Chocolate and bits ready for Putney

Boxes of chocolate, cup and cake stands ready for the first Christmas Event...
Boxes of chocolate, cup and cake stands ready for the first Christmas Event…

All the playing in the kitchen complete, chocolates boxed up and keeping cool. Just about to leave for Putney and have lunch with my sister prior to the big event.

All very exciting……

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Packing up for PLTC Christmas fair

After a busy 10 days in the kitchen with the delightful smell of chocolate, cocoa, caramel, biscotti and more wafting through the place I am now packing up for the inaugural Christmas Fair at Putney Lawn Tennis Club.

I will then be at home on more familiar ground in Oxford at 52 Hurst Rise Road, Oxford OX2 9HQ on Saturday 29th November from 11.00 am – 1.00pm for tasting, purchase and ordering for Christmas.

Jozie and I have spent a happy couple of hours with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp in Chocolat – hard to believe that in this household  it was her first viewing!

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Is it Salami? Where’s the chocolate?

This chocolate salami is inspired by a recipe in Chantal Coady’s book “Mastering the Art of Chocolate”. When I turned the page and saw salami I almost laughed out loud!

I have tried a number of combinations and this is the latest iteration. It is dairy free and is currently be tested by someone who recently had to give up dairy products and would still like to be able to eat chocolates from my kitchen. Fingers crossed they come out of testing with flying colours.


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Chocolate biscotti, great with morning coffee

Biscotti day today. When making all things chocolate you generate bits of ‘waste’ chocolate. Not waste exactly, as I really don’t like throwing away good chocolate, but chocolate that hasn’t been used and needs a good recipe. The first time I made these biscotti it was with a big tin of waste chocolate. They all got eaten very quickly.

However, wastage cannot keep up with the demand for these and I have used blocks of chocolate (for this Christmas Valrhona’s Manjari, my favourite chocolate for just eating). They take nearly all day to gently dry out in a cool oven and so the smell of baking and chocolate has pervaded the house.

Had to get it packaged quick or too much QC testing would have meant none left for selling!

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Almond and Hazelnut bites on their way in and out of the oven

I’ve been in the kitchen without an ounce of chocolate to be seen. These little bites are inspired by some fabulous soft almond amaretti biscuits we had on the island of Gozo a few summers ago. It took quite a few batches to get the mix and temperatures right – I brought a packet back and each time a tray came out of the oven they were tested against these. This is what we ended up with – not identical to the Gozo version but our Oxford version and pretty good too.

They are a particular favourite: I remember one evening that summer of many batches bringing out a tin to have with after supper coffee. It sat between Robin and Ian who gave me great feedback – not one left by the time they had finished their drinks!

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Chocolate ingredients ready to go…

Ingredients from the store cupboard - what's not to like?
Ingredients from the store cupboard – what’s not to like?

The cupboards are full of good stuff ready to make indulgent treats for Christmas. Easy bit done (the shopping!) Soon the house will fill the the smell of chocolate, my quality controllers will wander in and out of the kitchen and the bowl of “fair game rejects” will appear, then the contents will disappear….

More tricky is the website and Facebook page. This morning has been spent (unsuccessfully) trying to link these posts to Jill’s Chocs FB page. Maybe this one will work!

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Preparing for Christmas production

Yesterday I spent the day playing as an important part of the preparation for Christmas. Made honeycomb, got chocolate crumbed ready for ganache production and created serried ranks of  apricots. And I couldn’t resist the first bit of Christmas sparkle with gold stars on the buttons!

Chocolate is funny stuff and sometimes it just doesn’t behave – I always need a few days to get back into practice. All went well, I didn’t burn the honeycomb (easily done and long remembered as the extractor fan struggles to remove the smell!) and happy family wandering in and out of the kitchen on quality control duty.

I also thought it would be good to have a few more pictures and so had Jozie standing over me with her camera. She also did a great job of some ‘still life’ shots for the ingredients page.

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Getting up and running

Chilli ganache piped and ready for coating!
Chilli ganache piped and ready for coating!

Being in the kitchen playing with chocolate is a doddle compared to working out WordPress for this website (hence comforting chocolate picture above).

I have the bizarre situation where every now and again, when I use my email address, a picture of Mike (my other half) pops up with it. It has taken me a while to work this all out but I don’t think I will appear as a bloke named Jill any longer! Not that there should be anything to be concerned about being a bloke named Jill…….

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