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Classic dessert recreation turns out a sweet treat

By Heather Large | Dining out | Published:

When Andrew Reeves craved a favourite sweet treat from his childhood days he hunted far and wide in the hope of savouring it once again.

But he struggled to find anything that lived up to his fond memories of unwrapping pieces of soft nougat made by the once-famous confectionery firm Callard & Bowser.

Left feeling disappointed, but determined, he decided to have a go at making his own based on the famous “nougat de Montelimar” recipe.

It proved so popular that Andrew and his partner Jacqueline Champion now sell their range of premium nougat along with butterscotch and chocolates to customers all over the world.

“Callard & Bowser made my favourite nougat in the world but they stopped making it 30 years ago,” says Andrew.

“My father would buy a small box of Callard & Bowser nougat and if I was lucky I got one piece. I would unwrap it and there was the nougat in the edible rice paper – it tasted amazing.

“For 30 years I couldn’t find anything that came to close to that and I wasn’t alone, millions of other people also missed Callard & Bowser nougat.

“I decided I was going to try to make some for my own personal consumption and it turned out to be amazing – my kids were fighting over it.

“I spent two years developing the recipe and I think our nougat with cashews and gelatin-free Turkish delight is the closest to the original Callard & Bowser nougat that you can get,” he explains.

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Callard & Bowser was founded in the 1850s and was the largest manufacturer of nougat in Britain by 1974.

But the classic brand was later discontinued leaving many customers reminiscing over its famous dessert nougat.

Since launching in 2015, Champion & Reeves has become renowned for recreating the treasured taste of the much-loved confectionery.

The couple began making nougat from home but the business rapidly grew leading them to take on a unit at the Shrewsbury food enterprise centre.

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They moved into their present premises at Battlefield Enterprise Park in March 2017 and they were officially opened by The Duke of York, Prince Andrew.

The couple’s products are stocked by Harrods and have been sold in the Houses of Parliament shop while a box of their nougat was even spotted in the presence of the royal family at Sandringham.

They pride themselves on only using ingredients of the highest quality with no artificial flavourings. All products are free from gluten, dairy, shellac and gelatine as well as palm oil.

Nougat is traditionally made from whipping together honey, egg whites and almonds. Champion & Reeves use an orange blossom honey, roasted pistachios and almonds that have been blanched to remove the bitter taste that can be caused by the skins. “It’s a very soft nougat because of the amount of honey we put in it, that’s what makes it special,” says Jacqueline, who previously worked in financial services.

The company produces three different varieties – nougat with vanilla, almond and pistachio, nougat with almond, pistachio, cherries infused with rosewater and nougat with roasted cashew nuts and gelatin-free rose Turkish delight.

Jacqueline and Andrew, who previously worked in IT, recently took on four new members of staff to help with the production of their confectionery.

Their nougat mixer is capable of mixing, heating and cooling 80kg of nougat every four hours. It’s taken out of the mixer and rolled into slabs by hand; the wafer paper is also added at this stage.

The nougat is then left to rest for a few days in a humidified room before being cut into pieces.

“It helps the flavours to develop. When you taste some literally just out of the mixer and some that has been left to rest for a few days there is a big difference. That’s the nice thing about nougat; as you eat it you can taste the different flavours,” says Jacqueline. A machine then individually wraps each one in silver foil wrappers, folding and tucking more than 300 pieces per minute.

There is also a flow wrapper, designed to wrap and date stamp, their four-piece snack packs, ensuring the confectionery is sealed and airtight to keep it as a fresh as possible.

It’s currently stocked in shops including Harrods and Partridges in London and has also proven a hit across the globe.

“One of our biggest customers is a wholesaler in Mexico. We believe our product went viral in Mexico and they keep selling out and doubling their next orders,” says Jacqueline.

The company also makes traditional butterscotch along with tins of chocolate- covered hazelnuts and almonds.

“We believe we are the only British producer of traditional butterscotch,” says Jacqueline.

For the chocolate covered nuts and raisins they use a dark chocolate with 60 per cent cocoa and they are polished using a glucose syrup.

“A lot of the big manufacturers use shellac which is a nasty product.

“It is a resin secreted by the female lac beetle and used in things like nail varnish. We don’t use it,” explains Jacqueline who says their product is all about “quality over quantity” and catering for people who want to treat themselves in moderation.

“I believe that more and more people now prefer to have a smaller quantity of a good quality product than lots of an average product.

“We do portion control-sized individually wrapped pieces of nougat. It’s confectionery but with an eye on portion control and quality over quantity.

“It’s hard to overeat nougat because it’s rich in honey and nuts,” she says

The couple, who took part in Channel 4’s My Kitchen Rules UK, in 2017, say running the business is hard work but rewarding.

“It’s very busy and we work very long hours but we enjoy it and it’s nice that people enjoy the products. For many people it’s the confectionery they remember from their childhood,” says Jacqueline.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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