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Paul a Young flagship store in Soho

paul a young flagship store in Soho

Britain has been recently surprising gourmands from all over the world with its artisan products and with the level of their international competitiveness rising like a rocket to the moon in full speed. Chocolate is not an exception and there have been a number of “choco” stars rising over the recent years. One of them is Paul A. Young, the talented chocolatier that incorporates unusual flavours and adjusts them to current seasons in his chocolates. Paul is one of the rare chocolatiers based in a global city working in a truly artisan way. Everything is made by him and his team by hand at his London workshop and all ingredients are pure and natural. No artificial flavour enhancers or “made from a concentrate” juices are used.

Paul Young chocolates

Paul Young chocolates

AWARDS AND PRODUCTS

His creativity and quest for finding the right balance of flavours won him multiple awards including the ‘Chocolate Gold Winner’ in 2009 from the Academy of Chocolate and ‘Best Sea Salted Caramel in the World‘.

I have tried this highly celebrated piece of a sticky creamy, well-condensed and softly melting chocolate bar and must add that I cannot imagine a better choice with a cup of a deep roasted espresso (my barrister sister recommends Brazilian beans). The sticky caramel filling adds sweetness to your aromatic coffee and if you bite solely into it, you might be surprised with the slightly salty aftertaste that the salt in the caramel unveils. The final crescendo of salt serves to freshen up your palate after the sweet and sticky start. The dark chocolate from Madagascar (64%) enveloping the creamy caramel filling is tender, therefore I would recommend to put in the fridge for a while so you don’t end up with sticky fingers messy from chocolate and leaking caramel. It is quite fragile so handle it with care (otherwise it will end up like the one on the picture below) and savour in small amounts.

paul a young: Sea salted Caramel dark chocolate bar

paul a young: Sea salted Caramel dark chocolate bar

Another bar I have tried and liked a lot was:

67% SINGLE ORIGIN SANTO DOMINGO CARIBBEAN dark chocolate bar:

Smooth and milky texture even though there is no milk inside. Touch of natural hazelnut aroma coming from the cocoa beans adds complexity. Melts softly and is balanced and suitable for the dark chocolate beginners. Leaves long filling aftertaste and is enjoyable on its own.

His truffles, ganaches and chocolate bars range from £2 to £65.00 for a 42 piece box.

HISTORY

Paul worked as a head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White at Quo Vadis and Criterion restaurants in London and in 2006 he opened his first chocolate shop.

Today there are three chocolate boutiques in London including the flagship store on Wardour Street in Soho (addresses on the bottom).

Paul A Young

Paul A Young

PUBLICATIONS

His first book ‘Adventures with Chocolate’ won the ‘World’s Best Chocolate Book’ at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris. It discloses some of his recipes as well as gives you more insight into the cocoa world.

CHOCOLATE BOUTIQUES

I love the flagship store in London’s Soho. Entering the small but old times recalling boutique, equipped with wooden furniture, one senses that this is not just another sweet shop in a big city, but a place that is handled with care. The products are orderly displayed on trays and wooden shelves, there are some to be tasted on the spot as a treat, and during cold months there is a pot with a real thick hot chocolate, a warming cup of which you can take away. The shop assistants are very friendly, professional and helpful so do not hesitate to ask them anything so they can find the right treat for you. After all each of us might have different taste preferences, so if you do not like dark chocolate, you can have some delicious milk truffles and if you are adventures taste seeker, then you can try one of the Young’s unique creations. The cocoa bean printed wallpaper behind the counter not only looks great, but reminds what this place is really about – the great cocoa-based product – chocolate.

Paul a Young flagship store in Soho

Paul a Young flagship store in Soho

ADDRESS: flagship store is at 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WA.

CONTACT: Tel: +(44) 020 7437 0011

OPENING HOURS: Every day of the week.

OTHER LONDON STORES:

33 Camden Passage, Islington, London, N1 8EA; Tel: +(44) 020 7424 5750. Open: Tuesday – Sunday

20, Royal Exchange, Threadneedle St, London, EC3V 3LP; Tel: +(44) 020 7929 7007. Open: Monday – Friday

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The closer the Easter comes the more bunnies, rabbits and eggs I see around. From my email inbox to high street stores, these chocolate creations became the hardly-to-be-missed reminder of this celebration of Spring and the Christian holiest of holidays.

