How to make the ultimate chocolatey Easter egg with Stratford's Ashton Confectionery
Maria Ashton started her one-woman business, Ashton Confectionery, four years ago making bespoke artisan confectionary and cakes. She tells Gill Sutherland about her passion for all-things sweet and shares her decadent recipe for the most chocolatey of Easter eggs.
Mum Maria Ashton has seen her confectionery business double in the last year, so in demand are her handmade sweets and cakes.
While on maternity leave four years ago with newborn son Lucas, she started dabbling in the kitchen and her business bloomed.
She had been working as a chef at Marco Pierre White in Stratford, after studying catering at Stratford College.
Being busy in the kitchen had been part of her upbringing. She told the Herald:
“I’ve always been passionate about cooking. My grandad was a big part of my childhood, and a lot of that passion comes from him. He passed away in 2012, and in a way I wanted to carry on what he had taught me. He wasn’t a professional, but would cook lots of Indian food for parties.”
She continued: “While I was at Marco’s I got into making desserts, there’s so much you can do and you can make them look so pretty – pastries, brownies, make your own ice cream, doughnuts and all the Italian deserts – parfaits, panna cotta, tiramisu.”
Another significant moment came when Maria discovered what was to become her signature dish. She explained: “On days off from work I would experiment at home with different ingredients. One day I ended up making white chocolate and lavender fudge. It was just a combination I fancied trying and that was the real start of my confectionery experimenting. That became the foundation of my business.”
Maria really got going with Ashton Confectionery with encouragement from her mum.
“My mum makers her own business, doing pop up cards and engraving, so I had a bit of help from her. I was on maternity leave and getting a bit bored – Lucas was a quiet baby! – so I started making different chocolates and fudges and Mum suggested I start a Facebook page and began to market my stuff.
“It’s taken a good few years to take off, but it was my chance to see what I could create and what would sell, what people would enjoy.”
Asked how she describes what she does, Maria said: “Artisan confectionery and cake design. I bring an artistic touch to chocolate, it’s not just poured into a mould, I paint and decorate them, and spend time on them.”
Another unique aspect of Maria’s work is that she is able to print edible photos and messages on her designs, and she says that has become a big part of her business.
“I also like to use non-conventional colours,” she added. “ I’m not really into pink and pastel colours, so I go for dark blue, grey, black even.”
One of Maria’s specialities is sending out beautifully packaged treat boxes filled with handmade confectionary items, and these have proven especially popular.
“I can make them to order. Recently I was even asked to make a saucy themed one for a customer’s husband.”
This Easter her boxes will be less X-rated, she laughs. “I do paint your own cookies for Easter treat boxes for children to keep them entertained – they are popular, also personalised easter eggs, and everyone loves the brownie-covered egg.”
Maria’s passion has been rewarded by the business doubling over the last year. “It is great that people are supporting small local businesses, and I can continue to do what I love.”
Find Maria’s business at www.facebook.com/ashtonconfectionery
Brownie scotch eggs
Caramel egg x 2
Plain flour 80g
Milk chocolate 200g
Cocoa powder 40g
Caster sugar 275g
Sugar cookies x 2
Set Oven to gas mark 5 or 160oc
1 Melt the butter and milk chocolate in a the microwave for 90 seconds check every 30 second until melted. Mix together.
2 In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and gradually add the sugar while whisking until you get a ribbon texture.
3 Add the chocolate and butter mix to the egg mixture slowly while whisking until all combine.
4 Add cocoa powder and vanilla essence and mix through once this is combine fold in the flour.
5 Line a cake tin with greaseproof and poor the mixture in.
6 Bake for 30-40 minutes. Once baked let it cool.
7 Once cooled take a chunk with a spoon and flatten it enough to wrap around the caramel egg. Make sure you have a thick layer of brownie around the egg and the egg is enclosed it the brownie. Once this is done set them aside and crumble the biscuits in a bowl. Once the biscuits are crumbled add your brownie balls into the cookies and coat the outside of the balls in them. Ta-da, your brownie balls are complete. Happy Easter.