A Chocolate Proposal

I’m often surprised by the requests that come through to my inbox, but this one simply delighted me.

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A lovely client wanted to propose to his girlfriend with a bespoke chocolate engagement ring, within a bespoke chocolate ring box. He sent me her ring size and some other specifications, and I suggested we use an edible diamond to give it that essential sparkle.

The ring is made from dark chocolate, nestled on top of a marzipan cushion. It sits within a white chocolate box that is adorned with delicate pink hearts and gold detailing.

It’s really something special to be a small part of the personal moments in people’s lives. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

The best part is that she said yes (how could you refuse a chocolate ring?)!

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First of all thank you very much again for making this beautiful chocolate ring and ring box! My fiancé absolutely loves it! Everyone we’ve shown photos of the ring makes compliments on how amazing it looks. Thank you very, very much!!

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If you’d like to discuss your own bespoke chocolate piece, please get in touch.

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Kokopelli’s turns two

It’s been a rapid two years since I launched Kokopelli’s Chocolate. The time has flown – it seems not so long ago we celebrated our 1st birthday. It’s been a busy second year.

We have run more than 40 chocolate-making and tasting workshops this year, most of which have been private parties for children’s birthdays, hen parties, corporate team-building events, one-to-one tuition, and ‘just because’. We have worked with other organisations to teach public classes too, including The Make Lounge (sadly now closed), Mrs Moore’s Makes and Bakes, I Made It Myself, LJCC, JW3 and others. We have run hands-on demonstrations at Gefiltefest and for many hundreds (!) at the breathtaking BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, and we have worked with West Hampstead Community Centre to put on free chocolate workshops at Halloween and Easter for local children. We have even gone into primary schools to run chocolate workshops in their classrooms.IMG_0183smtext

As well as these regular events, we ran a wildly successful Edible Cinema event in partnership with JW3, where we screened a cute, romantic French film set in a chocolate factory and created a range of chocolates and other sensory experiences for the audience to mirror what was happening onscreen. We had lemon chocolates, pink peppercorn bark, green tea chocolate, a melt-in-the-mouth ganache, paprika ganache, a sweet-smelling rose for everyone, indoor rain and much more… It sold out in double-time.

We have continued to sell our treats online, to local shops, and at a range of markets, including The Chocolate Festival, as well as in smart City offices, and smaller events such as the launch of a book about the history of chocolate.

A clutch of new products made their way into the online shop over the year in the form of our Matcha Bar, Chocolate Gingers, Passionfruit Caramels, Fudgy Bites, Chocolate Lollipops and last but definitely not least, our beloved Fortune-Telling Cats which fly out of the shop like buttered hotcakes.
Holidays and events throughout the year have given us the excuse to dream up limited edition chocolates for you, bringing you new delights such as Hallowe’en spiderwebs, autumnal Pumpkin Spice chocolates, the Mandarin Pate de Fruit and Nutmeg Caramel at Christmas, the Valentine’s Caramel Collection, and Easter goodies including Chickens, Eggs, ‘Fried Eggs’ and Rocher Nests.

It’s always a pleasure to receive requests for something unusual or bespoke – we love a challenge! We’ve enjoyed providing custom chocolates for both companies and individuals, from cute birthday wishes in chocolate, to personalised chocolates with the lucky recipients’ names, to wedding favours, large Christmas orders and special chocolates for corporate events. Probably the best special request this year was the set of bespoke wedding cake decorations I made from chocolate. Oh yes, those were fabulous and I enjoyed every second of creating them, right through to the satisfaction of hand-delivering them all neatly packaged.

To top it all off, we’ve had some more stellar reviews of our chocolates and a lot of lovely messages from loyal customers and people trying our treats for the first time.

Thank you so much to all of Kokopelli’s customers for making this such a great year for us. I’m excited for the year ahead… bring it on!

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How to churn butter in a jar

Yup, that’s right. All you need is some cream and a jar. Being a chocolatier, cream and butter are like old friends to me. I use them both in many of my recipes, and sometimes, there’s a little leftover cream after a spell in the kitchen. I find it very hard to throw anything with even a smidge of potential away – so this is the perfect solution. Make butter!

If you can, use double cream as this will yield the most butter (double cream has a higher fat content than say, whipping or single).

Pour your leftover cream into a jar, filling it about two-thirds full. I used around 150ml double cream, which was what was left in the fridge and didn’t have much life left on it.

Screw the lid on tight.

Shake.

Shake as if your life depended on it.