I am sharing some of my favourite chocolate finds I came across:

Chocolate hen and chicks at Pierre Marcolini in Monaco

Chocolate hen and chicks at Pierre Marcolini in Monaco

There were plenty of chocolate eggs at the Chocolate Festival in London last weekend. These were the most attractive ones for me:

Hand-painted chocolate egg at the Chocolate Festival in London

Hand-painted chocolate egg at the Chocolate Festival in London

The shopping heavens such as the Selfriges in London also did not stay behind. I loved these Booja-Booja chocolate filled eggs. Made in the UK!

Selfriges in London: Booja-Booja chocolate filled eggs

Selfriges in London: Booja-Booja chocolate filled eggs

And there were some incredible creations from the Master Chocolatier Patrick Roger I saw during my recent trip to Paris:

Patrick Roger: Easter chocolate cocks

Patrick Roger: Easter chocolate cocks

Finally, my inbox brought me some choco bunnies from Vosges Chocolate based in Chicago:

Vosges Easter Chocolate-Bunnies

Vosges Easter Chocolate-Bunnies

So which one do you fancy the most?

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I have already given you some facts and reasons for why you should eat and share chocolate with others, so to be more practical I have some recipes for tasty dark chocolate desserts. I have recently learned these during an evening cooking class in New York. They do not take half a day to prepare and you do not need too many ingredients so you can make any of them quickly.

Cuisine: Desserts/ chocolate.

Cooking school: Natural Gourmet Institute in New York.

Chef/instructor: Jay Weinstein is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the author of many food-related books. he worked at the Michelin acclaimed New York restaurant Le Bernardin and many others. I admired how well he managed three groups of people each creating chocolate sensations from different recipes. He led us all to success that was rewarded by a chocolate-themed late dinner with a glass of plump and juicy Pinot Noir from California.

Chocolate Velvet Cake

Chocolate Velvet Cake

Recipe for the Chocolate Velvet Cake (serves 16 portions) – this cake was a substantial majority favourite of the class attendees.

Ingredients: 8 large eggs; 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter; 1/4 cup strong coffee; cocoa powder for dusting.

Method: Preheat oven to 325 °F (162ºC). Grease an 8″ or 9″ springform pan, and line the bottom with waxed or parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan in foil to prevent leaks. Prepare a pot of boiling water in which you put a smaller bowl or pot filled with chocolate, sliced butter and coffee. Let it melt a bit and then start stirring it until the substances melt. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they double in volume (about 5 minutes). Fold in the whipped eggs in three additions into the melted chocolate. Mix carefully, just enough to incorporate the eggs into the chocolate. Pour it all into the prepared springform pan and place it into a deep roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come about halfway up on the sides of the cake. Put both on to the lower-middle rack of the oven and bake about 25 minutes, until the cake rises slightly and has a thin crust. You can use a thermometer and stick it into the middle of the cake. When it reads 140 ºF (60ºC) then it is ready. Then transfer the springform to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours.

* For conversion of °F to ºC and equivalent gas marks use this chart.

To serve: Warm sides of the springform with a hot, wet towel to let the cake loosen and then pop and open it. Cut with a hot wet knife, which you wipe and make wet each time you cut a new slice. Dust with cocoa powder and place on a plate with refreshing tips of mint, or red berries for a sexy look.

You can make also something a bit more simple like these superb Brownies (these are really the best I have ever had):

Ingredients: 3 eggs; 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract; 1 cup of white flour; 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate; 3/4 cup of butter (or coconut oil); 1 1/2 cups of organic sugar; 1 cup of chopped walnuts.

Simple ingredients for Brownies

Simple ingredients for Brownies

Method: Preheat the oven to 325 ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9″ x 13″ sized glasss baking dish.

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (put a big bowl over a large pot with hot water), leave it melt a bit and then stir it until it becomes smooth and the chocolate is just melted. Take out of the heat, stir in sugar, whole eggs and vanilla extract and at the end the flour with walnuts.

Then you pour all the mixture into a glass baking dish. Bake for 20-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in the baking dish before transferring to a cutting board . Cut into 24 squares and serve.

Brownies baked in glass dish

Brownies baked in glass dish

For the adventurous half of you, try to make a Chocolate souflé (serves 12), which is one of trickiest desserts to keep an eye on – the trick is do not open the oven before they are almost done!

Ingredients: 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter; 1/2 cup of organic sugar; 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (roughly chopped); pinch of salt; 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (liquid); 1 tablespoon of citrus liqueur (such as Tripple Sec); 6 egg yolks; 8 egg whites; 1/4 teaspoon of a cream of tartar.

