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Reader Treats Just For You!

Are you a cocoa-nut?

Make 70 delicious handcrafted chocs on a chocolate-making course with Somerset chocolatier Jane Swayne of Gilbert & Swayne. Yum yum yum.

Not only does artisan chocolatier Jane Swayne of Gilbert & Swayne make super scrumptious handmade chocolates (some say the best in Somerset) but she also runs chocolate-making courses so that everyone else can learn how to make them too. A day spent making 70 delicious, handcrafted chocolates?  Yes please!

The one-day courses, with up to six people, take place at Jane’s two-storey workshop in a converted barn in the village of Baltonsborough, which smells enticingly of chocolate, mmmmmmm.

First, Jane gave us a taste (literally) of the world of top quality chocolate, tasting callets (like choc buttons) of the Valrhona, Fair Trade, single origin, organic chocolates she uses to make her moulded and enrobed chocs.

Strawberry chocolate anyone?

We were going to make moulded chocolates: chocolate shells filled with handmade ganaches – fresh cream, fruit, herbs from Jane’s garden, liqueurs and more chocolate – decorated with brightly coloured, intricate patterns.

No need to get anxious about zero artistic talent as the patterns are achieved using edible transfers, which are put into the bottoms of moulds rather like ice cream trays, and then appear on top of the chocolates.

Downstairs, pans of melted milk and dark chocolate callets were ready and waiting.  Jane used what looked like a hairdryer to start tempering – heating the chocolate to a specific temperature – to ensure that the finished product will be super shiny with a good ‘snap’. Get it wrong and the choc will be dull and white. Eek.

Had to stop myself from dipping a spoon in here.

We filled the moulds with liquid chocolate, smoothed the tops, shook them to get rid of any air bubbles and tipped them upside down to leave a coating of choc around the inside of each choc-shaped hole.

It’s a messy business!

While the shells were hardening in the fridge, it was back upstairs to cook up the fillings.  Jane’s created 22 luscious flavours including rosemary & hazelnut praline, orange, cinnamon & Cointreau, blackcurrant, mint & cassis and passion fruit & Champagne. We each chose one flavour so that by the end of the day, we’d have a selection to take home.

Grated lemon zest, lemon puree, fresh basil from Jane’s garden and whipping cream for the lemon and basil ganache.

The cream takes on the glorious purple as the blackcurrant, mint and cassis mixture is heated up.

Add in the chocolate.

We piped the smooth ganache into the moulds.

The shells were topped off with a layer of choc and into the fridge for a final chill before the chocs were ready to turn out …

… and pack into pretty little boxes. Ta-dah! Seventy beautiful chocolates ready to give as a gift or scoff.


Jane was brilliant tutor:  inspirational, full of tips and advice and clearly knows her onions, or rather her chocolate. She also provided an excellent lunch with homemade soup, local cheeses and bread and a glass of wine.

All in all, a really fabulous day out for anyone who loves chocolate. And isn’t that pretty much everybody?

The one-day course would make a terrific family treat (everyone can join in, from kids to grandparents), to give as a gift (you can buy vouchers), as a day out with your girl friends or for an unusual hen party.

Course details

Jane’s chocolate-making courses are for up to six people of any age and level of cooking ability, usually run from 10.30am to 5.30 pm and always include a light lunch and wine. Cost £125.

The next courses are:

  • September: Sat 14, Tue 17, Sun 22 and Mon 30.
  • October: Sat 19, Sun 27 and Thurs 31.
  • November: Thurs 7, Sat 16 and Sun 24.

Or call Jane direct to arrange alternative dates and times.


Gilbert & Swayne, Gilbert’s Corner, Baltonsborough BA6 8RB. Tel 01458851253/ 07786952617.




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