Food festivals are loved by everyone. They are a great opportunity for public to meet producers to learn how the produce they love is made whether its cheese, bread, gin or chocolate!
Christchurch food festival has been going for the last 20 years evolving all the time. In recent years it has expanded from the High Street to Christchurch Priory and beyond. Centre stage is the Cookery theatre. For us, it’s a great way to teach everyone how easy chocolate is to work with. This year I collaborated with Jennifer Williams from Naked Jam. The brief was to showcase how chocolate can be part of a wider experience, pairing it with a cocktail. The cocktail was designed by Tommo Quy of the Captains Club Hotel and was featured as their cocktail of the month. Jennifer, from Naked Jam, taught everyone how to make a delicious strawberry syrup as one of the ingredients of the cocktail and I designed Earl Grey tea dark chocolate shards. Earl Grey tea works perfectly in summer paired with chocolate and cocktails as it has a light floral delicate flavour and enhances the Columbian dark chocolate.
If you would to try your hand at making the shards I have included the recipe below – Good Luck!
Earl Grey Tea Chocolate Shards
100g 70% Dark Columbian chocolate
3g Earl grey tea
Handful of cornflowers and rose petals
Using a hairdryer to melt small quantities of chocolate gives your much more control over the temperature of the chocolate,. Melting chocolate in the microwave can sometimes burn if you forget to check it and stir every 20 seconds.
We will be demonstrating chocolate making at the New Forest Show on Tuesday 24th at 3pm and Lymington Seafood Festival on Saturday 11th at 4pm. Come and join us and try our delicious combinations!
Over the last two weeks I have had the joy of working with D’Arcy White.
D’Arcy wrote to me in January 2018 to enquire if she could take her work experience placement with Chocolate By Miss Witt. I met D’Arcy and her mum in March for her interview. I knew as soon as I met her she was a girl after my own heart. D’Arcy had the confidence to take the opportunity to approach me for a placement before seeing the list of placements the school had to offer for work experience. After meeting her I knew we would get on well. Her mum said she is quiet until she gets to know you and then will chat away. Sounds like myself I thought, although I am sure not many who know me would believe that!
D’Arcy and I jelled immediately. We worked side by side, everything I did, D’Arcy did. I wanted her to have the whole experience of my world. The first day at work I taught her how to temper chocolate; she was a natural. I could see her talent and I just wanted to nurture it.
At the end of the first week we had an event at Foxlease Head Quarters of Girl Guiding, Hampshire. D’Arcy was confident enough to demonstrate how to temper chocolate to a group of 50 adult Guides. This was the first time she had stood of in front of an audience. She was absolutely brilliant, it was enchanting to see the joy in her expression moving the chocolate around. By the second week we were both in our groove, and I felt confident leaving D’Arcy in charge of tempering chocolate and doing many tasks on her own.
D’Arcy’s teacher came to see us later that week, she was so impressed by how D’Arcy could temper chocolate and how she blossomed in confidence. Her last day was bitter sweet, D’Arcy had been a complete joy and definitely was becoming a Mini Miss Witt, but we both felt she was ready to go back to school as missed her friends.
I hope I have inspired her and you never know, she may be one of the Academy of Chocolate gold Medallists of the future.
Mondays at the Miss Witt Kitchen are often a time for Home Education groups. I have got to know some great mums and children recently. Monday’s lesson was about how the Aztecs and Mayans would use chocolate.
In ancient times the Mayans and Aztecs would grind the cocoa bean to make a chocolate drink. The drink entailed magical spices e.g. cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and nutmeg. They mixed the ground cocoa with water, rather than milk. The drink tasted spicy and bitter compared with our modern day hot chocolate.
During the late 17th century Hans Sloane, President of the Royal College of Physicians, visited Jamaica. When he tried the drink, it made him feel nauseous so decided to add milk to the recipe and brought it back to England, and the rest is history!
To make your own Aztec inspired hot chocolate drink see recipe below
Stage 1 – Make the Hot Chocolate stick
Melt 200g of chocolate slowly in a microwave or using a hairdryer, leave to cool.
To check the chocolate is at the correct temperature to work with, tap the chocolate on your lip using a spoon – make sure it feels cooler than your lip! Pipe into your silicone freezer tray. Place lollipop sticks in the tray leave to set.
Stage 2 - Creating the drink
1 litre milk
3 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod seed scrapped out
Pour milk in a saucepan add all the spices. Bring it to just below boiling point, strain through a sieve and use a whisk to create a frothy top. Divide the milk between 4 cups, stir in your chocolate stick. The warm flavoured milk will slowly melt the chocolate to create a delicious drink.
