It's Easter and no matter where we go, we can't seem to escape the masses of chocolate displayed in every shape, size, coloured wrapping and flavour combination possible.
It's a pretty wonderful thing, but it did get us thinking...
What is truly good chocolate made from? How do we tell? Is it actually healthy? Where can we find it? And once we do, what are some ways to incorporate it differently at dinner parties?
And then we thought if we had questions like these, surely you might be wondering as well. Thus, we'd like to present our Masterclass for May, Chocolate 101 with Melt on Wednesday, 10th May 2017.
Simply put, Melt is one of the best chocolate shops in London - they're also (thankfully) one of our amazing Holland Park/Notting Hill neighbours. Together, we've designed a masterclass for the curious choco-holic.
Join us for an evening with Melt's head chocolatier Kate Fletcher and learn all about how exceptional chocolate is created, how to rethink chocolate for dessert instead of more traditional options, ways to create what Melt so chicly call the 'theatre of chocolate', and try your hand at making your own chocolate bark complete with your choice of healthy toppings.
It's going to be a mouth-watering (and very informative) evening. So on read to find out a bit more about
Melt and how to book tickets.
How did you decide to become a chocolatier at Melt?
Funnily enough, I have always had an interest in healthy food. When I trained at Melt, I fell in love with their approach to chocolate - which when not over processed has an array of health benefits. The hand-made processes and detailed work required to craft this quality of chocolate is also another reason Melt won me over.
What is your earliest or fondest chocolate memory?
When I was little we used to have a chocolate chip machine in our family bakery. The smell was always the most wonderful thing.
Is there a single, critical secret to great chocolate? Can you share it?
The most important thing is to emulsify the ganache well, which gives the chocolate a smooth-mouth feel.
Why is Melt so different when it comes to chocolate shops?
I think our philosophy on chocolate really takes the experience to the next level. We are as much about the combination of creative design and seasonal flavours, as we are about the freshness, health benefits and what we call the 'theatre of chocolate'. It all makes for a pretty sweet combination.
What is the best selling Melt product?
At the moment it's our Milk Salted Square, which is a salted chocolate with a praline base and crunchy wafer. We sell it by the kilo!
What is the boldest or craziest flavour combination you've ever created?
We're lucky that our customers really love it when we experiment. I'd say one of the bolder combinations I've made was with our chewy vanilla caramel recipe. I made it with coconut cream, infused with saffron with macadamia nuts sprinkled throughout.
Is there an easy trick to tempering chocolate?
There are several methods you can use and it takes some practice. One of the simplest methods for working at home is called direct tempering. This is basically where the broken chocolate is placed in a sauce pan over a VERY low heat and stirred constantly.
What is the difference between chocolate and cacao?
Cacao is the raw ingredient, like the cacao nib. It is usually the main ingredient before any processing is done - adding milk powder and sugar. Chocolate is the finished product we are more familiar with.
What do people mean when they refer to chocolate as being 'raw'?
Raw chocolate is treated at lower temperatures and often contains different sugars, such as coconut sugar.
Who is your ultimate confectionery hero?
I don't have one hero in particular but I watched a documentary called 'Kings of Pastry' about a professional French pastry competition the other day. They made absolutely incredible lollipops and sugar work.
If you were having a dinner party how would you incorporate cocoa into the menu (other than dessert) and who would you invite?
The thing I'd choose to make with cocoa would probably be a fresh loaf of bread to compliment the rest of the meal. You can bake the loaf with cocoa nibs, which are slightly bitter and have a nice crunch -
adding a little texture.
If you could lay the table for this dinner party using anything from Summerill & Bishop what would you choose?
I think I'd choose one of the Cornice Linen Tablecloths - there are so many colours to choose from! And also, I'd love to get my hands on the Astier de Villatte Peggy Plates for dessert.
At Summerill & Bishop we try to have our cake and eat it too - what's the healthiest way to enjoy chocolate?
Our chocolate is really high quality so you don't tend to eat too much but also it's naturally packed with flavanols, antioxidants, magnesium and phenylethylamine - all good stuff! We've also made sure to create a range of fresh chocolates that are dairy free and use dark chocolate.
Are there any big Melt plans we should know about for the rest of the year?
Our business is growing considerably, we're always quite busy - especially with Easter this weekend! We have a few things we are working on for the summer. And, there's definitely more plans to expand our healthier chocolate range - we just can't give too many details just yet!