Behind the scenes at Taylor-Wilde Chocolatier in Cromford
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 May 2018
Catherine Roth visits Taylor-Wilde Chocolatier in Cromford and discovers how engineering and chocolate making fit together to create a perfect blend of gastronomic magic
Martin and Anne Taylor-Wilde opened Taylor-Wilde Chocolatier in Cromford Market Place three and a half years ago and sell over 30 varieties of chocolates, all handmade on the premises from their own recipes. As much works of art as delectable delicacies to be savoured and enjoyed, their chocolates include Rum Truffles, Candied Oranges, Cherry Truffles, Raspberry Truffles, Violet Creams, Pistachio and Cocoa Nib Crunch, Dark and Stormy (Rum and Ginger), Hazelnut Cup and Laphroaig Whisky and Lapsang Souchong Tea Truffles, to name but a few.
Despite the wide range on offer at the counter there are no labels detailing what each one is. Instead Anne introduces her customers to the chocolates one by one. Martin says, ‘Anne watches the customers to see when their eyes light up. When they do she’ll know which other chocolates they’ll like. As people haven’t tasted the chocolates we need to engage them and get their taste buds working, building the anticipation.’ When customers have chosen their chocolates they are carefully placed in a box and ribbon-tied, making the perfect gift or a treat for oneself. Martin says, ‘We want customers to feel special because they are.’
Martin’s first foray into chocolate making began over 20 years ago when he offered to make some chocolates for the MacMillan coffee morning Anne’s father was hosting. Martin’s rum truffles, a recipe he still makes today, were so popular they sold out and guests asked if he would be making more.
Three months later Martin and Anne found themselves making 20 different varieties of chocolates at home on the kitchen table. Martin says, ‘Anne and I were working until three or four in the morning making chocolates and then going to work.’ It inevitably reached the point where they had to decide which path to take and they chose to concentrate on their careers in engineering rather than chocolate making.
As a Composites Engineer Martin’s work took him away from home, be it to the South West of England or abroad to Norway and Denmark. He was involved with the manufacture of Formula One cars, aircraft, medical prosthetics and projects for the International Space Station so he and Anne would only see each other once every five weeks. Martin says, ‘In 2012 I was working at Terma Aerospace in Denmark and Anne had come out to stay with me. I had gone home for lunch with a colleague and we realised this four week visit of Anne’s was the longest time we’d spent together in eight and a half years.’ It was at that point they decided that when the project was finished Martin would return to England and together they would launch their chocolate making business. True to their word they did and opened Taylor-Wilde Chocolatier in late 2014.
To some the career change from engineer to chocolatier may seem a less than obvious one. However for Martin it presented a reasonably straightforward transition. He says, ‘There is an awful lot of science in chocolate. Both use time temperature processes and whilst I used to layer different materials to generate the required mechanical properties we now layer flavours!’
An example of this can be found in Taylor-Wilde’s Whisky Truffles, made from Laphroaig Whisky and Lapsang Souchong tea, which took a few attempts before the order of flavours was perfected. Martin says, ‘Most people tasted the tea flavour first but we wanted them to taste the whisky first. I replaced the milk chocolate from Papua New Guinea and enrobed the truffle in 70% dark chocolate as this goes nicely with the smoothness of the whisky and tea. It is also the last flavour you taste as the melting point of the chocolate is higher than the whisky and tea constituents inside. It’s about understanding the chemistry of the chocolates.’
The Strawberry Truffle, however, took almost a year to perfect due to its lingering chemical aftertaste. Martin says, ‘To overcome the chemical aftertaste it left behind, it was missing a vital ingredient which turned out to be balsamic vinegar! Then we put in Galliano; a vanilla liqueur, which gives a really nice strawberry and vanilla finish. You need to take people on a flavour journey.’
As well as chocolates chosen from the stunning counter displays, Taylor-Wilde also works to commission producing turndown chocolates for The Peacock at Rowsley and Morley Hayes Hotel, as well as guest chocolates for the Greyhound Hotel in Cromford. They also create bespoke items including cake toppers, wedding favours and one-off commissions made entirely from chocolate that resemble works of art.
Martin’s most unusual commission was for a 70th birthday and saw him create a vintage Miele washing machine complete with lifting lid and escaping soap suds all made entirely from chocolate, but instead of washing inside the tub there were individual chocolates! Other commissions included a christening cake of pink and white chocolate roses weighing a staggering four kilograms, a clay pigeon shoot, a rolling stones record and a Yellow Fife canary. He also created a pair of eyes complete with retina, muscles and optic nerves for an optician business that was taking part in London’s Design Live exhibition. The chocolates were later auctioned off at an ophthalmic convention raising £250 for charity.
With each new commission, Martin spends time researching and planning to ensure great accuracy and attention to detail when crafting the chocolate. He says, ‘I enjoy doing something that stretches me, I like the technical challenges and to see how far I can go.’
Some chocolatiers might be tempted to closely guard their recipes but this couldn’t be less true for Martin and Anne. They even cut out three peep-through keyholes from the obscura film that covers part of the kitchen’s three panelled window so that people can peer in and glimpse the chocolate making magic for themselves.
For those who fancy trying their hand at being a chocolatier, Martin and Anne organise bespoke chocolate making workshops and exclusive one-to-one sessions, as well as sharing their advice. Anne says, ‘If you are unsure of something, come and ask us. We will share our knowledge with you. Last year a lady wanted to make chocolate favours for a wedding. We took her through the process and supplied her with the Couverture chocolate. She did a super job and brought in her chocolates for us to try!’
As if Martin and Anne were not busy enough, they are soon going to be even busier when they launch a Patisserie on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer, together with a range of alcoholic ice-creams. The added alcohol ensures the formation of smaller ice crystals, enabling a smoother, softer ice-cream. Just like their chocolates, all will be homemade on the premises.
Through Taylor-Wilde Chocolatier Martin and Anne have engineered their way to mastering the art of chocolate making through the workings of science and imbuing their unique creations with their own special magic.
Taylor-Wilde Chocolatier is open Wednesday-Saturday 10.30am-5.30pm and Sunday 10.30am-4.30pm. For details ring 01629 820934