Ingredients for Chocolate soufflé

Ingredients for Chocolate soufflé

Method: 1 tablespoon of softened of butter use to coat the ceramic pots for soufflé and then coat with a layer of sugar or cocoa powder. Shake it around the buttered dishes so it all gets entirely covered otherwise the dough will stick to the pots. Combine remaining 4 tablespoons of chopped butter with chopped chocolate over a double boiler (put a big bowl over a large pot with hot water) until it just melts. Then stir in salt, vanilla and citrus liqueur.

Correctly whip egg whites in a clean mixing bowl so they stick to the whisk attachment on the mixer and form a V-shaped snow-like mountain. During mixing add a cream of tartar (usually in a form of white powder).

Correctly whipped egg whites

Correctly whipped egg whites

Simmer the sugar with 1/3 cup of water until it dissolves. In a mixer whisk this sirup gradually into the egg yolks that have been whipped slightly before. Whip until the mixture triples in volume and is light in colour (takes about 5 minutes). Fold these whipped yolks together with melted chocolate.

Fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and add them carefully until you use all of them. Divide the batter into the prepared coated ceramic pots, don’t fill them entirely as they will rise after the baking. Level off the tops with a spatula so they are even. Transfer them into a freezer until you want them to serve. Then bake at 400 ºF until fully risen for about 18-20 minutes. Only check them in 18 minutes and do not open the oven before!

This is the result that you serve warm with a creamy vanilla sauce poured in the middle of each individual soufflé (make a small howl with a spoon into the centre).

Chocolate soufle

Chocolate soufle

Serving chocolate soufle

Serving chocolate soufle

List of Public Classes at Natural Gourmet Institute in New York can help you with planning your class ahead.

Contact: Tel. +1 (212) 645-5170

Address: 48 W 21st St #2, New York, NY 10010; USA.

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Chocolate heart good for your heart

Chocolate heart good for your heart

Here are some good and scientifically proved reasons why you should give or share chocolate with anyone you love (including yourself):

  • Chocolate is a well-known aphrodisiac making an ideal component in foods and treats shared by lovers.
  • Chocolate is an age-defying anti-oxidant and was coined as a “Super Fruit” with more pronounced positive effects on health than most of other fruits (with high nutritive value).
  • Chocolate contains substances called flavanols that were proved in a number of studies to lower blood pressure and the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Chocolate can help you to fight the adverse effects of stress (by reducing levels of cortisol) and improve your metabolism.
  • Chocolate is tasty and loved by many people (if you read this you are surely interested in chocolate :-), not many of you read often about spinach) making it an ideal partner in your daily diet.

The darker the chocolate the more the above pros apply and of course you cannot eat the entire cake or box of truffles you got from your loved one for Valentines or another occasion (I think that if you love someone you do not need to show your love only on the Valentines day but spontaneously throughout the year + the more often you and your partner eat dark chocolate the better for you).

Chocolate Velvet Cake

Chocolate Velvet Cake

 

Quantity is the key, so have a slice of that yummy Velvet Chocolate Cake or a couple of brownie squares or a truffle or two and you will be good and set for a romantic soirée in two.

If you cannot for some reason bake, then choose from the widest selection than ever of the speciality chocolates made exclusively for the Valentine’s day or simply give your loved one the chocolate you have tried, loved and would love to share with him/her. Keeping in mind his/her taste preferences shows that you are not selfish and you are ready to share part of yourself (or at least your beloved treat).

Enjoy your Valentine today!

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Turin: Alps and chocolate

Turin (in Italian: Torino) is known as the “Regal city of Italy”. It was here where the dukes of Savoy and later even the king of  Italy Vittorio Emanuele II. were located (he was from the Savoy line). The king, after the unification of Italy in 1861, made Turin the first capital of Italy (Florence was second since 1865 and later it was Rome remaining the capital until today). It is an irony that this city used to be a part of Savoy, today the French region with fancy ski resorts, but also a part of Piedmont that had been occupied by France.

Chocolate connections

Perhaps it was the French influence or the proximity of the highly elevated Alps, that set the stage for the chocolate love affair of Turin. The French are known for their penchant for delicatessen and the Alps for their cows giving milk ideal for smoothing the bitterness of dark chocolate. It is also the cold weather in the mountains that calls for a warming drink, so why not a cup of hot chocolate?

