Interview – Bryn from the Dartmoor Chocolate Company

What got you interested in producing confectionery?Major_Series_06

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but there’s also a long family history of working as confectioners, sugar-boilers and the like, stretching back at least five generations.

Originally, my forebears came down from Scotland to work at Tate & Lyle around the turn of the 20th century, their son (my great-great-grandfather) served in the Great War as a cook – there’s a much loved family tale about how he cured a horse carcass and made it edible to feed the men in his section of the trenches, with his commanding officer remarking that ‘it was the best piece of boiled ham he’d ever had!’

After the war, he set up a sweet shop in Canning Town and produced his own wares. After him, the tradition dulls a little – just some very tasty homemade fudges and so forth. Now I’m hoping to follow in their footsteps. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I developed an interest in producing sweets, chocolates and ice creams. A friend passed away very suddenly, which led me to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life. I decided to make the most and live more, so I started cooking more and taking sweets & treats into work for colleagues. The feedback was very positive and I quite enjoyed making things, which led to S’mores, truffles, banoffee bites and by the summer there was ice cream and all sorts!

After sixteen weeks of making sweets and ice creams, I’d put together quite a range. People had started to suggest I make a business of it, so I came back to the family home in Dartmoor, pitched the idea to a local cafe – I’d use their facilities at night and work the hours off when needed, sell some wares through them and the rest online. Just two months after, I applied for the apprenticeship that had just opened up at Badgers’ Holt.

The next year was a mixture of long nights of working on sweets, long days of working in hot kitchens and balancing a business with chef training. Several fairs, shows and competitions later, I’m here.

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When did you first make confectionery?

About three years ago now. I started off working in the small kitchen in my flat, scooping and rolling ganache in cocoa powder after work to make something nice for my colleagues.

How was your first attempt at making confectionery?

It was rather delicious and a little messy. That was what sparked my interest in researching chocolate and sugar based confectionery. The next step was creating a shell for the ganache, then getting the tempering perfect for that delicious ‘snap’ when you bite into it and next on to all manner of flavours, fillings and refining of techniques. I still can’t believe it all started just a few years ago in a small kitchen in Dorset.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

I always strive to use the best quality ingredients I can. The better the starting materials, the finer the resulting product will be. That’s why all the chocolate I use is sourced from Callebaut – they have a great range with plenty of variation.

My dairy ingredients are sourced from producers in the South-West. I’m currently using the most local items I can get from supermarkets, but I’m working on getting a trade account with a commercial fruit, vegetable & dairy supplier that works closely with Devon farmers to supply some of the best ingredients I’ve ever seen.

As far as fruit-based ingredients go, I either use essences from Uncle Roy’s, a fantastic group based in Scotland, who use all-natural ingredients as much as possible. Where possible, I’ll use real fruit, fresh from the grocer. However, sometimes you need something stronger for that ultimate fruity-zesty hit, in which case I’ll turn to Major International, who are arguably one of the cornerstones of the culinary
sector…and, of course, the sugar comes from Tate & Lyle.

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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

I entered the Major Series earlier in 2019 with a display of truffles and a couple of croquembouche, earning a silver medal. I had to work on the day of the judging and results, but was told that the judges were impressed with what they’d seen and tried. Had I used different fillings, instead of just ganaches, I’d have been given a gold medal. In any case, they were pleased to see a driven self-starter and asked me to come back next year in February to see how the judging is done and hopefully to learn a few things about being the best I can in making confectionery.

I’ve also had two senior members of the Craft Guild of Chefs compliment the quality of my truffles, which is a high accolade in my books.

What’s your best-selling product?

By far it has to be the chocolate truffles – I’ve had people travel from as far as Italy to come and try them. The second best would be the Scottish Tablet, with my largest single order being fifteen kilograms.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I couldn’t pin it down to just one. It’d have to be a tie between the silver medal earlier this year and contributing towards the Taste of the West silver award at my workplace.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to take the Dartmoor Chocolate Company on as a full-time venture and grow the business to a size where I can take on one or more people to share in the fun of making these goodies. Currently, I offer chocolates, fudges, sweets and ice creams – I’d love to branch into cakes, pastries and all manner of desserts and supply as many businesses as I can in the region. I also want to keep learning as much as I can about this field, partly to keep improving the quality of my wares and partly because I find it strangely fascinating.

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What’s your mission statement?

