Monday, 6 May 2013

Awake! There is chocolate!

So where did the blog go? Last entry July 2012?

I confess, there was always a strong possibility that I would struggle to maintain the blog. In fact, in the early days I wondered if I would maintain the chocolate making. There is the full time job to focus on and a promotion in November has taken some adjustment.

Good news though: albeit in fits and starts and never to a set pattern or routine, chocolate making has continued! I am proud of this small achievement. It's loosely a journey of:

1) having the idea and plenty of bubbles of excitement
2) developing the product, suppliers, packaging etc
3) establishing a customer base, the market
4) growth planning

I'm still at 2, and in danger of staying there forever. It's a happy place to be - developing, experimenting, learning. But if I had to make my living from making chocolates I'd have gone bust a long time ago.

So why blog today? Well, on Saturday my microwave went off like a firework and died. So today (bank holiday Monday in the UK) I bought a brand new shiny microwave and thought a formal launch before the chocolate sets sail again was appropriate.

I hereby declare the new microwave set up and ready to temper. Chocolate on!!!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Chocolate Boxes

I have been taken by surprise with a flurry of 'made to order' chocolate requests. I have just come through the other side feeling surprisingly transformed by the experience of creating something from nothing for the enjoyment of others.

I set out in the sunshine yesterday evening with this completed box of chocolates on the passenger seat of my car. Sometimes journeys create a calm suspension of time, setting a passenger still despite the steady rush of earth and sky, landscape and industry whizzing by.

After the busy, busy weeks behind me, I found myself calm, floating over the world as it rolled by beneath my tyres.

A pause.

A chance to feel a genuine sense of achievement.

To feel truly fortunate.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Urmston Bookshop

Cochoco chocolates on sale at
Urmston Bookshop.
Here's to new beginnings!
There’s something magical about good quality independent bookshops. The moment you enter, there is a frissance akin to the excitement that precedes a journey. You know you are going to discover something that will take you on an adventure. Or even better, you discover a perfect adventure, wrap it up in your own words of salutation and give it to a small child or loved one.

As independent bookshops go, they don’t get much better than my local one, Urmston Bookshop, run by Peter and Francis. There are always wonderful books, gifts and people in their book shop. It was a delight to take in a supply of chocolates and meet a children’s author, Steve Hartley, in the process.

Tipsy Raspberry Chocolates,
Aniseed Truffles, Lime Chocolates and
Butterscotch Chocolates

So… here we are. The beginning of an adventure as Urmston Bookshop take on my chocolates and the people of Urmston decide whether they are worth a good measure of their hard earned cash!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A label of love???

It has taken two months of tweaking to get this far with labels. Having decided to go with quite a bold font for the cochoco logo, it’s not so easy to pair with an elegant font to tell the eye that these are high quality chocolates.

Quite happy with the ‘thought bubble’ solution but I welcome all comments, feedback and suggestions. I am still firmly in prototype mode so everything is up for evolution :)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Aniseed Truffles

Dark chocolate ganache with aniseed oil, dipped in white chocolate
and rolled in 100% cocoa flakes
Chocolate making only really got going in the run up to Christmas 2011. I started by developing a festive menu of butterscotch, cinnamon, cranberry and tangerine which was lovely and full of festive cheer.

… Until suddenly I found myself obsessing about pairing aniseed with chocolate

The thought of the pungent sweet aroma kept leaping about like Jack Frost until I broke with my festive theme and ordered the first bottle of aniseed essential oil I could get my hands on.

I had smelled notes of liquorice in fresh ground coffee and I had a very strong sense that aniseed and dark chocolate would be a fantastic flavour combination. Opening the essential oil when it arrived was a powerful experience and a good indication that this was a flavour to respect and treat with care.

To me, aniseed tastes incredibly sweet with a slightly metallic menthol quality. It would be a resonating peel of a high pitched church bell (if it made a noise).

I wanted to warm it and earth it. It worked well added to the dark chocolate in the ganache. The final balance was achieved by dipping the aniseed ganache in the warm vanilla tones of white chocolate and then finishing off the truffle by rolling it in the earth dryness of 100% cocoa flakes.

Aniseed Truffles are the first recipe I really ‘have down on paper’ so to speak.

They are also my favourite.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Rain, rain go away...

Where is the sunshine? Please come back, my new air conditioning unit has arrived and the 'Blind man' has measured up for a fitting on Friday.

I'm not one for wishing the sun away but the cold spell did allow the chocolate making to progress to dizzy heights last Sunday. My slippers are wearing quite a bit of it but fortunately most of the chocolate ended up where it is supposed to! This frenzy of chocolate making is due to a wonderful chance meeting in the post office queue. Thank you lovely Tracy for making a 'first ever' come to life by asking me to put a box of chocolates together for a birthday gift.

I wish I had the sense to photograph the finished piece but I think after 10 hours of chocolate making my brain was scrambled! So you'll have to imagine the very pretty square box with two layers of six chocolates and 3 tasting bars with a hand written 'menu' and fancy ribbons.

And on the inside... Vanilla Lime Dark Chocolates, Butterscotch Marbled Chocolates, Chilli Truffles and the lovely Tipsy Raspberry Chocolates.

I have given myself a good talking to and promise to supply photos next time!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Tipsy Raspberry Chocolates

White Chocolates with a Raspberry and Vodka
Milk Chocolate Ganache
Raspberries are one of my all time favourite pleasures. Their smell always reminds me of making jam with Dana when she was a little girl. We would buy fresh raspberries at the local market, bring them straight home and tip them straight into the jam pan, add the sugar and watch everything dissolve down into bubbling, bright ruby soup.
So for me, raspberries are one of those miracle foods that contain powerful magic that makes everything better.

Chocolate, of course, is another such food. Putting them together works wonderfully as I've discovered in various guises...
   > Raspberry Liqueur in hot chocolate - prepared with real chocolate of course
   > Pavlova with raspberries and mint chocolate chunks - my Mum's recipe

I've tried making the Tipsy Raspberry Chocolates without the 'Tipsy' bit but the raspberry vodka resuscitates the freeze dried raspberry in a truly marvellous fashion - the warm kick of vodka adds depth to the tartness of the raspberry and compliments the sensual vanilla in the white chocolate.

One of the things I'm trying to achieve with my recipes is a dynamic taste experience. Sounds a bit grand doesn't it but after all the pomp and ceremony of the Diamond Jubilee, I think I can get away with it!

In the case of these chocolates a 'dynamic taste experience' translates into the following:

  • Enjoying the look of the chocolate
  • Hearing the 'crack' of the chocolate as you bite it in half
  • Getting an immediate cool sensation on the tongue from the soft ganache along with that magic raspberry taste and the sharper initial vodka kick.
  • Then the warmth of the vodka coming through in the juicy raspberry pieces.
  • Then the melting, mellow vanilla in the white chocolate.
  • Finishing with a balanced flavour of raspberry and vanilla and the lingering warmth of the vodka.

I think I'll have to go and eat one now - is 09.30am too early for vodka?

Most importantly, the Tipsy Raspberry Chocolates  received a very good review from Aunty Margaret with clear instructions not to change anything in the recipe.

High praise indeed.

Mistakes this time?

Need to improve finishing the bottoms until there is no edge (this batch have a very slight edge if you look closely).

The transfer sheet didn't fully transfer but I suspect this is beyond my control as the chocolate was a good, warm temperature when it hit the mould.