This is going to be a pretty good workout, as you’ll be shaking for about 10-15 minutes. First, you’ll make whipped cream, then you’ll feel when the butter begins to separate, as there will be a gentle thud in the jar with each movement. You should have what looks exactly like a blob of yellow butter sitting in milk. Shake a bit longer to help all the fat molecules bind together, then pour out the liquid into another container. Save it – this is buttermilk and can be used for many different recipes – bread, soup, pancakes…

Put your butter onto a board and press out the remaining buttermilk using a wooden spoon. You really want the butter to be as dry as possible – any remaining buttermilk will make the butter spoil as quickly as cream. You can also rinse your butter to get rid of any last remaining drops of buttermilk – knead it under cold running water. Now is the time to add any flavourings, if you wish. Dry the butter by gently dabbing with a paper towel and knead in sea salt, dried herbs, garlic powder or whatever takes your fancy. Shape it and wrap it in greaseproof paper, and marvel at what you have just made before popping it into the fridge. Ta-da! Homechurned butter!

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Edible Cinema – 10th Feb 2014

Happy New Year! 2014 is looking set to be a busy year already – and here’s a date for your diary.

I’ve just come back from an immensely fun planning meeting. It can’t be often that those words are all strung together… We had a private screening of a chocolate-related film, discussing the whats and hows of an Edible Cinema event for next month. I love my job.

Edible Cinema? ‘What’s that?’, I imagine you’re wondering. Well, it will be a feast for the senses, a 4D interactive experience watching an adorable French film with carefully selected treats to accompany the twists and turns of the story.

The film
Romantics Anonymous, a captivating French comedy about chocolate factory employee Angélique and her boss Jean-René who are anxiety-ridden would-be lovers.

When?
Monday 10th February 2014, starting 8pm (yup, just before Valentine’s Day – apropos, non?).

Where?
JW3 Cinema, Finchley Road, London NW3.

How much?
£15 (standard)
£7.50 (concession)

How do I book?
Book your tickets here – places are filling up already so best be quick!

See you there!

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All you need is LOVE: a special wedding cake

As a chocolatier, I often receive surprising phone calls, emails and unusual requests.

allpaintEarlier this summer, I was asked if I could make some elaborate wedding cake decorations from chocolate. The client wanted the words “All you need is love” and “Love is all you need”, along with 25 brightly coloured chocolate flowers. I was given a detailed specification as to the exact size of each word and general style of lettering. The cake was for a wedding party in Italy this summer.

What a daunting, but exciting challenge! It was one I readily accepted.

I taught myself how to make detailed decorations from chocolate, how to paint on chocolate, and techniques for making a wide variety of chocolate flowers.
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I enjoyed the project so much, getting creative, colouring, shaping, painting and coaxing the chocolate into lovely forms. Being a chocolate artist was immensely satisfying. I was thrilled when the happy couple sent me pictures of the finished cake.4smIsn’t it just fabulous?! As you can see, it also contains some marzipan creations made by another food artist (the animals and world landmarks), but these could be made from chocolate too.

I sent over a preview picture of the work to John, the client, as soon as I had completed all the pieces. I received the loveliest email soon after.

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I am utterly speechless – like them!? I LOVE THEM!! You have done a magnificent job. I am over the moon with how they look! I could not concentrate at work after seeing them, they are so beautiful. Thank you so much for all your hard work. I could not be happier with the result!!”

John

Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss bespoke chocolate decorations for your special cake.

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Happy 1st Birthday Kokopelli’s!

Happy birthday Kokopelli’s Chocolate! My little business has turned one year old today, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been both a quick year and a long year – having learned more than I could ever have anticipated, worked harder than I thought I could and having achieved more in just twelve months than I even dared dream.

The chocolate-making workshops have really taken off. I never set out to run them, but I just kept being asked if I would. And I kept saying yes! So I now run regular public workshops at The Make Lounge, I often run private ones for hen parties, birthdays, children’s parties, and I’m also booked in to run public workshops at three other organisations later in the year. I even ran a workshop at a primary school (it was one of my favourites, especially receiving a stack of handwritten, illustrated thank you cards in the post afterwards). And the most advertising I’ve done is just having a ‘workshops’ page on the website  – all of these organisations and individuals wanting to learn how to make beautiful, delicious chocolates have approached me. Which is a pretty nice feeling.

I’ve learned how to scale up production (something which I’m still learning, as Kokopelli’s grows and needs to produce in ever larger quantities), which at first was a daunting, seemingly insurmountable prospect, but which I can now take in my stride. Our first Christmas was an especially huge learning curve.

We have exhibited at several market stalls, most notably, The Chocolate Festival on the Southbank Square (at Christmas and at Easter). We’ve taken bespoke corporate orders and donated boxes to charity. We’ve sold to a delightful and top notch chocolate shop. We’ve collaborated with a fantastic local restaurant on an Easter competition and done giveaways with a major chocolate review blog. We’ve had glittering reviews and some really good printed press, as well as food blogger coverage.

