With Christmas and New Year holidays coming up, now is the perfect time to stock up with chocolate treats. Chocolate, of course, is among the pleasures of Christmas, from the foil-wrapped chocolate coins in the toe of the stocking to the chocolate roulade on the sideboard. Nowadays, more than ever, chocolate-lovers are spoilt for choice when it comes to chocolate indulgences to enjoy over the festive season.
With those traditional Boxing Day and New Year’s Day walks part of the season, walkers returning home cold and tired will be looking forward to a warming cuppa. Hot chocolate, of course, is the perfect beverage here, offering comfort in a cup, so make sure you have some proper hot chocolate in your cupboard. The good news for lovers of hot chocolate is that Sir Hans Sloane, whose chocolate beads performed very well in our hot chocolate taste test, have extended the range of the drinking chocolates°. For those looking for something mild and sweet, either their Smooth Milk or Natural Honey chocolate beads, with its nicely judged, delicate honey flavour, are just the thing. Plain chocolate-lovers are catered for by single origin Ecuador 70%, which has a full, rich and sophisticated flavour, with subtle smoky notes.
At a time of year when feasts with family and friends are on the menu, it’s very useful for busy cooks to have ready-made desserts to offer. Family-run supermarket chain Booths, based in the north of England, are this year offering a national delivery service for their Christmas treats. Their eye-catching Festive Christmas Malt Cake(right), a malted chocolate cake swathed in chocolate, is a treat, which would grace any table. Waitrose’s partnership with Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck fame has produced some creative and innovative dishes. Head to the freezer department to find Heston’s Ultimate Chocolate Bar, inspired, Heston says, by the chocolate bars he loved as a boy, layering salted caramel mousse, chocolate biscuit, salted caramel and nougat. Serve in slices to round off a meal in style. Christmas, of course, wouldn’t be the same without a serving of steaming hot Christmas pudding. Bettys, the established Yorkshire-based bakery, manages to embrace the classic while giving it a twist, this year offering Christmas Pudding with Chocolate and Orange, a splendid creation, complete with bowl, studded with pieces of dark Swiss chocolate and tangy orange peel in addition to the traditional dried fruits and nuts.
Settling down comfortably on the sofa to watch those classic Christmas films on the box is a relaxing part of the holiday spirit. Essential for the pleasurable viewing experience is a good stash of chocolate nibbles to nibble on. Evoking the movie theatre experience, is Marks and Spencer’s on-trend range of chocolate-covered popcorn. The M & S ‘international’ range of imported delicacies is also fruitful hunting ground for those looking for chocolate treats for grazing on, whether Italian caffeine-rich chocolate-coated coffee beans, American Moravian chocolate cookies or Spanish chocolate figs.
And, of course, however large the meal has been and, however, replete they are, people can always find room for a little bit of chocolate, so stock up with some really good quality chocolate to keep the feast experience going. Rococo’s chocolate wafers are an understated yet classy way to round off a repast – with flavours including the popular Milk Chocolate with Sea Salt or Dark Chocolate with Ginger. Discreetly wrapped in brown paper, Amelia Rope’s chocolate bars, in intriguing flavours such as Lemon and Sea Salt or Mandarin offer elegant and enjoyable eating. The ethically impressive Original Beans’ chocolate bars offer a wonderful insight into the flavours offered by cocoa from different regions. With their range including white Edel Weiss (made using cacao from the Dominican Republic), milk Femmes de Virunga (using cacao from the Congo) and dark Papua Kerafat (a 68% bar made using Papuan cacao), there is something for everyone to enjoy. Happy chocolate-eating holidays!