By Helen Randell
Seasonal produce has that something extra. Extra sweetness, extra crunch, extra flavour.
And when you hand craft it into a delicious filling and cover it in quality chocolate – well, that is something extra special.
Alex Crawford, aka The Sugar Man, is doing just that – creating hand-crafted chocolate bars in the Adelaide Hills with fillings which take inspiration from local, seasonal ingredients.
Think apple pie flavours with crisp Pink Lady apples and pieces of pie crust covered in 34% white chocolate, or a peanut butter filling using locally ground peanuts and a pinch of Murray River pink salt, encased in single origin Ghana milk chocolate.
Alex, who closed his wholesale patisserie business late last year, has always been a lover of local, seasonal food.
However, taking this philosophy to a range of chocolate bars is certainly something new.
Alex is creating new bars each season, being inspired by the produce that is available in the Adelaide Hills and wider areas.
“The Pink Lady apples have been sourced from fourth-generation apple growers in the Adelaide Hills,” he says.
“I have also just released an Espresso Martini flavour using Espressocello from Applewood Distillery at Gumeracha and locally roasted coffee beans from Caffiend in Hahndorf.
“The espresso filling is covered with a Mexique 66% dark chocolate which has bitter and fruity notes. It took a little while to find the right chocolate to cover this one, but now that I have it, the balance is perfect.”
The Sugar Man bars are made to order, so when you buy a bar you can be sure that it was produced in the very recent past.
Depending on the filling, the chocolate bars have a best before date of around two to three months.
One of the foundation ingredients for the chocolate bars is butter, and Alex sources his from The Dairyman in the Barossa Valley.
“It is superb butter,” Alex says.
“It is churned and handmade in small batches from the cream of grass fed Jersey cows. I am lucky to be surrounded by such talented and hardworking producers who take pride and interest in their work. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Some of the flavours Alex has created so far include Fairy Bread, Coffee and Doughnuts, Sticky Date Pudding and Orange Marmalade on Toast.
The marmalade flavour was created using oranges from Alex’s grandmother’s tree, with sourdough bread from Dough bakery.
“It is all about balance of texture and flavours,” Alex says. “The ratios have to be right.”
And just like with all artisan pursuits, there are no shortcuts.
“Chocolate is temperamental,” Alex says.
“It takes time and patience to complete each step, but people are going to buy the product, so it has to be perfect.”
The Sugar Man chocolate bars are available at Fred Eatery, Aldgate, The Smelly Cheese Shop, Adelaide Central Markets and Banana Boys, Mitcham.
An online store and dedicated retail outlet will be appearing soon – stay tuned.
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