The end of last month I was invited to Judge at Wessex Salon Culinaire, one of the UK largest live culinary competitions. The popular event, which is held in association with The Craft Guild of Chefs, has grown in stature over the years and is a fantastic platform for all chefs, but especially student chefs, to get a first taste of competition experience.
The venue was Brockenhurst College, located in the heart of the New Forest National Park. It is one of the Country's top colleges and has been awarded the prestigious Beacon College status for excellence and innovation in further education.
Brockenhurst college played a fundamental part in my life to where I am today. Taking a trip back in time to September 1995 it was my dream destination. I will never forget wearing those chef whites for the 1st time … the buzz of the kitchen, the excitement of learning classical French cooking, the style of my heroes The Roux Brothers, it was heaven. I did try to spend as much time as I could in the pastry kitchen, even sneaking in when I was on a different section, just because I wanted to spend my whole time working with chocolate and other delicious sweet ingredients. I can remember my name being called out “Where is Miss Witt?!” when they noticed I had disappeared! The tutors at Brockenhurst were 1st class, 2 of them are still playing an active role today, nurturing the students to their full potential.
One of the highlights for me at the competition was to see a student create a chocolate show piece, he demonstrated so many different skills using different techniques. For next year’s Salon Culinaire I have been asked to play a role in designing new classes for attracting more entries in the pastry section. This is going to be an exciting role and will incorporate skills the chefs need to have if they would like to become part of the next generation of chocolatiers.
Chocolate By Miss Witt received 3 medals at this year’s 2017 Academy of Chocolate Awards in London. With over 35 countries competing, Miss Witt was the only UK female chocolatier to win a silver medal in the alcohol category with her winning chocolate, Prune and Armagnac made with wild Bolivian chocolate. She also earned a bronze medal for her Espresso chocolate, using Coffee Mongers Roasting Company’s East African Nakuti blend. Miss Witt has been recently described by Keith Hurdman (Master Chocolatier/ Confiseur) as “among the most impressive of the new generation of British Chocolatiers who have come to the fore in recent years. She has an extraordinary range of skills which coupled with her great creativity brings forth some wonderfully eclectic creations. She also has the enviable ability to transmit her ideas to both fellow professionals and enthusiastic amateurs making her an excellent teacher of those who wish to learn more about chocolate”
These award winning chocolates are part of the brand new Grand Cru Collection with the addition of her sea salt caramel chocolate.
".......I love making Lavender and Sea Salt White Chocolate Ganache especially when you get the perfect balance of lavender to sea salt as you get the lavender then the wishy washiness of the sea around you mouth"
You can see as each chocolate is made/invented the sense of taste, scent & touch all come into play.
These experiences make my work so magical and excites me to develop new chocolates, and to return to old favourites
As was the case today, making the exclusive Captains Club Chocolate box . When I was asked to develop the hotel's chocolates I wanted to create a chocolate that encapsulated the essence of the Captains Club. Its proximity to the river, with the salty sea spray blowing in the wind and then the scent of the lavender growing in the riverside garden. The chocolates are now firmly part of the hotel. Guests may have a surprise box of chocolates in their room for a special occasion . To learn more about the hotel pop over to Captains Club in Christchurch, if you book a room you may be lucky and get the chocolates too!
From our our mutual love of coffee and chocolate, we were drawn together to create something truly special. And through our adventure we have discovered many similarities in our worlds. For example, both the best cocoas and coffees come from the seed of a fruit and are grown 20 degrees from the equator. In both cases beans are left to ferment before being dried, and then roasted. Cocoa then has additional steps to complete the process in order to be turned into chocolate.
Over the next few months we went through the process of pairing different blends of coffee with different chocolates. In the spirit of “faire un canard”, a French expression for dunking sugar cubes into coffee, we came up with delicious dipping shards of 70% Colombian chocolate, incorporated with a light sprinkling of crisp, roasted coffee grains.
Coffee Brittle is now available direct from Coffee Monger’s, Christchurch Confectioners, and soon, will be served with coffee in a number of restaurants.
Coffee Brittle is the ideal gift for Mother’s Day!
Megan Spink and Andy Fielden set up Bodega, in Christchurch, Dorest, in August 2016. Bodega is independent wine bar, wine merchant & deli in Christchurch. They are passionate about high quality wines from small traditional wineries with a focus on natural organic wines.
As part of the drinks menu they have recently added the Miss Witt milk hot choc stick following a visit by Andy & Megan to the Miss Witt kitchen workshop. The milk hot choc sticks have been going down a storm during the day when you may fancy a smooth warm drink to keep you going rather than a glass of wine.
