Once upon a time there was an indecisive girl who thought she might like to be a chocolatier. She enrolled on an online chocolate making course and learned a lot about the history of chocolate and its production, as well as various key techniques, skills and recipes associated with all things ‘chocolate’.
The business side never really appealed, however, and so it remained a mere hobby that ebbed away somewhat with the passing of time…
(I thought that writing about myself in the third person might soften the pang of guilt I feel when I think of the money I wasted in this achievement-free pursuit…it does a little. Anyway – back to the first person):
In recent months various events have conspired to revive this interest once more. Firstly, I read on David Lebovitz’s blog about his friendship with Pam Williams, the wonderful Canadian chocolatier who ran the course I took at Ecole Chocolat. I was delighted to learn about this – like when you discover that two friends of yours from separate walks of life know each other…it’s weird…and cool! (Of course, it’s not entirely weird given that they’re both big in the chocolate world, but still…)
Secondly, I happened upon a blog by Eddy Van Damme – the Belgian Prince of Pastry – called Chefeddy which published a post on how to make invert syrup. This was a revelation to me, as it’s the one ingredient that I always found very difficult to get hold of. When I dabbled in chocolatiering the only quantity I could purchase from an ingredients company was so enormous it took up half a room in our flat and was literally too heavy to lift. The knowledge that I could make my own on a small scale, quickly and easily was a game changer! You can find the recipe here – it’s simple to make and is absolutely key to producing the silky smooth butter-like texture that I value in chocolates. Not only this, but it also serves to extend the ganache’s shelf life, although this is not often an issue given the small batches and irresistibility of these moreish morsels!
Finally, whilst clearing out a storage basket of bits and bobs (mainly bobs) I unearthed my old notebook from the Ecole Chocolat course which contained all my long-lost recipes and, well, notes.
That was it: my passion to play in the magical world of chocolate had been re-ignited and my bum had been well and truly kicked into action. I’ve been delighted with the results.
You can play around with whichever flavours you like – that’s the whole point in making your own, after all. I’ve made a Passionfruit centred truffle with dark chocolate using the same reduced passionfruit juice as in my Passionfruit and Blueberry Custard Tart recipe. This time, however, I’ve gone for a milk chocolate centre, flavoured with my favourite herb bay and my newly acquired blackcurrant in its freeze dried form (a truly amazing ingredient that I shall be using extensively over the next two weeks…given its two week shelf life after opening).
You can use the basic ganache recipe and infuse your own flavours into the cream. Another way to inject flavour is to use essential oils – I love Rose, although it’s quite pricey in its purest form but utterly worth it.
I will definitely be using this flavour combination again in the future though – I think it’s a good balance of aromatic bay, tart and zesty blackcurrant and sweet milky chocolate. (My niece agrees – she has excellent taste).
Cook’s notes: You cannot substitute the same quantities of milk chocolate for dark chocolate in this recipe. In general, a recipe that uses dark chocolate will require less chocolate than one for milk chocolate, given the difference in cocoa mass.
I have used the seeding method to temper my dark chocolate for coating the chocolates. They keep well at room temperature this way and you get to bite through the desirable cracky chocolate and into the smooth centre. If you don’t want to dip the truffles, you can just roll them in cocoa powder or icing sugar and keep them refrigerated.
I would strongly encourage you to use invert sugar in the ganache centre as it is the super special secret ingredient that really lifts these chocolates to another level. You can, of course, omit it if you choose, but just be mindful that its absence will adversely affect the consistency, though not the taste.
- 200g good quality milk chocolate (at least 35% cocoa mass)
- 140g double cream
- 58g invert sugar
- 40g unsalted butter, softened
- 3-4 large fresh bay leaves, washed and snipped into several pieces
- 20g freeze-dried blackcurrant powder
- 400g good quality dark couverture chocolate, separated into 2/3 and 1/3
- Freeze-dried blackcurrant powder to decorate (optional)
Begin making the ganache centres the day before, as the mixture needs to chill overnight.
Pour the cream into a medium sized saucepan and add the bay leaves and invert sugar. Place on a low flame and let it come slowly up to boiling point. Once ‘scorched’ remove from the heat and cover with cling film.
Leave to one side to let the bay flavour infuse the cream.
Add the milk chocolate to a microwave proof mixing bowl and heat on 40% power for a couple of minutes. Remove and stir, then repeat until the chocolate has almost completely melted.
Stir thoroughly until the chocolate has completely melted in the residual heat. Do this very gently to ensure that you do not overheat the chocolate. If you heat the chocolate at too high a temperature or too quickly it will seize and become grainy. (Milk chocolate is less forgiving than dark chocolate in this respect.)
When the cream has infused for at least half an hour remove the cling film and stir in the blackcurrant powder.
Place a sieve over the melted chocolate and strain the cream into the chocolate. Press the cream through the sieve, scraping the underside of the sieve to make sure all the flavourful liquid gets through, but leave behind the bay leaves and any un-dissolved blackcurrant. You want a smooth mixture.
Blend the ganache with a small firm spatula or use a hand held immersion blender.
Add the soft butter and continue to blend. Try not to use a whisking action, as you don’t want to incorporate any air into the ganache.
Once the ganache is smooth place in a dish or deep baking tin, lined with cling film, and place in the fridge. Leave overnight.
Once chilled, remove from the fridge and turn out onto a chopping board covered in baking paper. This makes a good surface to cut the ganache into squares.
Use a knife with a thin blade to cut the ganache into inch-wide strips, then across to make squares. Keep the squares of ganache on the baking paper and return to the fridge until you’ve tempered your chocolate and they are ready for dipping.
To temper the chocolate, simply remove 1/3 of the total amount of dark chocolate and finely chop it. Keep this to one side – this is the ‘seed chocolate’.
Place the other 2/3 of the chocolate into a medium-large sized microwavable mixing bowl and heat gently, in the same manner as above, until only just melted. You don’t want the chocolate to get hot – just warm enough to melt.
Once melted, add the ‘seed chocolate’ and stir vigourously until it’s combined. The purpose of this is it to temper the chocolate, using the correctly aligned cocoa butter molecules of the seed chocolate as the ‘glue’ to cohere the molecules in the melted chocolate. If the couverture chocolate is not tempered properly then it won’t produce a shiny surface and you won’t achieve the ‘crack’ sound when you bite into it.
The chocolate should be melted but still feel cool when dabbed onto your top lip (you’ll get a moustache when testing this, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing). If the ‘seed chocolate’ has not completely melted, then simply pop it back in the microwave for a few more seconds (on a very low power) until it’s only just melted.
Your ganache truffle centres are now ready to be dipped.
Remove from the fridge a few minutes before you’re ready to dip.
Use a couple of forks to quickly dip the centres into the tempered chocolate, immerse them briefly so that they’re completely coated, then tap again the side of the bowl, allowing the excess chocolate to fall back into the bowl.
Wipe the underside of the fork against the rim of the bowl and place onto some baking paper.
Sprinkle with a little blackcurrant powder while the chocolate is still wet and leave to set at room temperature.
Repeat until all the centres have been dipped and sprinkled.
Happy Easter y’All – Eat Chocolate and Be Merry!
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