There’s only one way I want to meet the Easter bunny – in a dish with a mustard sauce. The FT Weekend politburo, understanding this column’s agenda, suggested a very grown-up Easter egg tasting. No Smarties, no Milky Ways, no Creme Eggs – just a wall of cocoa solids. Yippee. We leave it to other FT directorates to explain today’s unusually high cocoa prices. We’re simply seeking an agreeable, sophisticated Easter present.
Assisting the quest were the Michelin Snapper (MS), the Gourmet Celeb (GC), the Discerning Litigator (DL) and the Gluttonous Pig (GP). The last’s nostrils were seen to be positively quivering at the prospect of legitimately consuming so much confectionery. Lined up on the table were 11 premium eggs, all beautifully presented by their chocolate architects.
We did not specify whether we wanted milk or dark chocolate. In the event, there were two made from milk chocolate and they suffered badly by comparison with their strong, dark cousins. In a blind tasting they occupied the 10th and bottom places. These two eggs were mostly acceptable, but, with their level of cocoa solids averaging 40 per cent, what chance did they have to compete? Their higher levels of sugar and diluted cocoa meant they simply lacked that bittersweet quality that an adult palate demands.
Prestat’s Marc de Champagne Truffle Easter Egg claimed a “velvety milk chocolate shell”. Possibly true, but the panel marked it down: “too sugary” (MS); “sickly pale” (GP). The Chococo Heavenly Honeycombe Egg, from the Purbeck Chocolate Company in Dorset, did indeed have the imaginative addition of honeycomb in its shell but, again, the milk chocolate didn’t quite stand up: “cardboardy aftertaste” (GP).
We are much more conscious of provenance today than in the past. Thus several of the eggs declared the variety of cocoa bean, the country of origin, whether the plantation was organic and if the product had earned Fairtrade certification. In third place was Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70 per cent Thick Shelled Chocolate Egg which listed its bean as the Trinitario, superior to the more bog-standard Forastero. As with grapes and wine, the better the cocoa bean, the more profound the flavour: “good mouthfeel”(DL); “delicious hefty cocoa taste” (GC).
Second equal came an extraordinary offering, the Colossal Egg from Fortnum & Mason. This was comprised of five different flavoured eggs, diminishing in size and contained within one another: “a Russian doll” (GC); “strange flavours – a mystery wrapped in an enigma” (GP). There was enough chocolate to feed a regiment, but not every flavour met with approval. The Discerning Litigator questioned the mint oil used, while the Michelin Snapper found another too herbal for his liking. But an ambitious, spectacular egg all the same.
Joint second was Artisan du Chocolat’s Wrapped Up Egg filled with liquid salted caramels. This chocolate house virtually invented salted caramel and it knows how to balance the saline with the sweet perfectly, unlike a few imitations we suffered from elsewhere. This was a beautiful egg nestling in faux wrapping also made of chocolate: “spectacular” (MS); “superb” (DL).
And our winner was the small but perfectly formed Rococo Dark Chocolate Foiled Easter Egg filled with three ganaches. A lovely egg in a very pretty box: “low sugar and nicely balanced” (GC); “the one I’d like tonight” (MS).
Next week: Paul Betts returns with Some Like It Haute.What would you like the Taste Test panel to investigate? E-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dark Chocolate Foiled Easter Egg no. 1, £9.95 (70g), www.rococochocolates.com
2= Fortnum & Mason
The Colossal Egg, £85 (1.4kg), www.fortnumandmason.com
2= Artisan du Chocolat
Wrapped Up Egg, £29.50 (600g), www.artisanduchocolat.com (in-store collection only)
3. Green & Black’s
(Egg from the Essential Dark Easter collection) £25, www.greenandblacksdirect.com