When I was 13 a family friend bought me a 6-month subscription to a chocolate club. Not one that dispensed Spiras or Wispa Golds. Like a normal 13 year old would have. This was a tasting club for handmade chocolate. Each one crafted with different origin cocoa beans ad bursting with fruit ganache or oozing with rich caramels. When that box of chocolates arrived each month it was the most special I have ever felt- I would eek them out over weeks. Share them reluctantly (hiding them if necessary) Scour the tasting notes. I wanted to know as much about each chocolate as I could. I looked up references I didn’t understand and I studiously filled in the ‘feedback cards’. I had fallen hard for chocolate. Really beautiful chocolate. When it came to choosing what I wanted to do after leaving school the choice was simple- it was between applying for University to study dentistry. Or running off to Paris to learn how to make proper chocolate. Well, I wasn’t sure where the dentistry thing came from. Perhaps one of those odd multiple choice career guidance sessions where you input your GCSE results and whether or not you like bad breath or heavy lifting and the computer decides your life plan.
Nevertheless, 3 weeks after finishing my last exam I was on a Eurostar to Paris with a bag of clothes and head of dreams.
Of course it was hard. And frightening. And busy. And intimidating. But it was also exhilarating, uplifting, enlightening and completely mine. Paris is vast, expensive, sometimes bristly and I was working long hours in retail and hospitality to support myself through the training. But the chocolate shops. That’s what I was here for. The 6th arrondissement is where I was seduced not just by chocolate but by chocolateries. With their acrylic display cases in neon colours suspended from ceilings, moody nightclub lighting, marble floors that made your shoes squeak and jewel-coloured macarons, pâtes de fruits and painted ganaches. It was in the 6th that I first discovered those tiny gem-sized Carrés (squares) of chocolate, carefully stencilled with the origin of their cocoa bean, such as ‘Ghana’, ‘Brazil’, and ‘Venezuela’. And when buying a box of chocolates meant unwrapping layers of glossy black tissue that were encased in heavy black boxes (the sort that ‘shoosh’ when you prise of the lid), tied up with a flourish of silk ribbon and handed over in a rope handled carrier bag. This was high glamour chocolate.
So, why on earth did I start making marshmallows and not chocolate? Well, I’ve always been drawn in by flavour- it’s super important to me that flavours are genuine. Not synthetic. Not from bottles of flavourings or colourings. The marshmallow recipe I created is perfect for carrying flavours because it doesn’t use egg white and is soufflé like in texture- so you can taste the different layers and notes of the flavour develop as you eat them. I think that’s what I loved about chocolate- that invitation to creativity and those first hedonistic tastes of rich cocoa. And as this week is National Chocolate Week there was no better time to launch my new Dark Cocoa Marshmallow.
I’ve gone back to my chocolatier roots and whipped up a mallow using organic 100% dark cocoa. Creating a taste that is both decadent but extraordinarily light. It’s now a permanent fixture in our marshmallow range. And I love it. I love the simplicity and depth of flavour and how earthy, pure and unquestionably moreish it is. I have spent so long searching for flavour influences in cocktails, fine patisserie and botanicals and it turns out the perfect flavour was always there- just waiting for me to come back. Welcome home chocolate- I’ve missed you.