31 May 2009

No excuses for bliss

Today is my mother’s birthday, so I figured I would make chocolate truffles for her. Sadly, she will not actually have them, me with my sweet truffles being in Amsterdam, she in Russia. That means that I will be eating the truffles -- all fifty three of them; so many the recipe yielded -- by myself (God help me!), with the help of a few contributors, perhaps. But treat my mother I did anyway. I put the truffles in a bowl, photographed them, then wired the pictures to my dear mama over the internet, and followed-up with a congratulatory phone call, all twenty minutes of which I spent describing in a miniscule detail how the truffles tasted and what I did to make them. My mother said she appreciated the gesture. She is so gracious.

Why chocolate truffles, you may think. Well, why not? The kitchenette in my shared apartment is so ideally imperfect for any confectionary making that an attempt to be coaxing chocolate truffles out from it sounded like an excellent idea to me. I like challenges, along with a view of sinkful of bowls and other kitchen utensils sinfully, shamelessly covered with, dark, silky, melted chocolate. (As the added bonus, I also learnt that to leave greasy from butter finger prints on metallic surfaces such as a fridge door is fun and therapeutic.) Plus, it is my mother’s birthday, you understand. And while at it, I am a big pro in using other people’s birthdays for the sake of culinary, or more appropriate, eating experiences.

For instance, last year today, I marched my birthday mother, my father and my uncle with his wife into the finest bakery in Moscow Volkonsky (co-owned by Erik Kaiser, one of a few best bread makers in the world based in Paris) to have a festive dinner of pastries alone. As you can imagine, I had to speak harsh to each participant of the event to persuade them to not even think of ruining my plans, according to which everybody would have golden croissants, buttery sables, and delicate meringues for dinner that night. Eventually, my mother even forgot for a while how old she became at the time; sweets are better than diamonds in alleviating women’s troubles. She wound up feeling absolutely exhilarated, what with her successive orders of sleek coffee éclairs and more fluffy vanilla meringues; the latter I accidentally ruined with my elbows when frantically making pictures of decorative Provencal tableware that rested on the wooden shelves next to our table.

We had to order more meringues. It felt like falling down a rabbit-hole into a dream world, the one where deserts are served for each course of the meal. Actually, right at this very minute I am on my way to my new dream world, the realm of fifty-three chocolate truffles I feel honoured to eat for my mother. She said she fully supports me in my journey. That's all I needed to hear.

The first impression my mind unleashed after tasting the confection was this: COOL CHOCOLATE BREEZE. (I told my mother that too). It may not be the best chocolate truffle to make a worldly appearance, I know, given that mine were made by a dilettante (me) to a traditional, old-school recipe that has you use only dark chocolate, cream and butter (on which I went a bit too heavy -- lack of kitchen-scales over here), and cocoa powder for coating. But a pure love they are nonetheless. Love that mantles your every taste bud with cool, silky wave of the pleasantly bitter dark chocolate soothed by the grassy, meadow-y butter and thick cream; love that makes you numb and utterly anti-social – to savour the lingering, slightly acid aftertaste of the chocolate truffle is more important, I find, than to deliver mumbling utterances in between the bites. And the way the cocoa powder mischievously dusts your lips so you are forced to lick it off with the tip of your tongue, smacking your lips with gratitude and appreciation as you go -- isn’t it fun? Finally, even one whiff of this pure chocolate decadence is worth your every bead of sweat over melting, whisking, and rolling. In fact, this is all to say, Dear Reader, that you have absolutely no excuses to not make these chocolate truffles, unless you’ve already got a batch or two!! If not, I beseech you do.

French-style chocolate truffles

Adapted from videojug.com

Frankly, the idea to make these did not manifest itself out of the blue, nor did I dream it up (unlike this dish, for instance). I first had to introduce myself to a few dozens of various chocolate truffles, the ones resident in the local pastry shops, before I, irrespective of my own will, gingerly dared to consult Google on how to make chocolate truffles. What I found, or rather, what I was passed down was this video clip at videojug.com, which I estimated as a rather straightforward presentation for emerging chocolate truffle makers such as myself. So the recipe that follows is basically a transcribed version of the filmed performance, although I altered it as I saw fit. One such example, I did not add water to the chocolate (I don’t understand why they would) when melting it; I folded the butter soon after I did the cream, as opposed to the original recipe that instructs you first let the ganache cool and only then incorporate the butter (again, not exactly clear why).

Also, as far as there are only four ingredients, it is only too important that they are of the best quality, or the final product may not be as exciting. And if you ask me, forgettable chocolate truffles can split your otherwise good life asunder, and this is a no-no by all means.

Lastly, I advise that you serve these truffles chilled – the sensation of chilled chocolate softly melting on your tongue is unbeatable. Cartainly, they are still good at room temperature, although not as exciting. In the video clip, they suggest you serve them with coffee or champagne. I am, however, not sure about this. Champagne is not the best complement to the chocolate in general (the red wine is!); and as to the coffee, I haven’t tried it yet, but as opposites go, a steaming cup would be fairly attractive with the cold truffles indeed. In all honesty, however, I think a piece of seasonal fruit will be the best chocolate supporter in this case.

(The recipe yields 50-60 bite-sized truffles)

250 gr dark bittersweet chocolate (not less than 70% cacao content) 165 ml cream, at room temperature
35 gr unsalted butter, at room temperature
80 gr (1/3-1/2 cup) dark cocoa powder (unsweetened!) such as Valrhona 100%

1 L water

First, prepare the bain marie, a heating technique for melting chocolate. In a medium pan, bring the water to a bare simmer; do not let the water boil at any point. While the water is heating, roughly chop the chocolate and put it in a smaller pan which you will then put in the pan with the water, so make sure it fits but does not touch the water!

Once the water is simmering, put the smaller pan into the medium one and melt chocolate, stirring constantly, about 8 mins. When melted, carefully add the cream. Using a whisk, combine well. Fold in the butter and whisk gently to fully incorporate the butter. The final mixture is ganache. It should look glossy. Turn off the heat, and remove the pan with the ganache. Set aside to cool.

Pour the ganache in a medium bowl. Cover with cling film (but only after the ganache is completely cooled) and refrigerate, for 6-8 hours or until the ganache is very firm. I tamed mine in the fridge overnight.

Put the cacao powder in a small wide bowl.

Scoop the chilled ganache with a tsp and using your hands, shape each scoop into petite chocolate balls. For a tidier process, you may use a melon baller, I believe. Yet I must tell that having the chilled chocolate ganache in your palms is thoroughly therapeutic, if only slightly messy! Roll each truffle – be generous -- in cacao powder and place them in a medium serving bowl. Keep in a fridge and serve chilled.

P.S. Witty Julie of Oeufs Mayo thought
Godful Food worth the Lovely blog award.
Thank you, or rather, merci, Julie!

1 comment:

toni said...

I ABSOLUTELY ADORE the idea of having a dinner of pastries!!! Brilliant! Sheer genius! Oh, how I wish I had thought of that while my mom was still alive!

Hope you enjoyed every single truffle - they look beautiful!