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Great Chocolates of the North

By: Jane Williams in Food and Drink, our story

When I heard that the Great Exhibition of the North would be coming to Newcastle in 2018, I felt inspired to create chocolates celebrating the heritage of the region. These events only come round once in a life time, the last time it came to town was 1929. I am also celebrating a personal anniversary, having lived on Tyneside for 10 years. Once a stranger, I notice that the North East now feels very much home. Special events and milestones give cause for celebration and reflection, and these have been the root of my desire to connect with the culinary heritage of the region, and celebrate with some new chocolate recipes.

I’ve come across many local delicacies (or not!) during my time here which are specific to the North East, and my foodie vocabulary has extended to represent the likes of Stotties, Pease Pudding, Pan Haggerty and Saveloy Dip. (You can catch up with a few recipes here!) Historically, the food that is associated with the city is working class food, filling and satisfying. Not the case now, with catches of local fish, and a wealth of exciting chefs creating exceptionally fine restaurants. Today there is an exciting food scene, and  meeting other entrepreneurs and craftsmen and women is one of my favourite things about working in the artisan food sector. Looking beyond the city, Northumberland has a distinguished past, with some of the many castles in the region playing home to some of the richest English noblemen, such as the beautiful Alnwick Castle, or Bamburgh. And undoubtably some of the most stoic and hardy countryfolk, who have borne harsh winters and the challenges of farming through the centuries. It is a  fascinating region, and I have relished trying to encapsulate some of the essence of it through my favourite medium of chocolate.

I was tempted at the start to create some quirky, wild and wonderful flavour combinations. A Beef Gravy Stottie perhaps, or a Ham & Pease Pudding chocolate. However, I reigned those thoughts in. Although I have come across Marmite chocolate, and various other intriguing flavours, they would never be chocolates that hold a favourite place in my heart. The flavours that I wanted to find needed to meld naturally with the warm and rich tones of chocolate, and once discovered, seem like they have always been a pairing.

Singing Hinnys have been one of the only ‘sweet’ dishes associated with the region, and I decided to begin experimenting here. As Wikepedia outlines, a Singing Hinny is a rich Northumbrian Drop Scone, each side cooked in turn on a hot griddle. It  dates back to cooking traditions of Northumberland coal miners’ families in the nineteenth century. John Brockett in his Glossary of North Country Terms (1825) describes Singing Hinny as ‘a kneaded spice cake baked on the girdle; indispensable in a pitman’s family’. It is then served with melted butter and a sprinkle of sugar. Delicious. There’s a good recipe here if you’d like to make them.

‘Hinny’ is a term of endearment, from ‘honey’ and I’ve often been on the receiving end by the kind Geordie folk. (Along with ‘ee Pet, Flower, Petal…). The Lollipop man helping us across the road on the school run. The lady at the post office. A courier just dropped off a parcel at the factory this morning saying “What’s your name, hin?”. And the ‘Singing’ refers to the sizzle as it cooks. While I can’t create a chocolate that sings, I came up with a recipe for a white chocolate truffle, dotted with raisin and shortbread crumb. It evokes the flavour of the ‘Singing Hinny’, and with a coating of smooth milk chocolate, I finished it off with a dusting of sugar, which give a little crunch against the soft truffle. We decided to feature a North East invention on the packaging. Stephenson’s Rocket returns to Newcastle for the Great Exhibition of the North, and will be hosted at the Science Museum.

A rich, nutty, malty flavour that I also envisaged melding well with chocolate was a Brown Ale. Made from 100% brown malts, which are distinctly chocolately, I feel like this chocolate is a perfect match. Brown Ale was first made in England in the 1700s. Colonel Porter concocted a Newcastle Brown Ale in 1929, which has become synonymous with the city. Today, several local craft brewers have created wonderful new versions, such as Cameron’s Brewery.

If you have ever made a ganache truffle, and as I often mention during tutorials or workshops, you can use any liquid to create a chocolate emulsion. However, even with the depth of flavour of the Brown Ale, it was still overpowered by the dark chocolate on my first attempt. I decided to boost the flavour by using roasted chocolate malt hops, and using a lighter milk chocolate to enrobe the centre in, and the balance is just right. I hope you will enjoy Brown ale in a chocolatey mouthful. We celebrated the heritage of this recipe with an image of the Tyne Bridge on the packaging, celebrating its 90th Birthday this year.

The trio finishes with an Earl Grey Truffle. I am very pleased that this is being stocked at Howick Hall Tea Rooms, home of the Grey family. The 2nd Earl Grey was a very influential figure, serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834, which tenure saw the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. There is a good explanation about how this flavour of tea bears his name on Seven Cups. Upon moving to Newcastle, Grey’s Monument served as a beacon for navigation as I began to learn my way around the city. For his political legacy, his legacy in our enjoyment of tea, and for the celebration of Northumberland it seems a fitting flavour to represent the region.  The slightly smoky tea has fresh citrus notes of bergamot, and blends beautifully with milk chocolate in this smooth ganache.

Our celebration of the region has been looking back at the rich heritage of the area, and we also wanted to reflect this in the style of packaging. Michael ‘design guru’ Williams (aka my husband) came up with some ‘olde worlde’ design that look like they would have been around when Stephenson’s Rocket was built. They have an old fashioned charm, and you will also see his humour come through when you read some of the text “If patrons wish to engage us with due deference, we can be reached via a variety of societal broadcasting mediums…” (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc) and “Your electrical devices can reach our famously celebrated steam powered website at: www.davenportschocolates.co.uk/”. It made us chuckle.

 

We’ve been delighted that so many stockists have quickly got behind our new chocolates, and we had great feedback from our launch and tasting session in Fenwicks Newcastle. in May 2018

Elsewhere, we’ve been thrilled to partner with a number of local stockists, including The BalticHowick Hall, Woodhorn Museum, Tullys of Rothbury, The Castle Keep, Small World Cafe (Hexham), The Corbridge Larder, Rehills of Jesmond, Skumshus, the Deli Round the Corner (Tynemouth) and Gateshead Central Library Giftshop.

Of course, you can order them from your armchair too, from www.davenportschocolates.co.uk/north-east.asp @ £6 per box. I really hope they will be enjoyed! Thanks for reading, love Jane x

 

 

 

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