The Dartmoor Chocolate Company was founded to make all manner of delicious sweets and treats for people. The aim is to make people happy. To be able to provide something good for everyone, at a fair price. But it’s about more than providing good quality wares and service. It’s about keeping the traditions of the confectionery industry alive – producing things by hand where possible, in the old ways. Free of unnecessary artificial ingredients and preservatives. It’s about using that skillset to provide people with a bespoke range insofar as possible. If you’d like a certain product in a different style or flavour, you should be able to have that – without the exorbitant price associated with many organisations who offer custom options. It’s about making sure that people and businesses alike can have delicious, high-quality products just how they want them. It’s about making life sweet.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

I’m a terrible chocolate fiend, I love all kinds. That said, I must confess that I do love a bar of Dairy Milk now and again. Callebaut makes gorgeous Belgian chocolate, but sometimes you can’t beat the sweets you grew up with.

You will be able to get your hands on Bryn’s handmade chocolates and treats at the Exeter Chocolate Festival. If you would like to contact the Dartmoor Chocolate Company before then, click here.

Interview – Helen from Harth Truffles

When did you first make chocolate?IMG_4607

The first truffle we ever made was to showcase a chocolate tart from our restaurant in Bath. We attended a handful of local festivals to promote the restaurant in the early days of taking it on and felt we needed something tangible to show people our food. After receiving some lovely feedback and having quite a few people interested in buying them, we decided to set up a separate project focused solely on chocolate.

What is your mission statement?

Chocolate should be an indulgence and something to be savoured. Having a small amount of something delicious should be a treat and the beauty of our product is that you only need a small amount to get your fix! We truly believe in only using the simplest and finest of ingredients and working as responsibly and sustainably as possible. It also needs to look pretty!

Where are you based and what do you love most about the area you work in?

We’re based in a small rural village called Ubley in The Mendip Hills. What I love most about our peaceful location is how beautiful the views are. We can see both Blagdon and Chew Valley Lake from our upstairs window and I feel very lucky to have the countryside all around us. It feels like a little pocket of calm.

When did you set the business up and what inspired you?

We started Harth back in 2017 in between having our two boys. We also own a Vegan
Restaurant in the heart of Bath and Harth developed from a chocolate dessert we used to sample in the form of a truffle at various festivals to showcase the restaurants’ food. Our customers showed an interest in buying them, and so Harth was born. Our inspiration has always been to create food simply, using the finest ingredients. As with the restaurant we work with incredible seasonal plants rather than using substitutes to replace animal products. The same can be said for our chocolate. We add no preservatives or additives and believe all things can be enjoyed in moderation.

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What do you love most about what you do?

Making chocolates is a gentle process and requires patience and calm. This is something that feels a world away when being a full time mum, so the contrast for me is a welcome one. I also enjoy meeting new people at the different markets we do. Everyone has a story and it’s fantastic meeting other traders and hearing their creative journeys as well as getting to see and enjoy their products.

What is your favourite product and why?

I love our Fireside truffle. For me, it is the perfect balance of flavours and conjures up beautifully my favourite time of year, Autumn. I love food that strikes a memory or a feeling and this truffle always makes me think of sitting round a campfire, quietly enjoying the evening sunset. I also love watching peoples reaction when they try it. I like seeing them go through the transition of flavours and tasting something they didn’t expect. When the warmth of the Cayenne sings through at the end, I like seeing them smile as if they’ve just experienced something completely new.

How/where do you source your ingredients?harth2

We choose to use Chocolat Madagascar who responsibly source their cocoa from the
Sambirano Rainforest in Madagascar. Farmers are paid fairly for the quality of the rare cocoa harvested and the beans are crafted in to fine chocolate in the local factories, which helps to raise the skills, values and ultimately contributes to the Madagascan economy. Chocolat Madagascar pride themselves not only on the craft of their product but on providing sustainable wealth at source, whilst reducing the impact on the environment.

For our truffles we use 100% cocoa solid chocolate, which contains no sugar. Because of this we are also able to use our own blend of sugars, including an organic, unrefined cane sugar, and completely control the sweetness of our product. For our peanut butter caramels we use an incredible sugar called Panela, made sustainably in Columbia from freshly harvested cane juice.

What are you proud of and what are your ambitions?

I am extremely proud of how far we’ve come with Harth as it has been a side project and grew organically from the resources available to us from our restaurant. In between having children, Harth has grown to be something special which I hope will inspire our children to see both of their parents putting something they truly believe in, out in to the world for people to experience. The beauty of Harth is it could take us in many different directions, depending on what products we create and how they fly. I believe as long as we stay true to using great ingredients and putting ourselves in to our product, then Harth with continue to grow. It has a long way to go, but only time will tell what that direction may be.