Not forgetting all the behind the scenes stuff, including working with our brilliant and dedicated designer on Kokopelli’s logo, packaging, menus and other materials; lots of website development; work on branding; photoshoots; video filming; and market research. I even sewed my own banner.

And the crux of it all – making gorgeous, delectable chocolates. From dreaming up flavour combinations to choosing mould shapes, from recipe testing (and re-testing) to learning how to paint with cocoa butter, from switching to using Valrhona couverture to choosing suppliers for the best ingredients, and beyond, this has been one of the best years of my life. There have been plenty of moments of frustration (when the ganache has split, or I’ve spilled almost half a kilo of hazelnut paste on the floor, or I’ve burnt a caramel, or the summer heat has prevented me from tempering properly… I could go on) – but it’s all been totally worth it. I’ve learned huge amounts and have had an absolute ball getting creative, tasting everything, and noticing how much my palate has changed.

Meeting new people has been another top highlight. Twitter has been at the heart of much of it – something I didn’t expect when I signed up. I’ve met a lot of fantastic people who have become customers and friends in real life (offline friends), many of whom have opened doors or helped me out in some way. I feel part of several different, but often overlapping communities who have been an inspiration and source of hope and support during this year of learning and exploring. I am enormously grateful to many people who have helped me come so far in just twelve months (I won’t list them all here – it seems like something for the back of a book, if I ever write one). It’s also been really satisfying and helpful to meet customers and hear their thoughts and feedback, and to watch their faces morph into smiles as they try my chocolates.

So what’s in the pipeline for this year? I’ve got lots on my ‘planning’ to-do list – including looking at having a permanent presence at a market in London, expanding Kokopelli’s product range and looking into hiring a dedicated workshop space. We’re growing, it’s hugely exciting, and I think it’s well worth watching this space.

I’m celebrating our first birthday by giving away a box of Kokopelli’s Chocolate to one lucky person. All you need to do to be in with a chance to win is leave a comment on this blog post with something you’d like to see from us in our second year. Entries close on Sat 20th April. The best answer will win a lovely box of fresh, handmade chocolates.

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Festive stalls and a bit of press

So, Easter is now over! It was a busy period, making lots of large handpainted Easter eggs (each one a little different, each one with it’s own quirks), mini eggs and mini chickens. Preparing for Easter trading is a lot of work – imagine hand-making and packaging thousands of chocolates in just a week or two!


We spent an extremely cold three days at The Chocolate Festival, braving the wind, rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures. It was actually colder than the December Festival! Luckily there were lots of lovely people there to meet or catch up with, and lots of top notch chocolate to keep us going (especially the delicious, rich hot chocolate from Jaz and Jul’s, with their melt-in-the-mouth vegan marshmallows).

One lovely lady who had enjoyed chocolates from us before said she uses her Kokopelli’s box to keep her earrings in – I adored that!

Quite a few food bloggers came along and wrote some very nice things about us. You can read them at Where The Wild Things Are, savannahsunset, Dining Belles and Chocolate Couverture.

We also ran an Easter chocolate stall in a swanky office in the City of London (thanks to Anna for helping out). This was a very civilised affair, nice and warm indoors without having to worry about products and signs flying away in the wind! I always like talking to new customers about our chocolate and telling Kokopelli’s story. Our handpainted Easter eggs went down very well.
As much as I enjoyed the Easter rush, it’s nice now to have some time for planning, reflection and product development.

We also have a lot of workshops booked in for the summer so this will be a good change of pace for a few months.

Finally, we had our first piece of newspaper press last week – exciting! (Click to enlarge.)

 
 

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The Chocolate Festival 2012 roundup

First up, it is with immense excitement that I can announce our brand spanking new ONLINE SHOP is up and running! Get your Christmas orders in before Wednesday 19th December. Go, go, go!

So, The Chocolate Festival has now been and gone, and I am finally able to relax a little. Truth be told, I was a little nervous in the seemingly long run-up, planning products, ordering materials and ingredients, writing risk assessments, actually making the chocolates, packaging everything, and so on. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in such a short space of time (our chocolates have a short shelf life, so they all had to be made very close to the Festival). Luckily I had several generous helpers.

It turned out to be a fantastic event – 3 full-on, very cold days of talking and tasting chocolate with some lovely (and some eccentric) people. We made a lot of sales and got some excellent and useful feedback on our products and branding. A lot of people walked around the whole market several times and came back to us, choosing Kokopelli’s over all the other offerings. Many said that our chocolates stood out, that they were works of art, that some looked like marbles, that they were boldly flavoured (especially our lime chocolate). Every time someone uttered something like this, I got a little thrill and felt rather proud. Check out my hand-stitched banner, finished in the early hours on the first morning of the Festival!

