Guy Warner discovers unique chocolate and the perfect loaf

Costello + Hellerstein truffles

Costello + Hellerstein truffles - Credit: Archant

Guy Warner discovers the talents of pastry chef Ori and wife Yvonne Hellerstein - and a hidden craving for chocolate

Costello + Hellerstein truffles

Costello + Hellerstein truffles - Credit: Archant

It’s around this time of year that I particularly love my job. We’re gearing up again for the annual Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards which involves rounds of tasting, sampling and MasterChef-style deliberating on the amazing local food and drink that’s produced here in the Cotswolds. I am always genuinely blown away by the talent on show, which unfortunately doesn’t make the judging any easier!

One product that really stood out for me at last year’s awards was the Artisan Baker’s Nelson Loaf. Regular readers of my column will already know that I have a major weakness when it comes to fresh bread, but this loaf is truly unique. It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before and actually defies the logic of bread in that it’s not only great on the day you buy it, but it’s great the day after, and the day after that and the day after that. In fact this brilliant bread still tasted phenomenal five days after it was baked! The secret lies in its unusual consistency – falling somewhere between a bread and cake, it’s predominantly seeds and oats with a little flour thrown in for good measure and molasses to give it a subtle sweetness, a sort of human seed cake if you like. It’s really a meal in itself – I can quite happily devour half a loaf of fresh bread in one sitting, but just one slice of the Nelson is enough to curb even my carb cravings.

The man behind the Nelson is Ori Hellerstein. Originally from Israel, Ori trained as a pastry chef with some of the biggest names in London before moving to Painswick with his partner, Yvonne Costello, in 2012. My judging duties last year took me to their bakery where I was surprised to be offered, of all things, a chocolate – a Sea Salt Caramel – part of a new line that the couple had been working on. All I can say is that if Yvonne and Ori were trying to sweeten the judge, it worked – this chocolate was exquisite.

Sea salt caramel has become a bit of an ‘in thing’ recently, but don’t let that put you off – these chocolates defy expectation with their crisp, hard shells and molten, golden interior. There’s none of that salty aftertaste which you get with cheaper chocolates; here the salt is added purely to offset the sweetness of the dark chocolate and caramel in what is essentially a finely balanced and carefully created masterpiece.

Now I’m not much of a dessert man, so for a chocolate to win me over in the first place means it must be special and for me to bang on about it a year later in this column shows you the impression it made! Fresh and exciting, the range also includes Raspberry and Coconut truffles, Hazelnut Pralines and Chocolate Orange truffles, all presented in a striking and contemporary designer box. The chocolates are being marketed under a new label, Costello + Hellerstein, and have already created a buzz, not just here in the Cotswolds, but further afield – you can find Costello + Hellerstein’s distinctive packaging sitting on the shelves of Harrods and Fenwicks in London and read all about them in the likes of Vogue, Elle Decoration and Homes & Gardens magazines.

Yvonne and Ori have been highly commended at the Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards for the last two years for their Nelson Loaf; wouldn’t it be sweet justice if their new chocolate range made it third time lucky for them this year?

Yvonne Costello and Ori Hellerstein of Costello + Hellerstein

Yvonne Costello and Ori Hellerstein of Costello + Hellerstein - Credit: Archant

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This article by Guy Warner is from the June 2015 issue of Cotswold Life.

Ori Hellerstein of Costello + Hellerstein

Ori Hellerstein of Costello + Hellerstein - Credit: Archant