Collaborating with other people can sometimes be a trying and unrewarding experience. In spite of this, I recently agreed to work with the bespoke chocolate company Melt, who had asked me to create a chocolate stamped with my name on it. I felt excited and flattered but also nervous. Simply attaching my name to a product for the sake of it does not appeal so, naturally, I was initially slightly reticent.
I needn't have worried: the people at Melt were a delight to work with, as keen as I was to do something of quality. Both Keith Hurdman, the chocolatier, and owner Louise Nason understood the importance of creating a chocolate that reflected the values of Petersham Nurseries.
Last Wednesday, we launched the chocolate at Petersham with a workshop given by Keith, a master chocolatier who trained in Switzerland at a time when apprenticeships still took seven years. Keith is passionate and generous, eager to share his time and knowledge.
I wanted to create a chocolate that was caramelly and salty as well as being rich, elegant and smoky. Achieving this was more difficult than I imagined. Many samples and three months of hard work later, Keith came up with a chocolate that is even better than I could have hoped for.
On the night of the workshop, Keith demonstrated two Melt recipes, that are reproduced here. We are guarding the recipe for our collaboration with our lives, but they are for sale if you want to try them (details below).
Fragile, good-quality chocolate should be made with only the best ingredients and definitely no stabilisers; with fresh organic cream a key component, their shelf-life is no more than a couple of weeks.
We used a rare, seasonal chocolate from the Santander company in Colombia. The cacoa is grown by local cooperatives and, unusually, the chocolate is made in its country of origin rather than exported to Europe for production. Santander's chocolate is renowned for its rich, complex delicate taste. It's very clean with notes of coffee which is not surprising as coffee and cacao grow side by side in this fertile terrain.
When this project began I never imagined the result would be a beautiful chocolate that delivered both in terms of taste and quality, as well as good credentials: Nacional de Chocolates, the owner of Santander, has worked since the 1950s to provide Fairtrade equitable work and living conditions for all involved in its production.
The workshop was a great night, albeit a little chilly. We served a couple of dishes at the end as well as a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate for those who didn't feel they'd had enough already. *
Skye's chocolates are available to buy from Melt, 59 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11, Petersham Nurseries and other selected outlets (call 020 7727 5030 for stockists). Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627. Her book 'A Year in My Kitchen' (Quadrille) is the 2007 Guild of Food Writers' Cookery Book of the Year
Melt's lemon ganache
Makes about 80 pieces
300ml/1/2pint double cream
1 vanilla pod
A generous pinch of sea salt
Zest of one lemon
Zest of 1/2 lime
220g/72/3oz dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids we use Colombian single-estate chocolate by Santander)
30ml/11/4fl oz lemon juice
10ml/1/2fl oz lime juice
40g/11/2oz butter, room temperature
Bring the cream, glucose, vanilla, salt and lemon and lime zest to the boil and leave to infuse off the heat for 30 minutes. Start melting the dark chocolate by placing it in a bowl over a pan of hot water. When it is half-melted, strain 325g (111/2oz) of the infused cream through a fine sieve on to the half-melted chocolate. Mix as for a mayonnaise with a whisk from the centre out until you have a fine emulsion. Add the lemon and lime juice. When it is cooled to approximately 40C (105F), add the soft butter and blend in carefully with a spoon or whisk. To finish, pour it into a baking tray lined with parchment and chill until set; this could take up to 40 minutes in the fridge. Remove the paper, cut into cubes and serve. '
A really good, rich hot chocolate
Melt makes the most delicious hot chocolate and if you are ever passing its shop, I would recommend you stop in and have a cup. This is what we make at Petersham at this time of year when it is nice to drink something hot, rich and nurturing.
Makes 4-6 cups
200g/7oz dark chocolate (we use Valrhona)
60g/21/2oz caster sugar
200ml/7fl oz double cream
300ml/1/2pint whole milk
For the sweetened cream
160ml/51/2fl oz double cream
50g/2oz caster sugar
Break the chocolate into chunks. Put in a saucepan with the sugar, cream and milk. Place over a low heat and stir until the chocolate and sugar have melted and you have a rich, homogenised dark-chocolate drink. Pour into cups and serve piping hot.
To make the sweetened cream, place the cream in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Then stir through the sugar.
Melt's salted caramel filling for chocolate
This can be used over ice-cream, as an accompaniment to chocolate cake or as a filling for chocolate shells.
Makes 20 portions of sauce, or filling for 75 chocolates
165ml/51/2fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod
A large pinch of sea salt
90g/31/5oz demerara sugar
70g/3oz white caster sugar
Bring the cream, vanilla and salt to the boil, take off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Mix the two sugars. Place a pan over a medium heat and pour in the sugar slowly until it all caramelises; a medium-brown colour gives a sweet caramel taste, a darker brown will taste more bitter. Reduce the heat and add the hot cream slowly, stirring gently all the time. Add the butter and stir. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and leave to cool. Reheat to use as a topping for ice-cream, or use cold as a filling for chocolate shells. Reduce or increase the salt according to taste.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer on where to go for chocolate with a conscience...
The "chocolate tree", Theobroma cacao, enjoys a fragile and symbiotic relationship with the rainforests in which it grows. Like so many crops that have become commodities, intensive cacao production has led to rainforest destruction, soil erosion, water depletion, hybridisation of cacao varieties, poorer-quality cacao and in some regions, the enslavement of young children in production. Fortunately, a growing number of producers are focusing on reversing these trends to create chocolate that is fairly and equitably produced and traded, and which positively affects its community of origin.
Where to buy
Chocolate Santander, www.chocolatesantander.com
Santander was a pioneer of what has become know as Fairtrade, working with growing communities since the 1950s. Its use of traditional methods ensures that the natural, organoleptic (or stimulatory) qualities of the cacao are preserved
Dagoba Organic Chocolate, available from www.worldwidechocolate.com
Founded in 2001 by a young American, Frederick Schilling, to produce chocolates that would benefit people, the planet and industry, the company was recently sold to the Hershey subsidiary Artisan Chocolates, but Dagoba and its founder continue to focus on the conservation of rare cacao varieties, working with communities in Central and Latin America
Divine Chocolate, www.divinechocolate.com
Almost 70 per cent of cacao is produced in Africa, including Ghana, where the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative was set up by local growers to gain control of harvests and production. While much its produce is on the bitter side, enjoy this chocolate in the knowledge that the company is owned by the growers. Available from speciality shops and health-food stores
Where to research
'The New Taste of Chocolate A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes' by Maricel Presilla (Ten Speed Press)Reuse content