Life is full of doing things we just don’t want to do. It’s part of growing up. Until half-past five every day I’m one of a few million who daily tippy-tap on a keyboard to pay the bills. Some of us have money left over for treats. We all spend money on things that give us pleasure. For me its chocolate – great chocolate. Chocolate that far exceeds the quality you’ll find in the supermarkets – and even many provincial chocolatières. The chocolate I like to spend my hard-earned money on is the kind that Paul Wayne Gregory produces. He may not thrust himself into the limelight as others of his ilk does. Instead he works away, enhancing his already perfected craft and producing new twists on classic recipes. Avoiding gimmickry is something to be applauded – just as much as producing wonderfully elegant caramels and ganaches.
Paul’s Christmas Selection Box found its way to me today – and I just couldn’t wait for the daily grind to finish so I can fill the evening with fun and Paul’s treats.
Salted Caramels are a core creation of chocolatiers. Unfortunately many don’t master the ingredients – they think that greater intensity is a substitute for refinement. Having restrained, balanced flavours, to my mind at least, trumps exuberance. These perfectly and artistically finished salted caramels are just that: expertly balanced. The butteriness combines wonderfully with both the caramel and the salt – none take precedence. They all work together to provide a luxurious experience. That triumvirate of flavours, however, is actually a foursome. From out of nowhere a slight citrus note appears just to lift the rounded edges up. It should be noted that, average, or even, good, caramels are created based on a scientific approach: x sugar + y salt + z fats = chemical bliss. This caramel ingot is created with artistry and instinct and leaves selfish chemistry to Nabisco and instead offers confident elegance in chocolate form.
Passion fruit and chocolate is such a hard sell to me. The acidity in soft fruit often is mimicked by multinational chocolate companies with their seasonal tinned chocolates. They’re overladen with sugar and have come no closer to real, fresh fruit as a resident of Khatanga. Instead this South American fruit is offered in as fresh a context as I could imagine. The sweetness is kept in check and only really delivered by the chocolate ingot itself. It’s tart and refreshing. It’s a summer heat wave in the dead of winter. At Christmas it’ll cut through the Christmas dinner, the pudding, the cheese, cake and all the other glutinous excess. It’ll reset your taste buds and reinvigorate your flagging soul.
The Christmas pudding chocolate should make your head twist in surprise, as this, too, is magical. The Christmas pudding spices are certainly evident – as well as a touch of Brandy (perhaps). It’s Christmas pudding condensed and acceptable. It’s not the forced end to the dinner that you want to avoid but feel obliged. It’s Christmas pudding on your terms and in your own time. It’s somewhat like those Jetsons cartoons when Mr Spacely swallows a pill containing a three course meal. But this bon bon isn’t utilitarian in that sense. There’s is far too much indulgence and joy for that. It’s the whole Christmas day distilled – but without the washing up and the clearing away of the wrapping paper.
Far too often chocolatiers crank out seasonal chocolate out of necessity. Passion seems lost – and it shows. There are a handful, though, that take Christmas bull by its horns and give us something refreshing – but accompanied by those favourites that people just love. And why not? You can overindulge on the Christmas theme. It can become obligatory. Mixing a Christmas themed chocolate with a summery and a staple works very well indeed. I’ve got a few left – and I know they won’t last the week, let alone until Christmas.
For £19.95 you’ll get twelve of these flavoursome chocolate ingots – and they are very much worth the money as the flavours linger. With mass-produced chocolate you have to consume , two or three times the amount to get anywhere near the sense of satisfaction. And I trust nothing you can buy on the High Street will come anywhere close to these sublime chocolates.