The Personification of Chocolate
If chocolate were a human being, she would be high maintenance. Chocolate would be the kind of person who takes exactly as much time to get ready as she damn well pleases and must have everything just so. Just particularly so. Just exactly specifically precisely just so. Okay? OK. Then when she’s finally out on a date with you, if you man handle her too much she’ll call it quits 100% and just piss off.
What I Do for a Living
In case you didn’t get the memo, I work in a chocolate shop. I am an apprentice chocolatier. The distinction deserves to be made between an apprentice and a real chocolatier, because as you may have gleaned chocolate is really bloody hard to work with. The fundamental skill of chocolate making, tempering, took me about 2-1/2 months to learn to do with confidence. And on a daily basis the process is still utterly subject to subtle variables such as air humidity, temperature, temperature fluctuation and whether or not our espresso machine is working.
Tempering is a process in which we induce crystal growth in the chocolate. Cocoa butter, the complex fat in chocolate, can exist in many different forms on a molecular level. It can be chaotic, or it can be organized and linear like it is when we induce crystal growth in it. We want crystal growth because it makes the chocolate set in a certain amount of time, it makes it smooth and shiny and beautiful, the texture is smooth and not crumbly or chalky and it tastes better.
Ideally you have a dry cool environment to do chocolate work in. Sixty-nine degrees with low humidity. When I went to NYC last to work on Don Cristobal, Erin, Glenda and I made truffles to feed to the cast as a thank you. We got up reeeeeeeeeeeally early in the morning. Here is us making chocolate in our bath robes:
So clearly we are not rocking the super scientific and controlled style of truffle making. And the recipe that follows is actually quite forgiving of that. So the temper’s not perfect, so we thought we had a food processor that turned out to be broken, so sleep deprivation coupled with extreme working hours has made us slightly maniacal. Who cares? Let’s make some chocolate truffles!
- Dark chocolate.
Wait a sec, wait a sec, hold up. I need to do a brief glossary before jumping in here.
Ganache: a mixture of cream and chocolate. We are making the inside of our truffles with ganache.
Enrobing: The process of dipping the shaped pieces of ganache into the melted chocolate, thus covering them with chocolate. Yes this is a technical term.
Some Ground Rules
- Keep your chocolate away from water. That means completely drying any tools or body parts that are going to come in contact with the chocolate. Also aim for a less humid kitchen environment if you can (for instance do not work with chocolate after you’ve been canning for hours and hours and days, OK? Okay.)
- Chocolate does not live in the fridge. Chocolate lives in a cool dry environment. If you put it in the fridge it will get condensation on it and then it will be wet. See rule number one.
- Please keep the chocolate cool. As you know, it melts in the heat. If you can get your kitchen to 69 degrees, that’s ideal. If not your truffles may look a little weird and there’s nothing to be done about that except cover them completely with decorations.
Figuring Out the Quantity of Chocolate You Need
We have to do a little math to figure out how much chocolate to get. You will want 30% more chocolate for your enrobing than for your ganache. And your ganache is not purely chocolate. Ganache is 3 parts chocolate to 2 parts cream. So say you want to make 1 lb. of ganache. That’s about 9 oz. chocolate: 6 oz. cream. Then to enrobe that you want a third more chocolate (12 oz.). That means overall you’d want 1 lb. 5 oz. chocolate. Please figure out your own math. I am used to making large quantities of truffles because I work in a shop. The above quantities would not make very many truffles in my books.
You will make your ganache. This recipe is for a caramelized ganache. If you want to make your ganache different flavours as well, you can. Add some liquor! Add some…. what? What do you want in your chocolate? What? The craziest idea I heard recently was green Thai curry ganache. We make some in our shop with cardamon or coconut or sorrel. You choose. Here’s what Erin, Glenda and I did.
- your decided amount of chocolate
- your decided amount of heavy cream
- a wee bit of sugar (Honestly I eyeballed this like my life depended on it. This is for making the caramel. I’d suggest just a touch, but if you want to go hard, far be it for me to stand in your way.)
- You’re going to do two things at the same time. These being to heat your cream up to boiling while caramelizing some sugar in a pot that’s big enough to add the cream to. So go ahead, get your cream heating. Meanwhile wet your sugar in a pot and cook it until it’s a nice caramelized amber-turning-to-darker-amber. Keep your eye on it, especially when it starts to change colours. The idea is that you’ll have your cream as hot as possible when it’s time to SLOWLY deglaze it into the pot of caramelized sugar. Why did I all-caps the word SLOWLY? It’s because adding cream (which has a lot of water in it) to utterly piping hot sugar goo (that’s your caramel) makes the water instantly turn to steam. I don’t want you to burn yourself. Really, I don’t. And this maneuver is a bit dangerous, so add the cream when it is as hot as possible at as dainty a trickle as possible to the caramelized sugar while stirring the pot. It is going to bubble up like crazy and then simmer down as it cools. Please don’t hurt yourself and don’t panic. If you have to ditch your lil’ pot of sugar goo because your cream isn’t boiling, just do it. It’s worth wasting a wee bit of sugar in order to make this easy on yourself. If you fuck it up, you’ll get to see what happens to that caramelized sugar when it cools down. Sugar chemistry is CRAZY and is a deep subject that I have not completely dived into. ALTERNATELY Just make this ganache with straight cream (no caramelizing craziness) and add a shot of booze at the end. I will not judge you.
- Let your beautiful caramel cream liquid sit and cool until it is just above body temperature (warm to the touch). Meanwhile, measure out your chocolate and place it unmelted into the food processor. There are ways to make ganache without a food processor, but I am not versed in these ways. Seek these ways elsewhere. When Glenda, Erin and I made ganache, we thought that Erin’s food processor was working, but discovered that it wasn’t at the very last second. So we used the hand blender. It was kind of messy, but you can get chocolate off your walls with a hair dryer if all else fails.
- When your cream has sufficiently cooled, turn your processor on and pour it over the chocolate. Let it blend and melt until it becomes a smooth emulsified pudding. Now is the time to add your booze or what have you. HINT: If your ganache is looking really chunky and like it could use some extra heat, heat up your liquor before putting it in.
- Pour your pudding ganache into a bowl or something and let it set out of the fridge overnight or up to two days. We’ll revisit that a bit later….
COMING UP IN PART TWO
How to enrobe truffles (oh dear God how I am I going to convey this over the internet?)
Eating chocolates and licking your hands!!