Sake and fennel seed truffles. Dark chocolate with dehydrated sourdough. Beef dripping and goose fat caramel truffles. These are some of the crazy combinations Paul Young has created for his chocolates.
The chocolatier opened his first shop, Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, in Islington in 2006. Since then, his experiments with colour, shape, texture and flavour have allowed him to open two more London locations.
Food Spark caught up with him in his Soho store to find out what he thinks will be the next big things in chocolate.
While fruit has been done to death, there can still be inventive ways to incorporate it, according to Young, who has developed a peach bellini chocolate with a peach reduction and prosecco ganache.
This is where Young predicts a bright future: taking a dessert or drink into chocolate form.
“I’ve just done a walnut and coffee cake truffle product development,” he notes. “So taking desserts, cakes and the things people have around afternoon tea into chocolates – they are the things that are going to be bigger. Taking the things people are familiar with but into chocolate, so it could be a cake, a tart, a drink.
“We are bringing back the tea and biscuit truffle, which is a milky Yorkshire Tea ganache with biscuit coating. So lots of comforting, familiar things and lots of nostalgia. Nostalgia sells chocolate.”
Around the world
International inspiration and flavour is starting to make its mark on chocolate, but Young insists it has to be authentic. He has a trip to India next month where he will gather ideas, ingredients and spices.
Currently, Young is developing a Middle Eastern-inspired harissa caramel chocolate.
“We are not buying harissa ready-made. We made our own harissa blend from raw spices, so we are open to everything from all around the world,” he says.
It doesn’t stop at spices either, with Young evolving basmati rice into a sweet.
“If you think about the flavour of basmati rice, it’s so fragrant and perfumed. We can make a rice pudding with it and blend it up and use the water from the boiled rice, which adds all the fragrance and taste to it. There is no reason why it can’t be introduced; we just do it in a different way.”
Chocolate is just as subject to the increasing consumer desire for provenance and transparency as other goods. Young believes more products will identify growers, as well as a push to use more British ingredients.
“I think there will be trend in using chocolate from smaller plantations, naming the variety of the beans, the plantations and the people who grew it, so a little bit more provenance and detail of where it’s from,” he says.
“I think giving the product a name on who has made the ingredients could be big – it’s giving it personality. It’s not necessarily the flavours that are going to be popular, but I think it’s going to be the provenance of ingredients and reducing air miles and wastage that are going to big.”
Young plans to buy cocoa from up-and-coming growers who are planting heritage beans that have been dying out. Buying direct from the grower, rather than from the middle man, is going to increase a lot for ethical reasons.
“Eliminating any kind of child labour and trafficking in cocoa – like all commodities, that will be on a lot more products. I just got chocolate sent from Japan and it’s the first time I’ve seen it – I don’t think we have this in UK – but it’s got a logo that says its child-labour free… That kind of thing is going to be important,” he explains.
With a long lead time required for product development, Young is already working on his Christmas and Easter range for next year.
Tradition still dictates when it comes to Christmas cheer. You can’t play with Christmas chocolates too much, says Young, but he is looking at all the wintery ingredients that give people the signature Yuletide cheer, like winter warming spices and fruits as well as alcohol. There will be lots of booze, he assures us.
With Easter, you can’t reinvent the egg, according to Young, but it will be bright and colourful.
“I think colour in chocolate is very big right now and it will continue growing. Chocolate is brown and it’s beautiful, but it’s about eye appeal and shiny, sparkly things. Our summer and spring collections are lighter and brighter with florals and herbs,” he says.
The sugar tax is one concern that Young admits he is worried about, particularly if the government extends its reach and requires businesses like his to put the traffic-light system on his products.
“Every one of my products would be red. Red for fat, red for sugar – not for salt maybe. But you look at it and the cocoa bean is held together naturally by fat, like an olive. I’m worried about that; as a chocolate shop, bakery or patisserie you are not going in for a low-fat product. You can’t, that’s how it’s made, so it’s a big subject and I think it’s down to individual choice,” he says.
“The traffic-light system also doesn’t look nice, it’s not very gifting. I can understand the methodology behind it, but I think there are better ways to approach it.”