This holiday season I tried making chocolates for the first time ever. I know, it’s even hard for me to admit that it took me THIS LONG to give it a shot!
I dug up a recipe online, going for french rather than english.
*As a side note, I often use francophone websites for dessert recipes rather than anglosaxon ones. Why? Because in this humble gourmande’s opinion, the Americans especially have a tendency to use waaaay tooooo muuuuuuch SUGAR! Especially when baking with chocolate, sugar has a tendency to dilute all kinds of lovely intense flavors in the cacao.*
But I digress, yet again. I tripped over this website which had a nice, simple looking recipe for chocolate truffles. Filled with enthusiasm blinding me to the task ahead, and thinking only of how great it would be to give these as gifts on a visit to my partner’s friends abroad, I dove into making these chocolate nuggets head on. I grabbed whatever ingredients I could find at the Migros, in a rush (Cailler brand chocolate at 70% if memory serves). I even got creative and decided to embellish the chocolate truffles with a homemade caramelized pistachio center, for a little salty sweet crunch. The recipes came together nicely, and although I didn’t try one, I just knew they would be good. I excitedly and proudly passed them out to our friends and hosts and it seemed they went down pretty well: their freshness especially enhanced the rich and unctuous dark chocolate ganache. It felt so good to get it right the first time ’round!
I had to make more. As soon as possible. And it’s the holidays so there is no shortage of opportunities to give out homemade chocolate truffles. I made one batch the last couple of days, although it turned out I was not really in the mood to do it. This time, I tried a different chocolate combo, using 64% dark chocolate instead of 70%, trying to get rid of some excessive bitterness I sensed in the first batch. I rolled the chocolate ganache around the caramelized nuts, this time adding a bit more in the center to get the crunch-to-unctuous ratio right. When a nice little one was done, I popped it into my mouth to try it. Not bad – but somehow, not the same WOW I felt after the first time.
Tonight, I tried it again, still in a heavy mood and not feeling like making chocolates, but thinking ahead to a dinner party we’ll soon be hosting – these would make perfect take away treats! I heated up the cream and… perhaps I left it on too long? Perhaps too much? Or too little? I had been careless in measuring. I had been careless in assessing the heat. It simmered and a layer of skin formed on top of the cream. I quickly pulled it off the heat and poured it over the chocolate. Today I was using Lindt brand chocolate, 70% again, with just a little Cailler milk chocolate. I started stirring, my favorite part of the ganache making process. Something was amiss again, and it seemed like the chocolate wasn’t shaping up as smoothly as it has in the past. I tossed in the butter and sure enough, the mix seemed to separate lightly, and the butter wasn’t really melting. But WHY? Why, when I had done everything exactly like the previous times?
Stubbornly I pushed on, pouring the ganache into the tray in which it would sit over night in the fridge. I checked on it not too long ago, and indeed, the fat has separated and congealed. Well, it’s official, we can safely call that a bust.
Was it worth prepping the pistachios? Or should I just put an end to the curse and call it quits for the night? Of course I decided to push through, yet again. I pulled out the pistachios, which I had bought at the Coop this time, and in my haste, I had grabbed a pack of unsalted ones. The previous ones being salted, I hesitated again about giving the recipe a new shot. Sure, I am exhausted and just want to go to bed or watch a dumb TV show, but why not just salt them myself I thought? So I tossed them in a pan with a touch of sunflower oil and toasted and salted them up. They smelled good, great even! There was hope! But they were greasy…No matter, I would just need to pat them well enough dry and maybe put them in the oven before adding them to the caramel.
Speaking of caramel, there was the water/sugar/salt mixture seating on the flame, going clear first, and slowly turning yellow. Now I got excited again, but it was slow, so slow! I turned the heat up a notch… and before I knew it, the caramel was speedingly turning an amber colour. I scrambled to pull the pistachios out of the oven and toss them in the caramel mix before it browned too much… the pistachios were darker than I expected. Not burnt I hope? No matter, I tossed them into the caramel, stirred a bit, and just before the caramel burnt (I hope!) managed to get the mix off the heat and onto the foil to cool. When it did, I tried one of the caramelized nuts. It was good! After all this stress it was good! Or was it… bitter? Yes, it had a bitter after taste. Well that’s what you get for improvising, isn’t it?
So. The verdict? I probably won’t bother rolling any truffles with either the chocolate ganache or the caramelized nuts tonight. And it’s apparent to me that the better mood you’re in when you’re cooking, the more likely your product is likely to be delicious. Beginners luck don’t mean a thing if you can’t make the magic happen consistently. And to make delicious chocolate truffles each time, you’ve gotta have the secret ingredient: a whole lotta love.