Harth Truffles will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival, but if you can’t wait until November to get your hands on some of their scrummy vegan truffles, you can buy direct from their website by clicking here.

Interview – Kate from the Mallow Tailor

What got you interested in chocolate?

It’s no secret but Janet and I (Kate) who run The Mallow Tailor love chocolate and art, so wanted to combine these together to make something really special. How many times do we all buy something that looks great and tastes disappointing, or tastes great but looks unappealing? Having experienced this ourselves, we set our benchmark very high to ensure our chocolates not only look the part but also deliver on taste. Never having made chocolates (apart from truffles occasionally for friends), we started right at the beginning and learnt how to mould chocolates, developed our fillings and added an artistic twist and since then we’ve not looked back. Chocolate has always been our indulgence of choice, but now it’s our best friend.

When did you first make chocolate?

I first made boozy chocolate truffles about 8 years ago and have been making marshmallow for friends for 15 years. I am an awful cook, so would entice friends over with my sweet treats rather than my usual burnt offerings. Janet on the other hand is a great cook but had no experience of making chocolate or marshmallow. Between us, we made our first batch of moulded chocolates in December 2018 and then spent 4 months perfecting our technique and fillings and launched our business in March 2019.

The Mallow Tailor - Marshmallow chocolates range

How was your first attempt at making chocolate? 

Before we started making chocolates professionally, we had both given up our present careers so knew there was a lot riding on getting it right. We initially attempted to dip marshmallow and salted caramel into melted chocolate which was challenging to say the least, the product tasted great, but we realised we would struggle to scale this up. Our first attempts at moulding chocolate were frustrating with not achieving the right shell thickness and chocolates not coming out the moulds – we learnt so much more from what we’ve got wrong rather than what we got right.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

We only buy high quality ingredients and source locally where we can. We use Callebaut chocolate which is one of the best chocolates in the world. We make our salted caramel filling with Welsh dragon butter and double cream, and flavour with Halen Mon Sea Salt – these local ingredients make the texture and flavour something else. Our marshmallow is infused using loose tea from our local tea emporium in Brecon. We are very lucky living in Wales as there are so many great products you can buy and we try and reflect this in our chocolates. We don’t use any preservatives or artificial flavours in our products so what you taste is 100% real.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products? 

We are a very young company but have drawn in much interest and received endorsements from food professionals and fantastic reviews from customers. We provided wedding favours for our first wedding job which created quite a storm (in a positive way!) which was a very proud moment for us. We’ve also exhibited at the Royal Welsh Show and have been successful in getting a place at the Abergavenny Food Festival so a lot to smile about in 5 months!

The Mallow Tailor - Sea Salt Caramel chocolates range resized

What’s your best-selling product?

Our Caramallow in milk chocolate is our best selling product, along with our Salted Caramel in dark chocolate. Our Caramallow is made up of 2 layers of marshmallow with salted caramel on top which people love. Our salted caramel chocolate is a firm favourite with our vegetarian customers.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Producing chocolate and marshmallow in a sustainable way, without giving on quality and taste. I’m also very proud of our website, having designed and built it.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We want to be well established in and outside of the UK and to be successful in supplying our products to at least one of the prestigious UK retailers. Our production is currently done at home, so would like to expand our manufacturing capability away from home and build a team of great chocolatiers/mallow makers.

What’s your mission statement?

To be an internationally recognised artisan that makes the one of the best artisan chocolates and marshmallow and to be a company that people really enjoy dealing with.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Oh god, there are so many! I love the Little Welsh Chocolate Company’s milk chocolate and orange bars of chocolate – they are super smooth and the orange works perfectly with the milk chocolate. Janet loves Lindt chocolate and enjoys the pick and mix counter (too much!) – her favourite filling is orange. So it looks like orange wins here eh?!  Maybe we should develop some orange chocolates, there’s an idea…

The Mallow Tailor will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival with their range of filled chocolates, but if you can’t wait until then to get your hands on some you can order from their website by clicking here.

Interview – Amanda from Langley’s Rocky Road

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What got you interested in chocolate?

At birth I think – I have always loved chocolate.

When did you first make chocolate?

I started to make my product when I adopted my 2 children and it quickly became a family favourite, always made on special occasions and a firm favourite at the office.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate?

