My first encounter with Rococo chocolate was a few years ago, but I was instantly smitten, just like the tag line says “once bitten, truly smitten”. If I am going to splurge on chocolate Rococo is the brand I will choose. Ethically and sustainably produced, properly crafted and absolutely delicious.
My favourite bar is Arabic Spices – dark chocolate mixed with a heady fragrant cocktail of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Although any visit to the website will have me in a quandary, it can be tough to decide because so many of them look and sound delicious. This is chocolate I allow to slowly melt in my mouth, to savor, rather than cramming it in chunk after chunk.
The only disappointment I have ever suffered at the hands of this brand was when I bought three floral bars (they were mini ones in a gift pack) – one rose, one violet and one jasmine. I figured if anyone could persuade me that chocolate that tasted of flowers was delicious it was Rococo. I should mention that I have, for years, frowned with derision at my Mum’s fondness for rose and violet creams and the mere mention of Parma Violets or floral gems – disgusting creations from my childhood – will have my face contorting unattractively in seconds.
Sadly even this fine crafted chocolate could not change my mind and my Mum, much to her delight, was the lucky recipient of the aforementioned bars (with only one square missing from each).
So when I came across the book, heavily discounted in a local store, I had to buy it.
Never judge a book by its cover, isn’t that what they say?
To be honest, it’s pretty difficult not to judge Rococo by first impressions.
Number one – it comes in a box. A. Box. A sealed-in-cellophane-so-you-can’t-peek-inside-it box.
Number two – the covers are padded.
Number three – its pages are edged in glorious pink and it has three ribbons. Three. Only confident cook books have three ribbons. Three ribbons says “yeah, there is so much good stuff in here you are going to struggle to pick a favourite”.
It oozes confidence, is outwardly sophisticated but yet gives a nod to frivolity. As first impressions go, Rococo is making a pretty bold one.
The inside covers are decorated with copies of Rococo’s signature blue and white paper – designed by Chantal herself from a book of Victorian moulds. The pages are thick and glossy, the contents dedicated to a late chocolate activist (I never knew there was such a thing) and all the people working at the Grenada Chocolate Company, which is where Rococo gets most of its chocolate from.
It starts, as most cook books do, with an introduction – how Chantal came to set up Rococo and why.
Born in Tehran, Chantal moved to London at the age of six when her father secured a post at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. At Christmas Chantal and her four siblings were expected to partake in the ritual of a Christmas Day ward round, where they would receive a big box of chocolates from the patients. But the contents were usually inedible and covered in a white bloom. From this experience the seed was sown and Chantal decided to create an idyllic chocolate experience.
Whilst studying at St. Martin’s School of Art, and subsequently Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, she got a job on one of the chocolate counters in Harrods and it was whilst there that she started to dream about having her own chocolate shop.
In 1983, at the age of 23, she opened her first store on the King’s Road in Chelsea. There are now 4 Rococo stores – 3 in London and 1 in Chester – and Rococo chocolate can be found in quality retailers country-wide.
- Bonbons, Bites & Bars
- Decorating Chocolate
- Desserts, Sauces, Drinks & Ice Creams
- Tarts & Pastries
- Cakes, Bakes & Biscuits
- Savoury Chocolate
- Equipment, Techniques & Ingredients
Now, I’ll be honest, if you are a little faint of heart with regards to chocolate making then the first three chapters could be a little intimidating. There is talk of tempering, the proper way, using a tempering machine rather than the comparatively gung-ho method of melting two-thirds of the chocolate then adding the rest and stirring until it is all liquid, which you may or may not stick a thermometer in to. There’s cocoa butter transfers and spray guns to get a textured velvety texture. Some serious kit required then if you are to attempt these recipes and in any way do them justice. A metal frame to create a Chablon? Okay then. But in fairness, this is serious chocolate so expect serious recipes (although I suspect with a little ingenuity you could find alternative equipment and still experience delicious results, but you didn’t hear that from me).
However fear not, for as soon as you stray into Desserts, Sauces, Drinks and Ice Creams you are in much safer territory. That’s not to say that everything in the previous three chapters is completely unachievable – it’s not. There are recipes of various levels – the chocolate salami, for example, requires nothing more complex than some greaseproof paper and string. It is just that from here on in things feel more familiar – chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, chocolate roulade, chocolate tart, several flour-less chocolate cakes and many more. I don’t think there are many chocolate recipes that aren’t included, including a few I’d never heard of before (there is a gorgeous looking Cassata Serrilli – ricotta mixed with fruit, chocolate and sponge, sandwiched between two thick layers of homemade pistachio marzipan – and yes, it is green – that I am desperate to try).
But the chapter than intrigues me the most is the savoury one.
We are all familiar now with the notion of adding chocolate to chilli-con-carne, but you won’t find that here. Instead how about chocolate and rabbit? Or with pumpkin or fennel? Olive chocolate tapenade? Or even cause controversy at your next dinner party by serving chunks of goats cheese, Pecorino, feta, Stilton or Camembert on wafer thin discs of chocolate as canapes.
In this case you can.
This is a cook book that is just as decadent as the chocolate Rococo produces and sells. The glossy photos will have you salivating and the flavour combinations are inspiring.
Quite frankly I think it needs more than three ribbons.