Last weekend I noticed a robust little brown box, embossed with a dark brown B, in one of my favourite foodie haunts: Lawson’s Delicatessen, Aldeburgh. This wholesome-looking package, tied up with unbleached raffia, must contain a healthy treat, I thought, and stashed it alongside the salads, cheese and olives in my basket.
Back home, I spread out my purchases on the kitchen table and investigated the contents. Inside were honey and sea salt caramels by B Chocolates, a local artisan maker. They are sinfully delicious sweets, undoubtedly a treat, and full of irreproachably pure ingredients – but possibly not healthy in the quantities I’d like to consume. The dozen square chocolates were as handsome as their wrapping: glossy and dark, satisfyingly squareish, with a touch of pillowy curve and each dotted with a sparkly chip of salt. Once transferred from box to mouth, they turned out to be surprisingly soft. I remember the caramels from childhood chocolate boxes were always jawbreakers. Well, these had a glorious squidge.
The honey caramels are created by Fran Abrams and Phil Solomon, a couple of beekeepers who reside in the village of Snape. Nine years ago, finding that they had a highly regarded honey on their hands, they looked around for other applications for their fine product and, in autumn 2010, launched their confectionary firm.
The honey and sea salt caramels, created the following year, are made with local cream and butter and no artificial flavourings or preservatives. They don’t need preservatives, as Fran points out, because they don’t tend to hand around for long. Only the chocolate element can’t be sourced in the surrounding countryside, so Fran and Phil buy in French couverture, never less than 70 per cent cocoa content.
So, a real foodie find. The only bad news is how scarce a resource these chocolates are. At the moment, Fran makes two to three dozen boxes (of a dozen caramels) each week in her kitchen. Until she started selling online, last summer, you couldn’t find them outside Suffolk. Now they are sold at Lawson’s, Pump Street Bakery, in Orford, at the Snape Maltings farmer’s market (on the first Saturday of every month) and at La Fromagerie, in Marylebone, London. But stocks diminish swiftly and demand continues to outstrip supply. Fran tells me she is in the process of setting up a local workshop and this summer hopes to step up production. But, she warns, only slightly.