Yesterday morning I went along to see what Paul A Young has going on at the moment, and as was treated to the usual array of surprises, treats and flavour experiments you can expect from Paul.
As well as Paul’s latest bonbon flavours, I also got to try Paul’s interpretation of a high street confectionary classic and took a peek at his all chocolate ice cream range. Paul’s other big news is the publication of his forthcoming book in October this year, more of which later.
Nut whip reimagined
Most of us in the UK fine chocolate world grew up on what we would now call confectionery. Not that there was much choice if you were into chocolate. Now there’s much better chocolate available and a public much more willing to consider quality, it’s interesting to go back and try to recreate some of those early experiences we once has such a connection with.
Paul has attempted this with his Pecan Mallow, inspired by Nestlé’s famous Walnut Whip (though that’s my interpretation of Paul’s Pecan Mallow, not a claim Paul is trying to make in any way.)
The beautiful looking result contains a freshly made white mallow, hand made with sugar, egg white, vanilla and gelatine. (Paul was filling the rounded shells when I arrived.) The coating is Valrhona Caraïbe 66% dark and inside at the top there’s a dollop of sea-salted caramel. On the top is a fine Iranian pecan. The mallow is a pleasure to eat, very munchable and would serve well as a very special treat or gift. The texture is genuine soft marsh-mallow and of course great chocolate. Gorgeous.
Nestlé’s Walnut Whip – once the pride of the old Rowntree’s brand – is of course much much cheaper. You certainly get a lot more ingredients for your money though. The chocolate shell is milk and contains whey, vegetable and butter fat and flavouring, as well as some cocoa mass. Sugar is listed first in the milk chocolate list, meaning it is the largest content, and is second largest overall. So mainly sugar then.
I’ve no doubt that Paul’s Pecan Mallow is a sugar heavy recipe, but the Walnut Whip seems to be mostly sugar, fat and flavouring. The inside is brilliant white and looks like and has the texture of wall filler. Flavourwise it’s pretty sweet and cloying, with a strange mechanical background flavour. The aftertaste was better than expected – mostly sugar and baked milk chocolate. The walnut also had a very bitter after taste.
* Posh baguette from UK upmarket sandwich chain, Pret a Manger, £3.50
** Walkers crisps – up to 55p a packer in some stores.
*** crisps – what we in the UK call ‘chips’, i.e. bags of thin sliced fried potatoes. ‘Chips’ to us are what you might call ‘fries’!
Adventures with Chocolate – book
Paul’s first book is out in the autumn, and you can get a sneak preview in the shop in the form of an eight page mock up. The book will feature tasting tables and notes from Paul, chocolate making tips and a wealth of recipes. Will Paul reveal his famous brownie recipe though? You’ll have to wait until October 2009 to find out!
The book can be pre-ordered now in Paul’s shops for a discount of £4.00 over the cover price of £16.99. The shop copies will be signed by Paul of course. Pre-orders will be available through outlets such as Amazon in the near future, we’ll keep you informed.
About half of Paul’s bonbon range is seasonal, so there’s always something new to try. Here are just a few of this season’s offerings.
Cheese and chocolate is always interesting territory, and Paul’s Port and Stilton truffle is a locally famous example, though not a big hit with me personally. ‘Goats Cheese with Lemon and Rosemary‘ is another matter though. I was expecting something with quite a cheesy tangue and that the rosemary might be overpower the other flavours, as it so often can. Inside the dark coating was a white chocolate ganache with a delicate lemon flavour in perfect balance with the cheese and herb. Weirdly I had a craving for lemon curd while shopping this morning, and this chocolate exactly fulfilled that urge, in a much less sweet cloying way than the real thing.
‘Fresh coconut and stem ginger‘ on the other hand has a sparkling shiny coating of white and cream coloured cocoa butter on a dodecahedral mould. Inside is a soft ganache delivering a ginger hit followed by subtle coconut. The end was a little bitter though and I would have preferred a fruitier dark chocolate for balance.
There is a very light filling at the centre of the flat ‘Jasmin flower and lemongrass’ ganache, which is decorated with coloured speckles. This bonbon has quite a savoury flavour, is low on cream and delicately sweet. The flavours interplay quite subtly creating a ginger note and no bitterness. Lingers nicely,
More lemon now with ‘Pepper mint and lemon ganache‘. Interesting choice and a very runny dark filling, simple straightforward flavours that might be found in a high street collection box, but made with quality ingredients. This shouldn’t work but just about does – the lemon stops the mint being too strong or bitter (as fresh mint sometimes can be), adding freshness without being consciously citric.
The gold sprayed ‘Peanut praline‘ milk chocolate dome contains peanut praline made from peanut paste. This is pretty yummy and sweet though I’d personally prefer more of a punchy fresh peanut flavour.
I finished off with an oldie. ‘Pimms cocktail‘ is one of Paul’s classics and comes with fresh cucumber, strawberry and mint. This round truffle has a full flavour that delivers exactly as advertised, and if anything has improved since Paul first made, now with a more delicate balance of flavours.
Paul’s other new summer flavours are: ‘Blood Peach‘, ‘Mandarin Caramel‘ and ‘Sake and fennel seed‘. I also took away a fabulous but ultimately extremely dangerous ‘Sea-salted caramel‘ bar. This is just too plain delicious and I consumed most of it in one go after dinner last night. Be warned!
Chocolate ice cream
Summer is arriving and most chocolatiers are turning to ice cream as a summer alternative to keep customers flowing into their shops. Unlike most, Paul is sticking strictly to chocolate flavours, keeping the emphasis of the shop solidly on chocolate. The flavour range includes: Sea-salted caramel with 70% dark chocolate, Dark chocolate sorbet, Amedei white chocolate and pistachio, Double chocolate brownie and 70% Valrhona dark chocolate.
I tried the water based and dairy free Chocolate sorbet, topped with nibs and Valrhona dark Pearls and liquid chocolate. Absolute heaven and not too heavy. Will be great for hot summer afternoons, if we ever get any!
Camden Passage, Islington
33 Camden Passage, Islington
London N1 8EA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7424 5750
The Royal Exchange, Bank
20 Royal Exchange, Threadneedle
Street, London EC3V 3LP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7929 7007
Book: Adventures with Chocolate by Paul A Young, Kyle Cathie, London, published October 2009 £16.99, pre-order signed copies from the shops for £12.99.