The art of chocolate by Blackburn’s Daniel Coletta
- Credit: Archant
Innovative chocolate maker Daniel Coletta is Lancashire’s Willy Wonka
Daniel Coletta must be used to being likened to Willy Wonka but he still grins broadly when the similarities are pointed out to him for the umpteenth time. ‘I love that,’ he says, as he surveys the eclectic range he has created in his compact and stylish chocolate boutique on a quiet street a little removed from Blackburn’s town centre.
‘Heston Blumenthal is one of my food heroes. Like him, I just want to push the boundaries. I don’t follow any set rules, I make it up as I go along and if you can find it on the high street, you won’t find it here. It might not work first time but I know I will get it right.’
His experimental approach has so far created a selection of flavours as eye-opening as they are mouth-watering – Lancashire Tea and shortbread chocolate, anyone, or how about port and stilton or gin and tonic?
Daniel trained as a patisserie chef at Blackburn College and worked in kitchens around the country until he became disillusioned with the industry. ‘I never really found what I wanted to do,’ he said. ‘I have always wanted to be my own boss, I just wasn’t sure in what. I took a year out and was working in call centre where a friend was planning an Alice in Wonderland themed wedding. I started thinking about how to make a chocolate tea set you could actually use.
‘I started making chocolate when I was living in Wigan. I was unemployed at the time and used what was left of my benefit money to buy a bag of chocolate and a few silicone moulds.
‘I trained as a pastry chef and I have used the skills I learned in patisserie and applied them in a totally different way.’
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The result is a shop which opened last November and a catalogue of flavours which he is hoping will earn him a Great Taste Award when the judges announce their 2015 winners later this year.
What sets Daniel apart, he says, is his patisserie background which enables him to approach chocolate making in a new way. ‘The chocolate is really a secondary concern, it’s about the fillings,’ he said. ‘For my Bakewell tart chocolate I started by making a Bakewell tart and infused that into the cream. Everything is made with natural flavours. I don’t believe at all in artificial flavours, I can’t see a reason to use them.
‘I started the mince pie flavoured chocolate by baking a tray of mince pies and making them into a cream which I infused for eight hours so the flavours went into the liquid, then poured it into a 37 per cent chocolate and made a ganache to which I added brandy.
‘I create chocolates in collections of flavours which fit together. The collection is a journey around that flavour. The collections just appear in my head how they are supposed to be.
‘There’s my afternoon tea collection and my Alice in Wonderland collection which will be released later this year and my Italian collection which includes espresso and biscotti, limoncello and strawberry with balsamic.’
Daniel also makes wedding favours and is soon to launch a subscription service offering sneak previews of new flavours and also runs courses in chocolate making at his James Street shop.
‘It has blown me away how popular it has been,’ he said. ‘Any plans I had made have been blown out of the water. I had intended to have a chocolate shop, then add a patisserie and a training school but everyone wanted everything at once.’