Like a beginner, awful now I look back but also a really important part of my journey.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

I love to use local ingredients where I can, there is nothing quite like Cornish seasalt and combined with lime (a childhood flavour) makes for my surprise flavour.

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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

I have come into the industry as a complete beginner, I love the reaction that I get from my customers and the lovely comments always make everything worthwhile.  I love the thought that I am inspiring my children to be entrepreneurial and to do what they love.  The seven Taste of the West awards in my first year of trading have been the icing on the cake.

What’s your best-selling product?

Lime & Seasalt has now overtaken my classic Orange.  I love this as it is a flavour inspired by my Dad and his loves, so has real meaning for me.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Actually starting my business – it was hard to leave my career as a Solicitor where I had been Managing Partner of a firm which I have seen through a merger of 4 practices.  To change to doing something so creative was a big decision but I love what I do, the challenges and rewards.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To develop as a business – I would love to grow and to be able to pass my passion on to other people.

What’s your mission statement?

As a small business its really simple – to produce the best product I can to delight my customers.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

One of the things I love about chocolate is its diversity – so I don’t have a favourite and it very much depends on my mood.  I love to try new flavours and to be surprised!  My most recent delight was a Ruby Chocolate with a lemon centre – delicious!

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Amanda will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival in November, and at the Torbay Chocolate Festival next April. But, if you can’t wait that long to get your hands on some of her award-winning Rocky Road, you can buy on her website by clicking here!

 

Salcombe Dairy – From Ice Cream to Bean-to-Bar Chocolate!

History

Salcombe Dairy has been making artisan ice-cream in South Devon for forty years – and celebrated this milestone birthday in June 2019. The alchemistic factory has been at the heart of the town’s meteoric rise in popularity as Devon’s most stunning holiday destination. Still based on Island Street where all of the ice-cream is made, Salcombe Dairy is well known for deliciously indulgent ice-cream made only from natural ingredients, as well as a range of natural sorbets. Salcombe Dairy has been proudly making scrumptious ice-cream in this beautiful place since 1979, using local cream combined with the best recipe ingredients we can source locally and around the world – to create one of the Great Taste top fifty foods in Britain.
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Awards

Salcombe Dairy’s ice cream, sorbets and now chocolate have won more than sixty Great Taste, Taste of the West and Food & Drink Devon awards. That’s a lot of trophies! Blush. The secret to our success is staying modest and always striving for perfection – for example it took us over a year to perfect the recipe for our new Salcombe gin sorbet, and a new product is never launched until the entire production and tasting team are 100% happy with it!

Ethics

We’re a small company with a big heart. We have a very loyal team of workers livin’ the dream of working in an ice cream and chocolate factory in Devon…so when you eat our products you know that they have been made in Salcombe with love and care – using cream from the local farm. All of our chocolate and ice creams are made in a factory which is entirely nut free, palm oil free and egg free. We will never use any artificial ingredients – everything we make is 100% natural. That’s probably why customers have been asking for our ice cream consistently for the past forty years!
We are striving to leave a lighter footprint in the beautiful part of the planet we work in – and are always trying to source less single use plastic packaging and consumables, and more reusable and recyclable and now compostable packs.

Non-Dairy

We recognise that vegan and dairy-free connoisseurs still love high quality chocolate and ices! Our range of dark chocolate is dairy free and suitable for vegans as well as being indulgent and sumptuous…and we even make a chocolate sorbet.
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Chocolate

Our new baby is bean-to-bar chocolate, launched in Spring 2018. We source organic, fairly traded cacao from the Peruvian rainforest and melange the nibs in Salcombe with raw cane sugar before conching, tempering and moulding into chocolate of the highest quality to make outstanding chocolate in a spectrum of flavours our fans rave about. In the 19th Century, Salcombe was a busy trading port for ships carrying fruit, cocoa, sugar and rum. At the mouth of the estuary lies The Bar, a sand spit mentioned in Tennyson’s famous poem ‘The crossing of the bar’ so it seemed appropriate to call our chocolate The Bar, and mirror in chocolate all of our ice-cream flavours for which we are famous.
We’ve already won a Great Taste Gold award for our dark chocolate ginger, and the milk chocolate with Devon sea salted caramel is popular. Chocolate enables us to keep our trusty Oompa Loompas busy during the winter when customers are eating less ice-cream – so it makes us more sustainable as a business too!
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Feedback

Tell us what you think! We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again at the Exeter Chocolate Festival and are always keen to hear feedback on our chocolate or hear your requests for new flavours!
Lucy and Dan Bly
Email: dan.bly@salcombedairy.co.uk
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Chocolate Making with the Exeter Cookery School

Working in chocolate has it’s perks, and one such perk I was fortunate enough to enjoy recently was a visit to the Exeter Cookery School to participate in one of their half day chocolate making and tempering workshops.

