Baking with Melanie Andrews
So many Chocolates to choose from and all different prices and sizes , not to mention who is the best, world best, ethical or multi award winning this year !!! Its a minefield out there for us Chocoholics ( Not experts by any manner of means ), so i decided to do a bit of research in the last couple of weeks . I think its fair to say that i have a fair amount of knowledge where Chocolate is concerned , however i decided to base my research on the consumer point of view and not the "Experts" point of view . The consumer after all is the one buying the Chocolates , is it not? In this modern world of social media , our producers of all types of food begin to believe in there own hype and media posts, to the point where the social media is the animal that sells the product whether it is any good or not . So my question one day was - Who actually does produce the Best Chocolates in Scotland at this moment in time ?
I can honestly say that after consuming nearly 300 Chocolates in the last week or so , i am now an Expert !!
I chose to have the highend stores compete against the Artisan Chocolatiers that we hear the most about in 5 different categories as follows:
2. Quality/ Use of Ingredients
5. Presentation/ Packaging /Box
The Competing Scottish Stores and Artisan Chocolatiers were-
1. CocoaMo - Argyll
2. Kimbles - Glasgow
3. Waitrose - Helensburgh
4. Cocoa Black - Scottish Borders
5. The Highland Chocolatier - Perthshire
6. The Chocolate Tree - Edinburgh
7. Marks and Spencer - Aberdeen Store
These 7 are only a very few of the advertising Chocolatiers that exist in this country to date , but are the 7 i have picked out after my own research . It is by no means an extensive list but a personal list due to time restrictions .
All were marked out of a possible 25 points and there were some incredible Chocolates by all the entrants but hands down on every single category my outright winner by a million miles was the UK World Chocolate Master - Ruth Hinks from Cocoa Black . I have to say i have never tried Cocoa Blacks Chocolates before and have only had Cake and Hot Chocolate in the shop in Peebles . I was interested to see whether as a consumer the Bean to Bar Chocolate would be a better flavour and all round chocolate but quickly learned that making Chocolates taste this good is more than just sourcing a good bean . This type of Chocolate making requires a unique skill , understanding of flavours, textures and most importantly being able to combine all this with originality . I am a traditional Chocolate eater and absolutely despise seeing every little chocolate in a beautiful box uniformly cut to size to all look the same . When you open a box of Cocoa Blacks Chocolates they are all different to look at and to tast and the textures are quite unique. I was quite simply blown away by the subtle flavours ( of which you did not need a card to tell you what they were! )and the amazing different textures in each individual Chocolate . The colours , The design on each one and importantly to me , the freshness of each Chocolate . This is quite an achievement for online bought Chocolates to be as fresh as they were . The Packaging was simply black which is fitting to the name ( Although not the best packaging i researched ) and was overshadowed by the contents anyway . The sleeve on the box was the Chocolate selection card which i would have preferred to see in the box but this is quite simply not important when you know the Chocolates that you are about to experience. So this is my point really - The best marketing , most expensive, branding , packaging and media hype does not neccessarily mean you are getting the best Chocolates . Incidentally out of the 7 i researched Cocoa Blacks were the 3 rd cheapest to buy per average Chocolate at £1-16 each. I honestly dont think my review on Ruth Hinks Chocolates can in any way express my pleasure in finding such a brilliant Master at the top of her Game . Keep up this standard no matter how big you become and you will have my backing all the way . Now onto my next challenge .
I am absolutely delighted to finally announce the forthcoming Spanish Connection in the World of Artisan Baking .
I will now be dividing my time between My beloved Homeland of Scotland and my long love that is Spain .
Over the last few years i have seen the growth in Artisan Baking in pockets all over Spain and i am now delighted
to be a part of this enterprising future . In the next 12 months i have my work cut out as i will be starting a new
" Spanish Baking Awards " in conjunction with the existing successful " Scottish Baking Awards" . My eventual
aim will be to have a worldwide Awards system that includes all the main countries competing . The diverse and
amazing different styles of baking that exists in every country in such to be celebrated and learned from. Muchas
Gracias to all my Spanish counterparts that have helped me and supported me massively in even getting this far .
Watch this space folks . !!
A Challenge was set to 5 Professional Bakers to produce mouthwatering Cakes and Pastries without any refined or unrefined sugars on the 24th April 2016 at Melanie's Tearoom - Craigard Tearoom in Helensburgh . Could it be done ? Over 300 pieces of Baking were eaten in just under 3 hours and the result was a resounding YES ! With the Government issuing a Sugar Tax, Melanie wondered if the Baking industry could survive should sugar be taxed on all things sweet . The answer was a resounding YES . The Cakes and Chocolates produced by Master Baker Melanie , CocoMo Artisan Chocolatier , The Tea Jenny , Pastisserie Chef at Knockderry House Hotel and Kris at My Home Bakery In Hyndland were absolutely brilliant and proved that refined sugars are not necessary to produce mouthwatering Bakes. Now for our next challenge ???
Melanie Andrews has successfully managed to teach another class of under 16 year olds to complete her "Free" Cook and Bake course at Craigard Tearoom. All the students ranging from 11 to 15 all sat and passed their Basic food Hygiene course and now can add this to their list of achievements . They were taught the names and uses of over 100 fruit and vegetables and how to prepare them. They made sweet and savoury Pastry , Quiche , Apple tarts, Wheaten bread , Meringues and finally sat their exam after 6 weeks . All passed with their very own Cook and Bake school certificates.
A great start to the new year 2016 for Masterbaker and Novelist - Melanie Andrews . She has just one the Scottish Category for the
World Gourmand Cookbook Awards with her most recent Baking book - Baking with Melanie Andrews.
The next stage is now automatic and Melanie is now attending the World Cookbook Awards in Bejing this May 2016. As a special celebration we are now selling this great edition of her book at half price on all our websites. - at www.scottishbakingawards.co.uk www.craigard-tearoom.co.uk www.melanieandrews.co.uk .
Melanie Andrews meets His Royal Highness Prince of Wales at a dinner at Dumfries House September 2015.
Next weekend i will be travelling through the West coast and central Scotland and sampling some of our best Scottish Hideaways . I will be experiencing what our Tourists recieve for there money in this glorious part of the world. This year as we know is Scotland's Year of Food and Drink , and it is plentiful in some of the most remote corners of the West Coast . I am also honoured to be invited to Dumfries House this week for Dinner with none other than Prince Charles. Dumfries House has been carefully and lovingly restored back to its former glory by His Royal Highness Prince Charles. The dinner is to celebrate the opening of the newly restored House and to celebrate Scotland's Year of Food and Drink. So a full week ahead of fine dining - will my waist band hold up ? I will be posting my reviews here very soon .