Three months ago chocolatier Damian Allsop, former head pastry chef at Locanda Locatelli, set up his own company after developing an advanced technique of chocolate-making. He's just launched his first range of gastronomic chocolates and speaks to Joanna Wood
What's special about your chocolates?
They're made using water instead of cream - I'm pretty sure we're the only company in the UK making water-based chocolates.
Why did you experiment with water?
About six years ago when I was working with Giorgio Locatelli, the Italian chocolate producer Amadei sent me some chocolate which, when I tasted it raw, was amazing. It had a fantastic flavour profile but that was lost in the process of creating a chocolate mousse. It got me thinking and completely changed the way I looked at dishes. I realised I needed to change the way I worked with chocolate.
Why did you choose water?
Cream is an incredibly strong flavour - it's the lactic acid - and when I thought about a substitute I realised I needed something that was neutral. Water's already present in cream anyway, so it was an easy move to make. Think about the difference in taste when you drink a glass of milk and a glass of water.
Don't you need a fat of some kind when you're working with chocolate?
Yes - and we're using sunflower oil as our solid substitute. It's also a neutral flavour and has the added side effect of being low in saturated fat, so it makes our chocolates healthier and easier to digest because you don't get the lactic build-up. You can eat more of them and not feel sick!
What flavourings are you using in your ganaches?
At the moment, we're doing accessible flavours. Mint, for instance, made with fresh mint leaves, hazelnut, made with a purée of Piedmonte hazelnuts and a touch of salt - a single malt whisky, and single-estate chocolate ganache salted liquorice - which is a bit Scandinavian - pear and anise.
Are you supplying anyone we know?
We've been lucky enough to get the Square, Browns and Zafferano [all central London] on our books so far. And we're working on some bespoke chocolates for Tom Kerridge at the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, based on a ganache made with beer from the local Rebellion brewery. Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House [also Marlow] has also asked us to look at some bespoke chocolates based on teas.
Sounds like you've got Marlow sorted
Our production unit is in Marlow and my partner Anna Hernandez Piserrer - who I met when we worked with Jordi Rocca in Barcelona - and I live there too. It's just the two of us on the team. We're doing about 30-40kg a week at the moment - it's early days - but we could probably reach around 150kg before thinking of taking on anyone else.