The course is advertised on the cookery school’s website as “two and a half hours of pure wicked indulgence”. That it certainly was! The chocolate got everywhere, in my hair, under my fingernails and on my face. I am certainly not complaining, as a practising chocoholic, I took every opportunity for some sneaky finger-licking.

The Exeter Cookery School is situated on Exeter’s quayside. Founded by Jim and Lucy Fisher, it has been offering cooking classes and courses since 2016. Jim was a fantastic host on the chocolate making workshop. He was both knowledgeable and encouraging while keeping the session at a good pace, and everyone laughing and enjoying themselves throughout.

Jim took us through the whole process of making a filled chocolate from start to finish. Step-by-step we made our own little bonbons under his excellent guidance and he willingly jumped in to perform the occasional rescue! We started by exploring the moulds used for filled chocolates, discussing where to purchase them, and cleaning techniques to ensure the best shine on the finished chocolates. We then learnt how to melt and colour cocoa butter to create a shimmery design which we painted onto the inside of the mould.

After this came the tempering. This was the part I was most looking forward to, as having dabbled at home (rather unsuccessfully), I was keen to learn from a professional and go away with some techniques that would be easy for me to continue with solo. Jim was very happy to answer my many questions, and I came away with what I believe to be a foolproof method… watch this space!

Using the dark chocolate (which we tempered ourselves), we created a thin shell inside the mould ready for the caramel filling. The shells were cooled and then the filling was piped in, cooled once more and then capped off with the remaining melted and tempered chocolate.

But of course, the most exciting part of the morning by far, was tipping the finished chocolates out of the moulds to marvel at how beautiful (if a little imperfect) they were. We then got to put our chocolates into a box to take home and share with our families. Leaving with chocolates and certificate in hand, I really felt as though I had accomplished something special and can’t wait to sign up for the next course! Don’t they look beautiful?

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If you would like to attend Jim’s chocolate making course yourself (or indeed any of the other exciting workshops on offer at the cookery school) you can book on via their website. Click here to take you directly to the website.

Interview – Taylor from Bake Free

What got you interested in baking and free from foods?IMG_1229

I’ve always been interested in cooking, food and flavours but really began baking when I found that I need to follow a gluten free diet. My wife has food allergies and my daughter does too, so this naturally lead to baking free-from recipes and experimenting with creating foods that we were unable to buy elsewhere.

When did you first make your famous brownies?

I think the current recipe is about attempt number 17! I tried a lot of recipes which I found in books and online but wanted to keep pushing to see how rich I could get the chocolate flavour and also pursuing a great texture. Now I make them in a range of flavours but the nutty ones are my favourites – Peanut Butter Swirl and Hazelnut Praline!

How was your first attempt at gluten free baking? 

I actually used to really dislike baking as I didn’t like to follow recipes and measure ingredients. I was a bit of an “experimental” cook! Now that I create my own recipes and transform traditional recipes into free-from bakes, I enjoy the baking a lot more. I enjoy having the freedom to create.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

From a huge range of places! I’m often limited by allergy statements and production methods but make sure that my ingredients are responsibly sourced/produced and I try to have minimal ingredients in recipes and to keep as much of a wholesome approach as baking allows.
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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products? 

I constantly get feedback that nobody would know that my products are free-from and many people prefer them to the so-called “normal” items that they buy.

What’s your best-selling product?

Brownies, both at events where I trade and I also wholesale locally too.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Taking the step to begin my own business and I hope that this will be a good example for my daughter to not follow the beaten track.

IMG_1281What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to have a small cafe or deli one day.

What’s your mission statement?

Just to make food that people enjoy. My favourite is when people get tippy-tappy feet when they eat something good.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

I’m a dark chocolate fan, particularly 85% and upwards. Combination-wise, I enjoy chocolate with nuts, ginger and coffee.

You will be able to get your hands on Bake Free’s yummy gluten-free goodies at the Exeter Chocolate Festival! If you would like to find them before then you can visit their facebook page for details of other local events.