The Producers … The Chocolate Lady, Steeple Bumpstead

EXG JAN 14 producers

EXG JAN 14 producers - Credit: Archant

Over the Christmas festivities, you may well have enjoyed a handmade chocolate, but have you ever been tempted to try making them for yourself? Julie Haylock-Sherry is The Chocolate Lady, based at Bower Hall Farm near Steeple Bumpstead, and she has been teaching the art of chocolate making for 33 years.

‘It began really as an accident; I’d always cooked and enjoyed entertaining and I’d made a few chocolates to go with the coffee one particular night,’ explains Julie. ‘One of the guests was the manager of the White Hart at Great Yeldham and he asked me to make them for the hotel guests.’

Julie still makes her own chocolates to sell in her shop and demonstrates the art of tempering and molding, truffle centre work, dipping and coating, and even packaging and presentation.

‘I’ve been performing demonstrations here for 25 years. My classes are very informative. Each one lasts for two hours and then afterwards we enjoy a cream tea together.’

Not only do you get Julie’s expertise during her class, but there’s the opportunity to ask questions throughout and, most importantly, to taste test as she takes you through the various stages of making your own handmade chocolates. At the end of the demonstration there’s time for a browse around her shop too.

‘My classes appeal to men and woman, and although we cover a lot of information, it’s also an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere,’ adds Julie. ‘Once you’ve completed Julie’s course, you will have learnt enough to do it in your own home. ‘I cover where to start and how to make your own first homemade chocolates. Once you’ve learnt the basic skills, you will be confident to take it further trying different fillings.’

Julie still makes chocolates for other people and to stock her shop. When we spoke she was in the middle of tying up 80 boxes for one order. ‘Orders come in from all over the place. I have regular people who drop in and say, “We have a family party, so can I have 15 boxes of chocolates and can I take them with me now!” I used to make absolutely everything, but now I buy certain things to complement what I do myself. It’s the only way I’d be able to cope with demand. I still have a very good range, as I’m very particular, so it has to be the best quality.’ In the past Julie would also make her own jams and pickles for the shop. ‘Unfortunately now it’s out of the question with the demand for demonstrations and afternoon teas.’

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If you’d like to book onto a chocolate making course, Julie takes a minimum of 12 people, but you can phone as a couple and she’ll add you to an existing group. Her most popular chocolates in her shop are truffles. ‘People love truffles and they are probably our singularly most popular product. I make a selection of fillings, from rum to liqueurs, and a range of non-alcoholic ones too, with vanilla and ginger being really popular.’