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‘Cleanse your palate with cake!’: Chocolate afternoon tea with Paul A Young

‘Cleanse your palate with cake!’: Chocolate afternoon tea with Paul A Young

by Katie Smith Monday, October 19, 2015

Renowned chocolatier Paul A Young has designed an indulgent Chocolate Afternoon Tea for Harvey Nichols in celebration of their Art of Scent month. We sat down with Paul himself to discover the inspiration behind his menu and sample the chocolatey delights.

Katie is an avid home baker, passionate about using seasonal produce and hedgerow ingredients. As part of the editorial team at Great British Chefs, she pursues her dual loves of food and writing.

It is hard to find something more quintessentially British than the afternoon tea. Originally invented as a means of tiding you over between lunch and dinner, it has since become entrenched in British culture. However, the traditional tiers of finger sandwiches, genteel cakes and tarts, and scones served with lashings of jam and clotted cream have always been up for interpretation.

Master chocolatier Paul A Young has never shied away from reinventing and refining classic recipes. Renowned for his experimental, often daring takes on flavours, he has now turned his hand to the traditional afternoon tea, adding his own unique chocolate twist. Teaming up with Harvey Nichols as part of their Art of Scent month, Paul has created a perfectly balanced menu which appeals to all five senses.

From the very moment you sit down, you are taken on a deliciously chocolatey journey. The first sense to be hit is smell. As you peruse the scented menu you are engulfed in a delicious waft of buttercream candy. Then comes a second wave of scent from the intense chocolate flavours of the Cocoa nib and mint infusion tea. As Paul explains, ‘it’s supposed to be a little bit staggered, so you are brought on a journey: smell, the fragrance from the tea, and then the taste’. This order was extremely important to Paul when designing the afternoon tea, ‘I think it has to be [served in this order] because smell makes your mouth water. So that starts your digestion. If you taste, then smell you don’t know what you are tasting really’.

What a mouth-watering menu it is too. ‘You get everything: scones, cakes, tarts, drinks,’ Paul enthuses, and happily every single course bears the mark of his ingenious chocolatey touch. The finger sandwiches have also been given a Paul A Young makeover and include a Savoury chocolate, gorgonzola and rocket sandwich, nestled between the more traditional flavour pairings of roast beef and horseradish as well as cucumber and mascarpone. This unusual combination has of course split people’s opinions, as Paul explains, ‘it was love or hate. I’m love. It’s delicious,’ and I am definitely a convert.

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Balance of flavour was a crucial element for Paul when creating the chocolate themed menu.

The chocolate ganache Paul uses in the sandwich ‘isn’t sweet or savoury, it's just in the middle,’ he states, and pairs well with the milder blue cheese flavour of the gorgonzola. This balance of flavour was a crucial element for Paul when creating the chocolate themed menu, ‘nothing is overly chocolatey. That’s why I liked it. The chocolatiest thing is the sandwich and the Chocolate and pecan tart. Then the rest is quite gentle’.

The Chocolate and pecan tart is definitely the star of the show in my eyes, dainty in size, but full of the rich, dark flavours of chocolate and topped with a gorgeous pecan praline. Although this was a tough decision to make. The small addition of the chocolate chips to the Carrot cake add an interesting difference in texture and a delicious hint of chocolate, while the delicate flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and rose meld beautifully together in the Moroccan spiced chocolate pot.

 
We didn’t want chocolate in [the Rose crunch cake]. It’s a little stopgap so you can cleanse your palate. Cleanse your palate with cake!

The fragrance of rose also appears in the deliciously moist Rose crunch cake, which is soaked in a rose petal and sugar syrup. ‘I love the rose cake because it is there for the perfume and scent side of things,’ Paul asserts. ‘We didn’t want chocolate in that. It’s a little stopgap so you can cleanse your palate. Cleanse your palate with cake!’ Which is not a bad thing if you ask me.

Scones are of course firmly on the menu. Traditionalists will be pleased to see the presence of the classic fruit scone, served with strawberry jam and a big dollop of clotted cream. Paul has also incorporated his famous sea-salted caramel, accompanied by a Mini brown sugar scone. Small in stature, but big on flavour, Paul’s unique take on the familiar cream tea was greeted by many murmurs of delight. It even sparked the age-old debate on how you should adorn your scone, cream or jam first – or in this case caramel. For Paul, ‘I am caramel first’. However, whatever way you prefer your scones, the ‘gradient of strong and weak and mild chocolate,’ as Paul puts it, supplies an unmissable chocolatey experience for all the senses.

Paul’s Chocolate Afternoon Tea will be available in Harvey Nichols stores up and down the country until 31 October priced at £20. You can also add champagne for a total of £28. Paul will be making appearances in Harvey Nichols stores in Edinburgh on 23 October and Leeds on 25 October.

 
 

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