It seems wrong that the world knows Gordon Ramsay’s name while the creator of the extraordinary seasoning for tangy cheese Doritos remains anonymous. Where are the Michelin stars for the hidden heroes of food science? The magazine covers for the lab-coated magicians who invented Lindt balls, Magnums or Mini Cheddars?
For who has brought you more pleasure in life? How to Eat (HTE) has eaten at Noma. It was incredible.The chef, René Redzepi, challenged our notions of what food can be. But so did the inventor of the ice-cream Mars bar, which, for years after its launch in 1989, redefined deep-frozen luxury.
Heston Blumenthal has done extraordinary things to HTE’s mouth, but is his cultural resonance greater than Haribo? Similarly, how is the creation of the KitKat Chunky not a nationally treasured story of innovation?
We take the ability of big food manufacturers to massage our pleasure receptors for granted, to the extent that whole product categories emerge without collective acknowledgment. Take, for example, what HTE is calling chocolate pots. You will have seen this month’s HTE subject in the supermarket: Aero’s Bubbly mousse, Cadbury’s Pots of Joy, Müller’s Chocolate Fix, multiple own-brand versions. Yet we have no definitive name for such chilled desserts. They are everywhere and nowhere, popular but enigmatic. Unless you are a small print fanatic, it may have escaped your attention that Cadbury’s twin pots (Buttons, Flake etc) are produced under licence by portable snack donsMüller.
More than a decade into their existence, it is time for How to Eat – the series that examines how best to enjoy Britain’s favourite foods – to dig deep into the chocolate pot and give these desserts their overdue props.
Cream or mousse?
There is no such thing as an objectively or inedibly bad chocolate pot. The chocolate pot is a food (see also, crisps, cheese, chips, ice-cream) that, at some level, is always enjoyable. Any chocolate pot is always better than no chocolate pot.
That said, HTE is baffled that, given the option, anyone would choose a mousse (Wispa, Aero etc) over the lustrous texture of the creamier, thick-set pots. In comparison, a mousse will always feel and taste a little thin and unsatisfying.
One perceived advantage of texturally gossamer mousse pots is they are usually the lower-calorie option (often less than 100 per pot). Creamier, thicker brands usually hover between 150 and 250, with higher-end versions topping 300 calories per pot.
Choosing a mousse on that basis is sensible if you possess iron self-discipline. HTE wishes it did. Instead, due to the inability of those mousse pots to truly scratch its dessert itch, HTE usually finds itself eating two or three in one sitting – rendering this choice a largely false economy, while denying itself the flavour bang it desires.
Müller’s Chocolate Fix (95 calories per pot) is a self-styled “light” pot, a set cream not a mousse, which in its distinctive Belgian chocolate flavour almost satisfies that chocolate craving in a sub-100 format. But, ultimately, it lacks the chocolatey heft of, for instance, a Cadbury’s Flake dessert.
Straight or twin pot?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can never have too much chocolate. Therefore, in this chocolate pot hierarchy, pots that contain just a chocolate mousse or a cream-slash-custard are always going to be less appealing – literally a bit one-note – when compared with those with a compartment of chocolate pieces on the side (eg Cadbury’s twin pots). As explored below, how you deploy those pieces is controversial and the success of the combos in the Cadbury’s range varies, but, if the opportunity exists, always opt for the twin pot, that genius twist on the Müller Corner.
That is, until you taste the Rolo pot. Layered chocolate and toffee, the Rolo pot lies outside the straight and twin-pot spheres, in that (often disappointing) subset of choc pots designed like minimalist trifles. HTE is relatively new to the Rolo and is still processing quite how incredible it is. But the rich chocolate layer (love at first bite …) is balanced with the toffee in the kind of elegant, moreish way top-end professional kitchens spend years perfecting. Will its popularity endure at HTE Towers? Only time will tell. But has Rolo set a new chocolate pot bar, perfected the form even? Quite possibly.
A word on Cadbury’s twin pot …
Or indeed any chocolate pot with additional chocolate pieces to be added at your discretion.
First, do not under any circumstances tip them all in in one go. It is the mark of a greedy, galumphing diner, the sort who wildly suctions up through food and life, rarely stopping to take pleasure in anything. Previously in this series, HTE has talked about the concept of “tantric chocolate”. It applies here, too. Elongate that pleasure by, on your spoon, taking one piece of chocolate at a time, lightly adding some cream and eating the two together (see below, Technique).
In terms of which Cadbury’s combinations work best, Flake pieces are pre-eminent. They are the perfect nibbling size and, in your mouth, the folded chocolate drapes melt perfectly into the cream. Cadbury’s Buttons are good, too. There is something meditative about laying them flat on the cream surface, tapping them down slightly (the dull thwunk solid and soothing), then scooping them out.
Freddo Faces are a little too large, destabilising the in-mouth ratio of chocolate to cream. Same goes for the Mini Egg version. Plus, as those sugar shells shatter in your mouth, its creates a jarringly gritty sensation in the cream. The tiny Crunchie pieces are fine, if a little too sweet in this context. Dairy Milk Chunks are similarly acceptable but fail to provide a truly distinct textural point of difference.
Have we been using spoons wrong all along? Where you would usually use your spoon bowl down, the chocolate pot – custard or mousse clinging easily to the spoon – invites you to turn it upside down. The inverted spoon will fit perfectly into the roof of your mouth, where it can rest as you lick at the chocolate or perhaps let it play lazily against your lips and teeth. Draw off a little each time. Relax. Be patient. No gulping. No chewing. Let it melt. The pot contents should almost run down your throat.
That spoon must be a teaspoon, of course. Only a monster would use a dessert spoon on a handheld dessert. Moreover, a teaspoon will allow you to get into every crevice of the pot to retrieve the last remnants of chocolate cream (HTE sometimes uses the handle too, scraping away in the pot’s tightest corners with forensic thoroughness).
Naturally, once sitting down and eating your pot, you will be reluctant to get up and, after licking it clean*, deposit the lid in the bin. But the lids can make a mess if left on occasional tables, soft furnishings and shelves. The solution? Use your thumbnail to create a tightly defined crease, fold the lid in two and then again into a V-shaped quarter. The lid can then be placed to one side without staining. After finishing your pot, place the lid into the empty container with the spoon. If carefully balanced, the pot may even stay upright until an opportune moment presents itself for you to dispose of it (ad break, end credits, full time on FIFA 22).
* HTE recently witnessed staff on a crepe stall open a new 3kg catering tub of Nutella, remove the seal under the plastic lid and throw the seal away despite it being caked in that dreamy goo. Sad.
There is a bit of boilerplate repeated on supermarket websites that suggests a Cadbury’s twin pot can be “enjoyed as the perfect lunchtime or after-dinner treat”. Really? For most of us, lunch is too hurried a time: you need to get back to work, your mind is elsewhere, you have urgent thoughts about chilled desserts to hone for a serio-comic food column. You cannot fully commit to the pot. Save it for later in the day, when you are off the clock.
Nothing. Some say you cannot match wine with chocolate. HTE does not buy that. It can work with port, pedro ximénez, super-sticky dessert wines and other drinks, too: whisky, brandy, chocolate or coffee stouts. But, realistically, you are unlikely to break open such costly beverages to enjoy with something for which you paid 75p – particularly when that partnership elevates neither dessert nor drink. Better to enjoy one, then the other. From tea to neat vodka, nothing will “add” to your chocolate pot experience and you do not need to refresh your palate or rehydrate (that modern obsession) while you eat one. Just enjoy the unmediated chocolate.