I’m sure it was in the bible where the words “give and ye shall receive” were uttered for the first time. Well that wasn’t my motive for sending Marc Demarquette, or his new puppy Pepper a chocolate flavoured bone, but I’m never one to turn a gift horse in the mouth, so even though the gift label says they’re for Dot as well, we all know that no other living, breathing creature will manage to prize these off me.
Stupidly I start every review of a caramel post saying ‘I normally don’t like caramels’, but I generally have a list as long as my arm of chocolates that I prefer to the sickly, gooey caramel that many mass-market producers create. However, flavoursome, interesting, imaginative caramels are very much high on that list. You see, not only is Marc a very nice man (not in a Monty Python sense), but he’s undoubtedly very talented too.
I definitely do feel guilty for reviewing these, and not just sneaking away and scoffing the lot myself, but I don’t often get to review Marc’s stuff and they just so damn gorgeous, so what the heck,? The first was the Kentish Cobnut which is a variety of hazelnut grown in Kent (as far as I can gather) and which balances the sweetness of the caramel delightfully – along with some slight bitterness that kicks in at the end from the nut. After consuming a couple I just get the sense of roasted hazelnuts at Christmas with a sweet, sticky glaze -I just loved it.
Secondly there’s the Provençal Almond. Back in the 19th century Provence was the largest producer of almonds in the world. Alas many of the trees were uprooted and replaced with vinyards (I’d actually prefer the almonds if you ask me!), but you can obviously you can still buy Provençal almonds and that’s what Marc has used to create this caramel. Within the dome you have a ganche, light caramel and the almond which not only gives it a creaminess, but a lovely slight stickiness as your teeth breaks through the chocolate shell. This has a very natural, almost earthy character, as if they’ve just been made in a farm building next to the orchard.
This theme continues with a Persian Pistachio, which amazingly rich and decadent, and just utterly delightful. It’s like consuming liquid summer. The caramel flavour is reminescent orange whilst the pistachio itself is intense, fresh and just amazing. If like was like a box of chocolates, why can’t they be a box filled with Persian Pistachio caramels?
The American Pecan & Maple was the last, but how could anything beat that Pistachio? Although, I’m not a huge fan of pecan, when combined with the small amount of ganache and caramel it is incredibly pleasant. At first the distinct, mellow flavours of the pecan takes centre stage, and then the ganache and caramel take over and at the very end, a very slight acidity on the tip of the tongue.
What I love about the Nutkeeper’s Caramels is that they don’t conform to any stereotype, they’re not the fruity ganaches every man and his dog (sorry I couldn’t resist that one) does. Instead, they’re very leftfield, unsual and brave – but ultimately they work incredibly well and very much a highlight of the year for me.