Wednesday, 2 February 2011

These are a few of my favourite things

There are days when you simply don’t have the time to bake. Or maybe you have plenty of time, but you ran out of flour (again?), and you don’t fancy going to the store. On these occasions it’s imperative to have a box of your favourite chocolate on hand. No preparations, no baking time and no cleaning up. There is just a pretty bow and a golden wrapper between you and your scrumptious truffle.  

I used to be crazy about Maltesers, Flakes, Lion Bars, Snickers and Bounty. That was until I discovered a tiny chocolate store in York where a single truffle cost the same as a Party Pack of Twix. But the quality matched the price, each piece was sensational. I was a poor student at the time, but wisely started to buy a small tray of truffles instead of dinner, or lunch for that matter.  The truffles would be arranged on my finest saucer and I would savour them, one by one, in a manner that could rival Hercule Poirot’s elegant dining rituals. My chocolate based diet caused me to rapidly lose weight, an unpredictable bonus, and I could finally squeeze into my French Connection silk pants.

Toady my diet is a bit more balanced, but I will always prioritise truffles over a boring meal. Food should be fun, enjoyed, inspire all the 5 senses and leave you uplifted and satisfied.

Here is a list of my top ten current vices:

Neuhaus- I will forever be grateful for the talented Mr Jean Neuhaus. Back in 1912, when working for his grandfather’s chocolate-house, he created the first bite-sized filled chocolate and named it praline. There is a man after my own heart. Can you imagine a world prior to pralines? So pale, so primitive, so pointless. What I adore about Neuhaus is the fact that 150 years after they opened up their first shop in Brussels, they still only use the freshest and finest ingredients. No shortcuts and no cheap solutions. Not the usual “maximum shelf-life at a minimum cost” that so many a Crèeateur Chocolatier have fallen prey to over the years. It’s no wonder Neuhaus is the official supplier to the Royal Court of Belgium. 

Lindt- Like all good chocolate, a box of Lindt has the power to save the day, regardless of how bleak it starts out.
I had just moved in to a new apartment and was quite daunted by all the rooms, the amount of space, and my lack of things to fill it with. A dear friend was coming over for tea, and I remembered that I had absolutely nothing in the fridge. OK, I had 2 beets and a carton of milk, but that’s not exactly the makings for a feast. At least I had unpacked my grandmother’s old china; we would drink our tea and starve in style. My friend arrived, and the blessed darling gave me a 3 layered box of Lindt truffles as a housewarming gift. I brewed a big pot of PJ-tips and forgot all about the beets.

Krokanrull- Khrokhanruhhl, as we like to call it, is a chocolate very close and dear to my heart. This chocolate stands for the very finest that friendship and joyfulness has to offer.
It was your regular girl-night in. Glasses filled with Blue Nun, Sophie B Hawkins on repeat, and lots and lots of giggles. All of a sudden the doorbell rang. We looked out the window, and by the front door stood a guy from our class. We refused to let him in, but instead lowered down a basked and charmed him into going to the nearest 7-Eleven to get us some chocolate. Within 5 minutes our basket was full, and it did indeed contain a few Krokanrulls. Ever since that night this milky, crunchy, chocolate has been our signature treat.

This was back in High-school, but my Krokanrull friends are still some of the most important people in my life. They continue to surprise, impress and delight me. No chocolate, before or after, has represented a finer group of women. 

Guylian- Another Belgian classic, with a twist. Guylian is the producer of mouth-watering pralines shaped like little sea-shells. You have to wonder, who came up with that cute idea? Guy and Liliane, the chocolate loving lovebirds, did. When they got married back in 1960, they combined their names to Guylian and started producing pralines and truffles. First they only sold them to the local shops and stores, but it didn’t take long before the rest of the world discovered their talent. Ah, to be young and make pralines with your husband. What a dream.

Niederegger- with Love, since 1806. I was having lunch with some Royal Protection Officers (long story) and while they eagerly inspected the selection of sandwiches the Palace kitchen had prepared for them, I had my eyes fixed on some shiny wrappers. They looked so delicate, so inviting, so incredible tempting. Fortunately I was raised well, so instead of plunging for the chocolate, I bravely took a cheese sandwich and some cherry tomatoes, just to give off the impression that here was a girl with a good upbringing and healthy manners. Of course it was just a matter of time before I casually helped myself to one of the small pieces. It was worth the wait. Soft-melting nougat on the outside, marzipan with a hint of rose-flavour in the middle. I was transfixed. I looked down at the wrapper; it had the word Niederegger written on it. I should have guessed, nothing I had ever heard of before. Was this brand only sold to royalties? If so, I’d better take another piece, I might never get this chance again.
Since then I have discovered that Niederegger is sold in plenty of places, and you don’t need a title or a castle to buy them. I simply hadn’t noticed them before, or maybe the unpronounceable name had kept me away. In either case, next time you see one, don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t walk past this treasure, make sure you buy some. 