One fact is sure, chocolate was once a luxurious treat popular with the European royalty. Turin being once the site of the Royal Palace and the palaces of the dukes of Savoy, therefore needed a constant supply of this delicacy in the highest quality so it might had been the impetus for the chocolate makers such as Al Bicerin (founded in 1763) and Baratti & Milano (founded in 1858) to set their roots in Torino.

Classic dark hot chocolate

Producers mastering chocolate

These confectionery producers pioneered some types of chocolate such as making milk chocolate with the whole Piedmont’s hazelnuts – this is called GIANDUIA – and some hot chocolate drinks such as Bicerin.

The widely popular though still remains the classic dark hot chocolate, that is so exquisite at Baratti e Milano that it continues drawing hundreds of customers daily to their cafeteria on Turin’s main square. It is so thick and perfectly balanced that I wish I knew their secret recipe. Far from bitter or diluted, this is a concentrated dark chocolate drink that can be considered a meal by some people for how generous it is.

If plain dark chocolate is not satisfying your palate’s whims then adding some whipped cream may persuade you dipping into the cup of warm Ciocolate con panna (chocolate with cream). Crowned by a homemade thick and creamy whipped cream that your spoon has to force through hardly to find a dark spot of cocoa-rich substance underneath is the hot chocolate with cream at Al Bicerin, the oldest cafè in Turin.

Hot chocolate with “panna”

Bicerin also stands for a warm drink invented at this tiny caffé in the 18th century. It is an espresso with hot chocolate (secret recipe) and a cap of frothy milky fresh cream. Bicerin is served in a high transparent glass so you can admire the beauty of its layers. An energizing treat for a cold afternoon or to freshen up oneself after a church service (Al Bicerin is located just across from a magnificent church).

Bicerin: espresso with hot chocolate and frothy milk

Zabaione is another specialty, although with a dose of alcohol. The thick yellow drink is made from an egg yolk base with Marsala and sugar,and can be served with whipped cream and lady fingers. Zabaione is not a chocolate drink though and it sounds more like a dessert, but is often drunk with a chocolate cake.

There are many other special chocolate drinks to be savoured at these cafeterias in Turin.

Buying chocolate in Turin

Chocolate shops and brands are like mushrooms after the rain popping up all over Turin. You can buy chocolate slabs, grenache, truffles, grissini enveloped in chocolate, Italian panettone with chocolate, pasta with cocoa or just a simple powdered chocolate to make hot chocolate drink at home. Al Bicerin has it all and wrapped nicely to make a perfect gift for the sweet tooth members of your family or friends.

Piedmontese chocolate specialities

Baratti & Milano is a lovely historic caffè, where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as an afternoon cup of chocolate with a homemade cake or chocolate grenache. You can also buy chocolate bars from white to Grand Cru dark chocolates, luxurious chocolate truffles and other choco-based products. Their selection is wide so it is hard to choose one or two.I would recommend to get at least one bar from each category that you like. My penchant for dark chocolate left me with five large bars in hand so I had enough to taste later.

You can also find new successful brands making award-winning chocolate such as the Guido Gobino, which won a bronze medal from the Academy of Chocolate in 2011 for it is Natural Soluble Powder  for Hot Chocolate (€9.50 for 250g). The shop has its own luxurious tasting room where you can compare their different chocolates and pair them with different drinks.

Chocolate tasting room

Outdoors on the streets chocolate is a common feature on the farmers markets. Some of the sellers have wider selection than many special chocolate stores and supermarkets. From white chocolate with coconut flakes, straciatella flavour (you are in Italy after all), cantaloupe and cinnamon in milk chocolate to crispy rice and basil in dark chocolate, the creative mind of Italian chocolate producers does not know boundaries. Cioccolateria Marino is one such producer selling their inventions as well as classical types of chocolate every weekend on the market across from the Town Hall, built in 1659.

Chocolate seller at farmers market in Turin

With so many options and chocolate virtually on every street in the centre of the town, it is hard to resist and one gets seduced by a number of chocolate stores, caffès and boutiques. Leave some space in you luggage before your trip to Turin, it is worth for the tremendous quality chocolates they produce there.

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If you don’t have any plans for weekend yet, pop into one of the Nicolas wine shops and get a £15 ticket to this wonderful event!

Finally, it is free as you will get a £15 coupon to spent on wines at Nicolas stores all over the UK when you get to the event. The wine part takes off on Saturday at 12.15 with Castles wines and cheese moving later to Wine & spirits and chocolate at 2pm.
The venue for the fair is at The Royal Horticultural Halls, Lindley Hall, Everton Street-SW1P 2PE.
I will be there, so hopefully see you all!

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