Bakedown Cakery has morphed into Meltdown Artisan and moved across the bridge from St Leonards to Darlinghurst. The cakes may be gone but fear not, there's plenty of chocolate. Featuring new flavours the whole concept has a tighter range that has been a year in development. There are chopsticks made out of chocolate, crack koalas, chilli salted peanut bon bons as well as a Maneki Neko "waving cat" truffles filled with a selection of pralines.
"Why don't we taste all of them?" says Jen Lo, of Meltdown Artisan. These words are music to my ears. She first started working with chocolate three to four years ago but has now gravitated more towards chocolate than cake. "You have to pay attention to what you’re doing, so in some ways it’s really therapeutic and meditative as well as the perfect form of expression. Also there are so many types it’s impossible to get bored," she says.
"The reason I changed was probably because I felt I had lost a bit of direction with Bakedown. When I started it was supposed to be about a focus on Asian flavours but somewhere along the line I think I lost track of that vision and started making whatever whenever. Which was hard for both myself and customers to really get their grips on," explains Jen. She adds, "The chocolate launched with the cake and so I don’t think it got as much thought as it deserved so there was a lot of “classic” chocolate like plain white, milk and dark that wasn’t interesting for me to produce."
Dissatisfaction at her previous location prompted a move over to the Darlinghurst on Kings Lane. Not only is the space smaller but the collection of chocolate is tighter and more focused.
This afternoon I'm here for a chocolate tasting. Customers can book a single origin tasting or a tasting of the blocks or bon bons where she will take you through the collection (perfect first date material or what?). She uses both Callebaut and Valrhona chocolate.
For every person that says that they don't like white chocolate, Jen has paired white chocolate with flavours to balance it. Take the saffron barberry chocolate with the sourness of barberries and the honey sweet aroma of saffron.
Jen now focuses on natural ingredients rather than flavourings which means that previous favourites like taro have been discontinued. Hojicha banana is designed to mimic bannoffee and has texture from the freeze dried bananas. Sakura Matcha is made using cherry blossom stems while Sake Wakame Salt uses Tasman sea salt infused with wakame and sake-that one is for dark chocolate connoisseurs. Other flavours include gula melaka using a 5 kilo batch of gula melaka that her mother brought back from Malaysia. One of her personal favourites is a rather special one called the Wakoucha, a rarely seen red tea with only 300 producers.
The best selling bar is the speculoos spice white chocolate. As an avowed spice and speculoos lover I am curious to taste the chocolate made with her own blend of speculoos spices. It's spicy perfection. Another favourite of mine is the muscavado, coconut and almond for its licoricey flavour. I also love the genmaicha cookie and strawberry made using tea from the Wazuka tea plantation in Uji that she visited two years ago. Many of the flavours are inspired by her travels.
With the bon bons, Durian Coffee is pungent in the distinct aroma of the tropical fruit with the coffee coming in separately. The cardamom is simple and perfect while one of my favourites is the Soy Caramel that has a distinct maltiness reminding me of Milo.
Sudachi ginger has a ganache filling while Thai Green Tea and Jasmine is delicate and floral. And if you want to put hair on your chest try the Yuzu Whisky made using single malt Scottish Bruichladdich whisky that really packs a punch with both the whisky and the sour yuzu.
There's also a vegan range where she uses vegan chocolate by Valrhona. These replace the milk solids with fruit powders. These have a different texture to the non vegan chocolate and come in three flavours: yuzu lychee, almond and strawberry (that tastes like almond butter) and raspberry, cherry and coconut. My favourite is the raspberry, cherry and coconut which is gloriously tangy and makes the mouth water making the chocolate melt like regular chocolate.
With the novelty and cute chocolate the Smooth Cats are a trio of white, caramelised white and dark chocolate cats in a Maneki Neko cat shape with three types of praline: sesame, almond and hazelnut respectively. She even has a customer who bulk buys the white sesame cats every month for personal consumption!
If you love a bit of chilli, her chilli peanut truffles have a resounding chilli hit to them. "The peanut truffles honestly just started with really delicious peanut butter from Fix and Fogg. Kinda like our opportunity to do a Reese’s but without the palm oil," says Jen. Also pick up a sleeve of salted caramel truffles-her salted caramel is par excellence.
Chilli peanut butter truffles
The most difficult to make item are the chopsticks. These come in four flavours: sencha made with 33% white chocolate, pickled ginger made with 33% white chocolate and tiny flecks of freeze dried pink sushi gari, soy sauce with 35% caramelised chocolate and a wasabi with 62% dark chocolate. Each chopstick is two pieces that are stuck together and each batch has a 30-40% attrition rate! And of course as fate would have it, it's one of my favourites...
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have a favourite chocolate flavour or chocolate? Do you tend to buy more white, milk or dark chocolate?
32 Kings Ln, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Saturday - Sunday By Appt. Only meltdownartisan.com/