The very talented PLAYMYMEDIA made this gorgeous short video showcasing our stall, in case you missed us:

Enormous thanks go to my helpers, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to do it – Memit, Mum, Dad, Julia and Eli. Big thanks also to all of you who came down specially to support Kokopelli’s! It was really lovely to see your friendly faces and kept me going when I couldn’t feel most of my body for the cold. ‘Til next year!

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Valrhona

I am thrilled you let you lovely chocaholics know that over the next couple of weeks, Kokopelli’s will be switching to using Valrhona couverture. Couverture is a high quality type of chocolate used by chocolatiers and pâtissiers (it means ‘coating’ in French), containing extra cocoa butter, making it perfect for moulding and dipping. This is a significant improvement on the chocolate we have been using until now and it’s a move I have wanted to make for a long time. Finally, the time is right and I am so excited and priviliged to start working with such world-class chocolate.

Valrhona is a French chocolate maker, founded in 1922 by a pastry chef from the Rhône Valley. They make some of the very best chocolate in the world, sourcing the finest beans from around the globe to make a range of different chocolates, each one with it’s own unique and captivating flavour and aroma characteristics.

Instead of showing you a bag of Valrhona fèves, or chocolate buttons, I thought I’d show you the majesty of what can be made from Valrhona chocolate. Behold the Chocolate and Salt Caramel tart, which I made on a Valrhona masterclass I was fortunate enough to attend earlier in the year. Yes – WOW, right? I can assure you it tasted even better than it looks. And that it didn’t last very long.

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A wonderful email from a poet

I recently received the most wonderful email from poet Bruno D’Arcy of The Chocolate Dictionary, after he had savoured his order of chocolates from Kokopelli’s. I was really touched that he’d taken the time to write such a thoughtful, detailed review. It made my heart leap and I wanted to share his lovely words with you.

(By the way, his blog is witty and amusing – beautifully written definitions of chocolate-related words, many with interesting historical examples. I highly recommend a read.)

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From: Bruno D’Arcy
Sent: 25 June 2012 20:08
To: Steph Saffer
Subject: Re: chocolate order

Hi Steph,

Now that I’ve a bit of time to write I’d like to pass on a few friendly comments.

First of all, congratulations on a well designed collection of chocolates, beautifully presented in a Tiffany-style box decorated with a suitable gauze ribbon. With chocolates presentation is half the appeal, so you’ve already got that one right.

Congratulations, too, on the shapes, decorative features and flavours: I can see you’ve put a lot of thought into these and taken care in the way you’ve put them together. All of which makes the collection very inviting to the eye, the nose and (most of all) to the salivary glands. Or, put another way, they’ve definitely got that extra yummy factor! The photos on your website DO do justice to the real product.

In a marketplace filled with over-sweetened chocolates from the likes of Thorntons, Hotel Chocolat and Cadbury – I don’t hate them I just avoid them! – it was a relief to find yours were not at all cloying. Quite the contrary, all were delicious. But then I suppose that’s why you’re an artisan producer and so passionate about chocolates.

I found the flavours to be subtly done, with none of them being overbearing – always the distinguishing mark of good chocolates – though I felt the lime could have had just a bit more zing to it, for it likes to sing of its juicyness and doesn’t like being too much in the background. Just a minor point there. The chocolate was still delicious.

My favourite was the sea-salted caramel, as much for its luxurious, creamy texture perfectly balanced between liquid and gooey, as for its slightly smokey aftertaste which lingered lovingly on the palate. I think you’ve really got it right with this one so I hope you don’t drop it from future collections.

Likewise with the sesame and honey. You’ve managed to create a really good balance between the two flavours there, but not before the toasted sesame seeds introduce themselves with an enthusiastic, but not overpowering, burst of flavour. Very creative.

The friend I was sharing the chocolates with said the Earl Grey Tea was the best chocolate she had ever tasted. I liked it too and, again, a good combination well handled, with the bergamot coming in after the chocolate like a woman wafting perfume from her hair in a room full of admiring men. (Oh dear, sorry about the purple prose but you’ve seen my blog so you already know I have a fatal penchant…)

In its shape and colour the white chocolate hazelnut with sea-salt was a mini work of art (as indeed all good chocolates should be). I liked the silvery-purple, heart shaped exterior, and the milky but not too sweet hazelnut flavour inside which was lifted out of the ordinary by that addition of salt.

Ginger is a flavour I am well acquainted with so I was looking forward to the truffle, and it did not disappoint. Ginger can so easily shout over everything else, but you’ve held it in check to create a subtle warmth in the mouth instead of a blazing firework, so, again, thank you for that little trick.

All in all your chocolates are a success, so I hope your brand continues to develop and more and more people get to see and taste them in due course.

A few flavour ideas: How about another one with mango? A lavender ganache?  A geranium truffle? An expesso truffle? A raspberry jelly? A roasted almond praliné?

Thanks again for your very friendly and efficient service.

Best wishes

Bruno

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