PURE TASTE Christ­mas Treats

Stephanie Mack­en­tyre meets three Es­sex pro­duc­ers who are will­ing and able to pro­vide some­thing ex­tra spe­cial for your din­ner ta­ble this Christ­mas

Essex Life - - CONTENTS -

Dis­cover some spe­cial tastes for the sea­son

SI­MON HATCHER, Coles Great Ch­ester­ford

Coles is a spe­cial­ist pud­ding man­u­fac­turer based in Saf­fron Walden. The com­pany was orig­i­nally founded as a fam­ily bak­ery in 1939, but be­came part of Wilkin & Sons in 2010. Orig­i­nally from Som­er­set, Si­mon Hatcher has been with the com­pany for more than 20 years and be­gan work­ing for them as a bak­ery su­per­vi­sor. As man­ag­ing direc­tor, since 2017, Si­mon still re­gards the all-im­por­tant pud­ding recipes as be­ing cru­cial to the busi­ness.

‘There are some which we’ve kept from those early be­gin­nings, but we also like to bring new lines in with modern twists ev­ery year,’ says Si­mon.

New for this year is a But­ter­scotch pud­ding, made with dates. This pleas­ingly light pud­ding is topped with a won­der­fully rich but­ter­scotch sauce. Their clas­sic Christ­mas pud­ding, with beer in it, used to be known as the Tra­di­tional, but now it’s branded as the Clas­sic. They also cre­ate own la­bel pud­dings as well as the Coles branded pud­dings. Some other pop­u­lar ones are the brandy pud­ding as well as the Con­nois­seur and Figgy pud­dings too.

‘We sup­ply quite a lot to ham­per com­pa­nies and of­ten the trend is set by them each year. We wouldn’t sell to the larger sup­pli­ers as we pre­fer to deal with the high end spe­cial­ist dis­tributers,’ adds Si­mon. All of their pud­dings are avail­able from Tip­tree Tea­rooms and on­line too. The new But­ter­scotch Pud­ding is also cur­rently avail­able in branches of Lake­land as a de­li­ciously sat­is­fy­ing al­ter­na­tive to the clas­sic Christ­mas pud­ding.

‘We use the finest in­gre­di­ents from all over the world in our mixes, even bak­ing our own bread to en­sure that our ex­act­ing prod­uct spec­i­fi­ca­tions are matched,’ says Si­mon. ‘We do not mass pro­duce, us­ing only a small batch de­liv­ery sys­tem.’

In fact, all the care­fully con­structed recipes are hand­mixed and then the pud­dings are baked for up to eight hours, while be­ing gen­tly steamed to en­sure moist­ness and fresh­ness.

RACHEL RAWL­INGS, Cakes from Rachel in Brain­tree

Of course, not ev­ery­one is a fan of the tra­di­tional Christ­mas pud­ding, so what other op­tions are there? Rachel Rawl­ings runs Cakes From Rachel.

She says: ‘It was re­ally just a hobby that has de­vel­oped. Peo­ple started ask­ing me for cup­cakes for dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing Christ­mas, and it re­ally went from there.’

Her Christ­mas cakes and cup­cakes are now so pop­u­lar that she bakes batches of them each and ev­ery year. Based in Brain­tree, her busi­ness be­gan al­most seven years ago and in Au­gust she moved the busi­ness from her home to a pur­pose-built stu­dio.

‘Now cus­tomers can come and dis­cuss the cakes they’d like in my pro­fes­sional kitchen, which is much bet­ter. I’ve had the hon­our of mak­ing many spe­cial cakes.’

Rachel loves to use her cre­ative flair to come up with some­thing new and a bit dif­fer­ent to adorn your ta­ble. ‘I will turn my hand to nearly any­thing. I do love a chal­lenge, but my ab­so­lute favourite area of cake craft is mak­ing sugar flow­ers and cup­cakes.’

Cus­tomers or­der by phone or in per­son and col­lect their cup­cakes be­fore Christ­mas Day.

‘Ide­ally I try to get peo­ple to come to me to col­lect their cup­cakes. I can de­liver, but I have to charge a fee for it. I don’t re­ally have a limit if some­one is happy to pay the mileage, but to be hon­est I’d rather be bak­ing.’

