“Joan Bendix was not so serious-minded as not to have a healthy … interest in good chocolates”

 -Anthony Berkeley, The Poisoned Chocolates Case

 

The Poisoned Chocolates Case is a classic 1929 who-dunnit in which a crime club pits its wits against the police to solve a seemingly unsolvable case. A box of chocolates is delivered as a sample to a respectable member of a respectable london club. It’s not wanted and given away to a man who passes them onto his wife… the unfortunate Joan Bendix. She might not have been serious-minded about her chocolates but nowadays many people are and the quality of the chocolate available is the better for it.

The Best Chocolate Truffles In The World are made by a friend of mine. My beloved solicited her for the recipe and I am thankful to her for refusing his request – she politely explained it was a secret  she was passing on to her niece in her will.

I know making chocolate truffles is a complex and skilled process involving skilled tempering and the use of thermometers, so when I run out of her exquisite morsels I have to go down the ‘bought’ route.

A French friend keeps me in truffle funds with Maison du Chocolat, while an English pal buys me Rococo. Both are excellent. Browsing through the food market at Lyon in the summer I came upon some astonishing gold-flecked chocolates by Richart – also good.

And then in Amsterdam last week I found Puccini.

I stepped over the threshold of the shop and was bowled over by the aroma – it surprised, swirled and surrounded in the most sensuous way. Inhaling deeply I advanced towards the treasure laden counter. The chocolates here are about twice the size of normal chocolates, each one a treat in its own right, sufficient in itself.

 

The best chocolates

Puccini chocolates – possibly the best in the world

I selected three fruit-flavoured specimens:

  • Plum
  • Rhubarb
  • Cranberry

All were orgasmic, but for me it was the rhubarb which won gold. These chocolates beat my ‘usuals’ hands down. For more information about Puccini chocolates go here.

 

Successful chocolate combinations:

Chocolate goes extremely well with fruit – the clean acidic fruit cuts through the could-be-cloying chocolate perfectly, but as Niki Segnit comments in her Food Thesaurus, you should be wary of the reflex pairing of chocolate with raspberry.

“All very well if there’s enough cream to smooth the transition between the two, but if there’s not, or if the raspberries aren’t perfectly ripe, the combination is like being offered a soothing cuddle only to be pinched hard on the fleshy underside of your arm”

These are some of the best chocolate flavour combinations:

  • Plum – try Royal Opera House chocolate mousse with plums poached in crème de cassis
  • Rhubarb – grate some dark chocolate onto a rhubarb sensible
  • Cranberry – mix together in cranberry and dark chocolate cookies
  • Raspberry – substitute for dried cranberries in the cookies above, or, as Niki Segnit suggests, try Valrhona Manjari chocolate, or Amano Madagascar. Also, be wary, see quote above
  • Cherry – go for magnificent Black Forest Gâteau
  • Lemon – idea from Joël Robuchon – dip lemon madeleines into petits pots au chocolat
  • Orange – try a Terry’s chocolate orange
  • Peanuts – last year the UK’s favourite confectionary was peanut M and Ms, while in the States the number two favourite was Reese’s peanut butter cups and the number four favourite was Snickers
  • Coffee – try the north Italian Torta Barozzi

And some savoury combinations:

 

This post is dedicated to Rachel Cunynghame.