Each month Bodega holds different events. As part of the World of Port evening, the last port to taste was Graham’s Quintados Mavedos 2004. This has a long finish with rich fruit aromas such as blackcurrants, blackberries and black cherries. This was paired with 70% Columbia dark chocolate shards. The slight acidity of the chocolate cut through the richness of the port making it the perfect drinking companion! Look out for future events when chocolate will be featured paired with different drinks.
Tha perfect pairing, 70% Columbia dark chocolate shards and Graham’s Quintados Mavedos 2004
I first met the founders of Pothecary Gin back in January 2016. We were introduced by a mutual chef friend, Ian Gibbs. Ian had told me about his friends Lukasz and Martin Jennings spending the last year experimenting with over 100 botanicals (def: a plant part or extract used in medicinal preparation derived from a plants) to come up with their gin.
To make their gin, the duo use fractional distillation where each of the 5 botanicals are singularly distilled, rather than all being distilled in one copper pot at the same time. This allows them to finely blend the flavours to make their unique gin.
The 5 organic botanicals which make up Pothecary Gin are Organic Lavender from Provence, Organic Black Mulberries from Anatolia, Organic Lemons from Sicily, Wild Tilia flowers from Poland and Organic Juniper from Bulgaria.
I tasted the gin for the first time in Spring 2016. Initially I considered making a G&T inspired chocolate, but this didn’t really feel innovative or unique enough. This was when the inspiration came from Nicole (Martin’s wife) and Martin to use the individual distillates. Because the fractional distillation process is used it allowed me to experiment with the different distillates to make chocolates to compliment the gin. You can imagine my excitement when I tasted all 5 distillates at 73% proof! Wow! Each had the most incredibly unique taste and aroma. The lemon distillate took me walking through a lemon grove, wild mulberries conjured up Christmas, wild Tilia flowers had the sweet aroma of honey and the lavender was so delicate & light. A real journey of aromas and flavours!
An added benefit of the process used by Pothecary Gin was the Black Mulberry mass that remains in the still post distillation. The founders of Pothecary Gin try to reduce wastage, and re-use or recycle where possible, and this thinking is what led to Nicole’s idea to possibly use the sieved extract of the distilled Mulberries as part of the chocolate, genius! A sample of the sieved black mulberry extract was sent to a science lab in Wolverhampton to be analysed. Nicole and I wanted to make sure that the black mulberries, post distillation, used in the ganache were within safe limits of copper as they are heated in a copper still for a considerable time. It turned out that you would have to eat over a kilogram of the black mulberry ganache to be over the recommended daily intake of copper in your diet, but trace elements of copper were found, bonus! Once the results came back I was so excited to start creating my recipe.
I immediately knew which chocolate would work especially well; the floral notes in Casa Lukers’ 70% aruca chocolate. The cacao beans which the chocolate is made from comes from Orinoquia region of Columbia. Don Elio cacao farm is on a piece of land formed by the two arms of the Arauca river. The cacao is grown between the valleys & mountains of this region. The flavour notes from this chocolate compliment the botanicals perfectly.
I knew the Mulberry extract combined with the chocolate would make an excellent combination. It produced a silky smooth texture to the chocolate. On heating the extract, I added the lemon peel. The scent filled my tiny chocolate kitchen and I could just imagine the flavours combining with chocolate, singing and dancing around my mouth as I took the first bite! Heavenly!
The Pothecary team had asked me to create two chocolates to go in their gin & chocolate gift set by now. The gift boxes were created in consultation with Print & Packaging Solutions Ltd, a local specialist in Southampton. Melissa, Martin and Nicole’s daughter, worked tirelessly to get the box to have the premium look and feel that would properly reflect the quality of the gin and chocolates contained within, and it looks amazing!
After a few weeks of experimenting I worked through some recipes by using different combinations of the distillates. By the end of August, I had come up with two bespoke recipes for the Pothecary chocolates.
organic mulberry ganache, infused with the lemon distillate & encased in gold 70% dark chocolate from Orinoquia region, Columbia
Lavender & sea salt ganache, encased in turquoise white chocolate from Dominican Republic.
The Luxury, Handcrafted gin and chocolate gift set was launched at The Country Living Christmas Fair in Islington, London, where they were extremely well received. The two chocolates are intended to be eaten whilst sipping the gin, as the chocolates are made with some elements of the gin rather than the gin itself. This sipping and eating gives a unique flavour sensation, is an innovative idea where gin is concerned, and one that is proving very popular. As the chocolate and gin gift sets are a collaboration, and not the main products of both Pothecary Gin and myself, they are only available occasionally. At the moment we are delighted to announce that the Luxury Gin and Chocolates gift set can be bought at Harvey Nichols as from this week.