Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Damian Allsop Chocolates

For a blog named 'Chocolate & Jasmine' it's been a long time coming but it's finally here: the first entry on chocolate! And what could be more inspiring than the Milsom Place Chocolate Festival that took place in Bath on Saturday. It was a tiny and quaint affair with only a handful of traders but there was still plenty of indulgence to be had: the sights, the smells, the samples. So many samples! And the skies gave us the most perfectly crisp Winter afternoon in which to amble around and admire the expertise and creativity behind everything on offer.

And when I speak of expertise and creativity I could not have been more intrigued by Damian Allsop Chocolates. Damian Allsop is a former pastry chef who has been creating a bit of a buzz in the chocolate world by adopting and developing the revolutionary method of using water rather than cream or butter in his chocolate fillings. This came across as very odd to me because as far as I knew, chocolate and water don't mix, and apparently the science behind making them work is far from simple. His reasoning however is that using flavourless liquids allows the purer flavours of the cocoa to come through more intensely, and the palate appreciates a flavour profile that is truer to chocolate as it should be. He himself was there to explain the thinking behind his concept and allowed us to experience it for ourselves by heating up his drinking chocolate mix with water into luscious, thick samples. So taken with the novel idea and always wanting to try something new I purchased a bag to explore and appreciate at home. Blended with hot water the mix made a thick and intense chocolate drink. It's not indiscernible that it has not been made with milk however the bitter tang of the chocolate definitely comes through with more clarity and as a lover of dark chocolate this can only be a good thing.

A bit of a google since the chocolate festival led me to a recent interview with the chocolatier himself which is an insightful and inspiring read. With such a passion for the alchemy of chocolate it comes as no surprise that he has been likened to Merlin, Willy Wonka and Heston Blumenthall. The flavour sensations of his water-based ganaches sound so exquisite and exciting I suddenly have a huge hankering for the beautiful long box of them that caught my eye on Saturday. Presented so elegantly and proudly like chocolate jewels I couldn't help but admire them. They are definitely one to put on the 'to try in 2009' list.

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