In the words of Dave Williams, chocolatier and director of Braemar Chocolate Shop, he and his wife Cathy Anderson “try to put a definite Scottish twist on virtually everything” they do.
And they most certainly do, incorporating local ingredients into their chocolates as well as foraged items from nearby forests.
“A lot of our products are unique because we have added that Scottish twist,” Dave, added.
“This includes adding local Scottish honey to our honeycomb or combining Scottish Caithness Raiders Rum with raisins and single origin milk chocolate to make our rum and raisin truffle.”
Both Dave, 57, and Cathy, 53, are incredibly proud of their product portfolio that boasts an abundance of out-of-the-ordinary chocolates, including a strawberry and rhubarb vinegar praline and toast and marmalade truffle.
But one that has raised more eyebrows than any other, yet proved increasingly popular, is their port and blue murder cheese praline.
The couple handmake all their chocolates at their store, Braemar Chocolate Shop, based on Invercauld Road in Braemar, by taking their favourite Scottish food and drink and carefully pairing them with quality chocolate from around the world.
Originally opening in Shetland in 2016, Dave, a former military professional that spent 26 years working as a chef in the army, and Cathy relocated to Braemar at the end of last year.
Cathy, business manager and apprentice chocolatier at the shop, said: “Our port and blue murder praline is a classic type of chocolate, but with an intriguing filling.
“It’s a thin domed shell, which we make from smooth dark chocolate and decorate with coloured cocoa butter.
“And then, we fill it with a dark chocolate ganache containing port and blue murder cheese from Highland Fine Cheeses, based in Tain.”
Dave added: “The idea really came from that classic collection of tastes that I would see at the end of a dinner while I was a chef in the army – cheese, port and chocolate.
“I’d seen the idea for this praline with stilton before but thought that it didn’t quite work for me. Then I discovered blue murder cheese!
“It really is a fabulously creamy blue with a great sweetness to it which works perfectly with the smooth dark chocolate that we pair with it.
Our port and blue murder praline is a classic type of chocolate, but with an intriguing filling.”
“People who taste it love it. To be fair, it is a bit unusual and some people just say no at the mention of blue cheese, but it does work – even though there are three big tastes…
“The blue murder has this beautiful sweet (almost chocolatey) flavour within it, so we think they are pretty good together.
“The unusual combination has won its own fame across the village, people come in and ask for ‘the cheese one’.”
Hours of time and attention
When it comes to creating the distinctive treat, the process is a lengthy one.
Firstly the molds are hand washed and then the individual molds are polished with cotton wool to keep them shiny.
They are then decorated with three different cocoa butters, which are tempered at the right temperature and stick to the mold.
Each mold is then hand-painted using these colours, which are associated with both port and blue cheese, and a flicking technique is used to get the splash effect. This needs to be left to set.
Once the cocoa butter has set, the mold is filled with dark chocolate and tempered, which is then tipped out so the mold is thinly coated. This creates the shell and has to be left to set again.
The ganache filling is made using port, blue murder cheese and a smooth dark chocolate. Once it has cooled and the shells have set, the molds are filled with the ganache until they are a few millimetres from the top. The chocolate is then left to set.
They are finally capped by pouring chocolate across the top of the mold and Dave will scrape off any excess.
The chocolate then needs to be left to set for a final time.
Once they have set, they are turned upside down and popped into the display fridge.
Dave added: “There’s a hint of the darkness of port and the creamy cheese with the blue veins running through it, but nothing too much. We’re very happy with the results though.”
Braemar Chocolate Shop offers 18 individual chocolates – such as blueberry and vanilla truffle, chilli praline, Isle of Skye whisky truffle, mint and juniper praline, and smoked gianduja truffle – in total that customers can choose from to make up their own tempting chocolate boxes.
There is also a range of chocolate bars and other mouth-watering treats, including honeycomb, available.
Not only will they continue to add to this impressive collection, but Dave and Cathy are hoping to run chocolate experiences at the shop when lockdown eases, as well.
Dave said: “When lockdown eases a little more, we are planning to run chocolate experiences in our shop, including tastings, workshops, and lessons. We can’t wait to share our passion for Scottish produce and chocolate with people.
Braemar Chocolate Shop is open from 11am to 5.30pm from Thursday to Sunday.