elegant and witty presentation is a hallmark of Rococo’s chocolate range, with Rococo’s founder Chantal Coady using her artistic talents to good effect. Rococo’s Diamond Jubilee Bar taps into the nation’s affection for animals, depicting a royal corgi both on the bar and the packet. “The corgi is something we did before for the Golden Jubilee,” explains Coady, “we just thought it was the perfect thing at that time and we still think it’s the perfect thing. The flavour is now milk with sea salt and we added the Union Jack, which seems to have become the motif of the whole Jubilee. Corgis are a bit of challenge, but I tried to make mine as elegant as possible! My Granny used to have a corgi which I remember. It was so fat it couldn’t go up the stairs and everyday at 4 o clock it used to have a little saucer of tea. We’ve also done a Rococo Union Flag box – it’s got ragged edges slightly more one of those punk Union Jacks and we’ve put the Rococo design though it. I’m also very excited as I’ve been asked by a designer to collaborate and do some very special boxes that will go into the Palace.”

The theme of Britishness is being taken up and explored by a number of our top chocolatiers, including Paul Wayne Gregory. “I’m working with the East India Company to create a range of tea-flavoured chocolates using their teas, starting with Earl Grey, Jasmine and Lapsang Souchong, so you have themes of tea, India, Queen Victoria,” explains Gregory. “I’m also bringing out a new range of British flavours for the Jubilee year, which is fun. We’re keeping it to single flavours, for example, we’re doing blackcurrant. Because of our philosophy of indulgence, we believe the indulgence of the fruit must be as important as the indulgence of the chocolate so it’s about getting the balance between chocolate and fruit, we want to get the right acidity to bring out the fruit without overpowering it. Also, when you bite into the chocolate I want it to look like blackcurrant; we don’t use any food colourings, so we’re using the fruit. It’s a lot of trial and effort. The fun part is coming up with new flavours, but I need to make them work in the way that I want them to.”

Chocolatier Bill McCarrick, founder of Sir Hans Sloane chocolates, has come up with playful red, white and blue Sloane Marbles (pictured below), created by coating spiced biscuit balls in 14 layers of white chocolate, flavouring and colouring them with strawberry, vanilla and blackcurrant. “For me, as an American living over here, I love the idea of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and wanted to come up with something celebratory, something people would enjoy eating.” The starting point of chocolate-making at Sir Hans Sloane is the conching machine, where Bill creates his own unique chocolate. “Because I use a conching machine, I get control of the chocolate making machine,” explains Bill. For the Sloane Marbles, I created a special white chocolate using cocoa butter, sourced directly from the plantation so it has a lot of flavour, brown sugar, vanilla and sea salt which is great for shining. The shine on our Sloane Marbles comes from polishing them in a panning machine, instead of by adding an artificial glaze. We use good-quality ingredients, so our chocolate tastes really good.”

Damian Allsop is well-known for an innovative approach to making chocolates, such as his hallmark water-based ganaches. With Jubilee Year “the spur”, Allsop has just launched his Eat London range: “ a group of flavour-changing bars that reflect the cultural diversity of our capital city. What I’ve done is made my own crisps, fresh fruit purees and caramelised nuts and used them to flavour chocolate bars. There are two flavours in each bar so as you bite into a bar and go through the chocolate, the chocolate melts and as you crunch up the crunchy interior you release the different flavours, so the more you chew, the more you get.”

Each bar is inspired by a different community based at an iconic street signs, “so we’ve got Brick Lane with Indian restaurants, mango and basmati rice crisps, made by me from basmati rice and fresh mangoes, Brixton which is Afro-Caribbean, so I’ve got banana and coffee. Chinatown, which is soy caramelised peanuts and fresh ginger, works well, then the Arabic influence on Edgware Rd, so ras al hanout spice and honeycomb, honey and spice and American with Grosvenor Square on a white chocolate bar with popping candy and cinnamon and lemon, which are the base flavours of Coca Cola. I’m really going for yummy flavours, nothing wacky.” In addition to the chocolate bar range, Allsop has devised an Eat London tea inspired by the concept which will be served throughout June at Chelsea’s Wyndham Grand Hotel. “The way we work with chocolate using water makes it feel fresh and light, so these teas will offer a light, fresh way of eating chocolate, rather than dark, heavy and rich.”

Allsop has obviously enjoyed the creative challenge of reflecting London’s character through chocolate. “I’ve been brought up in London and lived in London and then also lived in lots of other countries. I love learning other languages, I love other cultures, everywhere you go you learn something – I wanted to celebrate that cultural diversity. I like cultural diversity in life and I love the fact that London is so multicultural, that you can eat food from all around the world here. This was a way of doing something interesting.”

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