Rapunzel I used to have freakishly long hair and would now and then be referred to as “Her with the hair” or simply “Rapunzel.” The Rapunzel I’m taking about in this case has nothing to do with tall towers, long braids or pining princes. However, it has everything to do with organic pure chocolate, fair-trade, and of course Switzerland. Who else than the Swiss would be the proud producers of the world’s first 100% organic chocolate available globally? There are all kinds of Rapunzel bars, but the milk chocolate one with nut truffle créme is my number one darling. I would easily grow my hair long again if it meant that a prince carrying some of these chocolate bars would climb up to my chamber.

Mozart Kugeln- I know, this is a really weird name for a chocolate. Not to mention the wrapper. A demure portrait of Mozart? Once you get over the immediate strangeness and your curiosity takes over, you will be treated to some of the finest chocolate in the world.
In 1994, music columnist for the New York times, Alex Ross could reveal that: “researchers [Rauscher and Shawn] have determined that listening to Mozart actually makes you smarter.” I think it’s safe to assume that eating a Mozart Kugeln or two makes you more intelligent as well.
The creator of this genius treat, Reber, is a family owned business dating back almost 140 years and Mozart Kugeln brought them fame and glory. They are after all “exquisitely filled with pistachio marzipan, almond and hazelnut nougat. Enrobed with delicious milk and plain chocolate.”
I love the use of the word enrobe. Would you mind being enrobed in chocolate? Have a bite. 

Hmmm- The trouble is, I have no idea what this chocolate is called, but I know I used to go nuts over it. My friend’s father was a world-travelling business man, and he always returned from his trips bringing dolls, perfume and chocolate. Sure we loved Fazer, After Eight and all the other classics, but there was one (what was the name again?) that stood out from the crowd. It was a beautiful red tin, packed with shiny, oval-shaped chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. I recall the sound it made when you removed the lid, the scent that wafted up as you reached for your first piece.
I have never been able to find this tin again, and believe me, I have looked. Maybe it went out of production. Or maybe some things are never meant to be found again, making them even more precious. After all, it was Ibsen who said: Eternally owned is only that which is lost.

Walters: This one is a life saver. Maybe it’s because the wrapper has a picture of a man that looks like the Dalai Lama. Or maybe it’s because Walters is produced in Norway with milk from happy cows. In the land of Fjords and Trolls all the cows do indeed get a summer vacation and have cute names like Dagros, Lilja and Bruna. Happy cows produce great milk for chocolate, and great chocolate is what you need when you have had a near death experience.
My friend and I had just started to cross the street when we heard the frightening sound of screeching breaks and we saw a black car speeding towards us. We only had seconds to react, but we completely froze. Just stood there, certain we were going to die. My friend got hit, and I helplessly watched her roll on the ground. Fortunately she got away with only a few scratches, but we were really shook up.
There was only one thing to do. Head on home, open a bottle of champagne and divulge an entire bar of Walters. To life! To all good things! To friendship!
And to maybe learning a few kung-fu tricks so that the next time a car is headed my way, I’ll roll away like a ninja fighter and not just stand there and wait for death to get me.   

Caffarel: I have saved the Italian one for last. Eccellenza since 1826. I can easily picture the lovely Medici daughters nibbling on these hazelnut treats, carefully removing their scented gloves as they are about to unwrap yet another truffle. This is not only chocolate, it’s delicate art. A tasteful box, elegant script, gold wrapper, and a chocolate that leaves you feeling like you have reincarnated as one of the cherubs floating on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.That’s the effect a chocolate containing the exquisite Piedmont hazelnuts and made according to the original recipe will have on you. 
I take my off for the chocolate producers that in 1869 were appointed suppliers to the King of Italy. Italy no longer has a king, but luckily we still have Caffarel.  

 "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." 

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you included Mozart Kugeln. Demure man aside- they are to die for. Lovely layers of pure smartness.

    AND YES- I do remember those macadamia nut chocolate balls. Fantastic (So much chocolate on them!) I dare say there is an empty box sitting in the larder still. Will check.