I am a huge chocolate fan. I have some every day. To me, good quality chocolate is one of the few sweets that fits into a healthy lifestyle.
Today, I want to tell you a bit more about my favourite brand of Belgian 'pralines', Neuhaus.
Neuhaus is a Belgian manufacturer of luxury chocolates. The company was founded in Brussels over 150 years ago, and to this day, all of its chocolates are still made here, in Belgium.
The founder's grandson, Jean Neuhaus jr. created the first 'praline' - a bite-size, filled chocolate - in 1912. A few years later, he and his wife Louise also invented the 'ballotin', the typical box in which Belgian pralines are still sold today and which prevents them from being damaged.
An example is the charming collection of 'Lady Chefs' chocolates, each of them designed by a world-renowned female chef.
Neuhaus contends their chocolates are top quality, and I can vouch for that. With every bite, you taste the impeccable quality of their ingredients and the care they spend on matching the most exquisite flavours.
my favourite restaurant in the Cotswolds.
Now, quality of course comes at a price. These are luxury chocolates, with carefully selected ingredients, and that's reflected in what you will pay.
These pralines are more than just nibbles. They're small treasures, the kind you savour slowly, enjoying each of the different flavours and textures when they work their magic on your palate.
Before I tempt you with an extraordinary Easter egg, I want to share a few tips on how to recognise good quality chocolates and on how to get the most out of your (Belgian) chocolate experience.
How to recognise good quality chocolates:
- have a pleasant, sweet smell; deep and complex but not overpowering.
(Avoid chocolates that don't smell, or smell overroasted, chemical or stale.)
- have a shiny, smooth, flawless and evenly-coloured surface.
- begin to melt straightaway when you hold them in your hand. This indicates a high cocoa butter content, which is a sign of quality.
- 'snap' when you bite through the outer chocolate layer.
- have a complex, bittersweet, refined flavour, with sufficient acidity and a variety of textures that melt and blend into a smooth cream in your mouth.
- have a taste that lingers.
How to get the most out of your Belgian chocolates:
- Store them between 15 and 18°C (59 - 65°F), away from moisture, heat and strong smells. Don't keep them in the fridge.
- Depending on the type of filling, after opening the box, pralines will last for about a week.
- Ideal tasting temperature: 20°C (68°F)
- Give them your full attention when you devour them. Enjoy them with all your senses.
- Share them with people you love, especially if your loved ones appreciate great chocolate.
For gorgeous pictures, more information about chocolates and how they're made, and the places where you can buy them, go to the Neuhaus website or their extensive B2B catalogue.
Each of these pralines contains a layer of nougatine and is filled with either vanilla cream, coffee ganache, raspberry cream, dark chocolate ganache or hazelnut ganache.
And now for the Easter egg ...
If you happen to be near the Neuhaus store in Ghent, Belgium (Koestraat 50) - or any of the bigger Neuhaus shops - with a spare 250€ in your pocket, you might want to get this giant handmade, limited-edition Easter egg. Six kilos of fabulous chocolate and gianduja indulgence. Wouldn't that make a perfect gift for ... hey, me!