I’ve been flirting with the idea of making my own chocolates since 2003 when Chantal Coady’s ‘Real Chocolate’ came out. I didn’t buy it, and didn’t start making my own but I browsed enough to realise that you need quite a lot of kit (marble slab, dipping forks, chocolate scrappers, moulds, a thermometer...) and most likely a steady hand and lots of patience. I did buy ‘Chocolate – The Definitive Guide’ by Sarah Jayne-Stanes (published by Grub Street which was inducement enough) it has excellent truffle recipes and more instructions regarding kit, I made the truffles but dipping them is tricky without the little fork things, and messy, so we ended up eating lots of truffle insides. The procrastination continued but now Hope and Greenwood have released ‘Miss Hope’s Chocolate Box’ and I’m determined that this will be the year I do it.
I really liked ‘Life is Sweet’ and have very high hopes for this sequel. There are a couple of disclaimers - I sometimes find the jolly hockey sticks with extra camp approach a little distracting (although more often than not it makes me laugh and heaven knows there are more than enough cook books out there that take themselves far to seriously), and as already indicated there are a lot of things you need for some of these chocolates with couverture (for making nice shiny chocolate shells) which seems to be indispensable for the more advanced recipes - it's also expensive and not the sort of thing you can buy just anywhere. A degree of preparation is needed and in the last two weeks I have managed to spend quite a lot of time online looking at moulds and wondering if an ordinary thermometer is very different in its range from a chocolate one, washed and scrubbed the dust off the marble slab that came from somewhere or other that I forget and has sat in the kitchen for the last six and a half years doing nothing, got a bit carried away by the idea of edible floral transfers; and bought precisely nothing, although I’m very close to some sea shell moulds, I really am. I think I might need some latex gloves too. Hobbies are expensive.
Despite the threat of financial outlay including the very real likelihood that making chocolates will be considerably more expensive than buying even the very best handmade designer labelled offerings this is still something I really want to have a crack at. If I had the patience and time the pear and chestnut truffles would be one of the first things on the list. There are lots of fudges that I will make, and an earl grey mousse that’s a definite as well. Fig and Cassis truffles look very do-able and are probably a Christmas present just waiting to happen, the praline is another present begging to happen, but the one I really, really, want to make? Salted caramel sea shells. They sound amazing and if I can pull it off look amazing. I would feel so clever, I would look so clever, people would be impressed, and I would probably eat too many of them and feel a bit sick. So you see I have to do it, possibly just as soon as I get paid.
The list of stockists at the back is excellent and altogether this is a nice, useful, and above all inspiring book. I know from ‘Life is Sweet’ that the instructions are reliable and the results good so anyone with a birthday coming up can hope for the best.