Her most pop­u­lar cup­cakes are vanilla and Rachel can even per­son­alise each cup cake for a fes­tive treat for each of your fam­ily.

‘I bake all cakes my­self us­ing qual­ity in­gre­di­ents and all my dec­o­ra­tions are hand­made and edi­ble.’

Rachel can also make tra­di­tional Christ­mas cakes, but or­ders need to be in for those by Oc­to­ber but you could be ul­tra-or­gan­ised and get your or­der in now for Christ­mas 2019 per­haps. Each of her cup­cake or­ders are pack­aged in pretty card­board boxes specif­i­cally de­signed to keep the cakes safe dur­ing travel. Of course, flavour is just as im­por­tant as the dec­o­ra­tion.

‘If you want a mix of flavours for your cup­cakes I like them to be in mul­ti­ples of three. So if it’s a box of six I’d do three in say choco­late and three vanilla cakes. If you’re read­ing this and think­ing what a bril­liant idea, but when’s the Christ­mas cut off? I’m happy to re­port I’m busier than ever, but happy to still take or­ders for sponge cakes and Christ­mas cup­cakes cer­tainly in the first week of De­cem­ber at least.’

SARAH KNIGHTS, The Chap­pel Choco­late House in Marks Tey

Once you’ve in­dulged in dessert there’s al­ways a lit­tle space left for some care­fully crafted pe­tit fours. And what bet­ter than some beau­ti­ful­ly­crafted choco­lates hand­made in Es­sex?

Run by choco­latier Sarah Knights, The Chap­pel Choco­late House of­fers not only a shop full of won­der­fully colour­ful, gleam­ing choco­lates to choose from, but also gift vouch­ers for her work­shops and the reg­u­lar choco­late demon­stra­tions she hosts.

As well as dec­o­rat­ing her choco­lates in glossy, vi­brant colours, Sarah cre­ates her own recipes too. Ear­lier this year she won a Great Taste Award for her plum and orange choco­lates.

‘Years ago I used to make a plum and orange crum­ble at Christ­mas time. I’ve done work­shops with the UK Choco­late Acad­emy and the UK Choco­late Mas­ters win­ners and they’re very en­thu­si­as­tic about us­ing herbs and spices to cre­ate your flavour­ings. After one such course I had a eureka mo­ment and thought, if I put star anise and plum to­gether let’s see what it tastes like? It’s re­ally, re­ally nice. I don’t buy any fill­ings as I make them all my­self.’

Sarah opened her own shop in March of this year, prior to that she was mak­ing her choco­late cre­ations from her home work­shop.

‘When the lease came up on this build­ing it was a no brainer; it gives me space for a work­shop, a shop and a kitchen,’ she adds.

Things are go­ing re­ally well with the foot­fall build­ing up and some lo­cal busi­nesses, in­clud­ing New Hall Vine­yard and Pe­ter Watts Wines, also stock­ing Sarah’s fine wares.

‘We’ve made choco­lates to put into their ham­pers for the past two Christ­mases,’ adds Sarah, who is also plan­ning to be at the Braxted Park Christ­mas Mar­ket and also the Cogge­shall and Mark’s Tey Christ­mas Fayres, all on De­cem­ber 1.

‘The bak­ery on Mersea Is­land will be an­other stock­ist of my choco­lates, which is an­other re­ally ex­cit­ing devel­op­ment for us.’

Her re­mark­able choco­lates are dec­o­rated with coloured co­coa but­ters. ‘If you went into one of the top shops in Lon­don you’d see choco­lates like these, or check out Face­book and Pin­ter­est. I en­joy putting a stamp of my per­son­al­ity on my choco­lates.’

Her choco­late cour­ses in­clude lunch or af­ter­noon tea. Each course is half a day and Sarah will also tai­lor cour­ses to spe­cific needs.

‘We can do bake-off style com­pe­ti­tions for hen par­ties and team build­ing too. If some­body wants to try some­thing, just come and have a chat and we’ll see if we can do it.’

These treats are just the kind of ad­di­tion to take your Christ­mas from fab­u­lous to spec­tac­u­lar this year.

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