Which is why I have been doing TOTALLY ESSENTIAL research with my friend Fiona Sciolti who makes THE most beautiful and unusual and fresh and gorgeously proper chocolates.
Fi doesn't cut any corners. Her orange peel is hand-candied (there was a big pot of cooling sweet rinds in the kitchen) and the vanilla pods she uses are soft and lush and the best that India can give up. Made the withered dry sticks I get from the supermarket Morrisons look tatty by comparison.
Fi picked some fresh lavender and mint from her garden.
The candied orange is hand sprinkled in the bar trays so that every bit gives up the flavour and then the divine chocolate mix is piped over. I sampled the Belgian chocolate buttons which are melted to make sure that Fi's claim they're the best were true. I had to sample quite a few.
The Sciolti chocolate factory is compact but everything she needs is there and machines are whirring and reporting temperatures and it's like a small laboratory rather than a kitchen (give or take the gorgeous smells). Fi knocked me up this lovely chocolate pizza heart with freeze dried strawberries and raspberries which are full of sharp taste because only the water has been removed - no vitamins. This lasted about 5 minutes after I'd got home. It's such gorgeous chocolate.
If the chocolate isn't mixed enough or the right temperature to work with you miss out on the gloss, the taste suffers and the snap is affected when you break it. When the bars were turned out and ready to sample, there was plenty of gloss taste and snap, let me assure you. I'm not the best fan of orange in chocolate, but - wow. Beautiful.
The lavender infusion was squeezed through a filter and mixed with chocolate to make a ganache and then handpiped onto trays
Then we stated on the mint thins, chopping up the fresh garden mint, the senses in my nose were in overload. The mint thins were piped onto trays too, then white chocolate was piped over them when they were set into flat circles (how does she get them all the same size?)
I had the duty of licking the spoon (a photo which my son forbade me from putting on facebook)
Then it was back to the truffles. Dipping them in the hot glossy chocolate and covering them in cocoa and icing sugar
Then Fi's lovely man Giles told us lunch was served and we retired to the garden to eat quiche, warm fresh bread and salad in the sunshine, all washed down with a very fruity wine.
I declined a sweet. I had had too many burnt caramel truffles which really are as nice as they sound.
And there we have it - fresh garden mint chocolate thins and Lavender truffles.
And I have some to give away.
All you have to do is answer one simple question.
'Sciolti' means melting... in WHAT LANGUAGE?
(could she have a more appropriate name?)
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll pick out the winner on Sunday from the hat so I can get these fresh babies in the post to you first thing Monday morning. UK only folks
Check out Fi's website as she does the most beautiful chocs as presents and demos, talks and courses.
Good luck all! xx