This year has been a busy one in the kitchen. My oven even burned itself out mid year and mid cake! (Thank goodness it was only the lighter and easily fixable, and thank goodness for nice neighbors with working ovens.) All of the work is self-imposed, but I am happiest in the kitchen churning out goodies, so can you really call it work? This holiday was especially busy when I decided to again gift hand-rolled chocolate truffles to friends and family. As it was my second time around, why not throw out a challenge? (Check out first time here.) So, I offered to make gifts for my family to gift to their friends and co-workers. I was expecting to maybe double what I made last year (which was like 15 boxes), but BAM! my dad emailed that he needed 50 boxes of chocolates and then my mom added on another 15 and my sis 10. They must have a lot more friends than me.
At first I didn’t think I could do it, and Zach definitely thought it was too much to handle, but then I started planning and spreadsheeting out a production schedule, purchase list, and researching vendors. As I got more and more into it, I gained confidence (or became more delusional) that it was achievable. What’s a 100 boxes of truffles right?
Chocolate truffles are basically a mixture of chocolate and cream (sometimes butter) to which flavors (extracts, liquor, coffee, nuts, spices, etc.) can be added to – ganache. The ganache is cooled and then formed into rounds that are to resemble real truffles (like the fungi kind) that grows in the ground in France and Italy. The truffles can be rolled in cocoa powder to simulate dirt that real truffles grow in. Now a days, chocolate truffles are perfectly round with pre-made chocolate shells to contain the ganache and then coated again with chocolate, decorated with edible shimmer and multi-colored cocoa butters. Oh those are so pretty, but some times I find the chocolate shells much too thick and all you can taste is the crappy chocolate outside and none of the flavors inside (“cough cough, Godiva”).
The taste, texture, and quality of the chocolate truffle primarily comes from the quality of chocolate that you use. NOT ALL CHOCOLATES ARE THE SAME! There are 3 types of cacao beans (Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario) and the type and/or blend of the beans, their quality, and where they are grown all contribute to the quality and taste of chocolate. How the beans are roasted and ground into “chocolate liquor” and how much cocoa butter (or other erroneous ingredients “cough cough, Hersheys”) is added also contributes to the quality, taste, and texture.
Ok, so I wasn’t a chocolate snob until I started this project, but the more you work with different types and levels of quality the more you understand why there is such a difference. If you’re mixing it into other stuff and baking with chocolate, it’s not as big of a deal, but if you’re showcasing the chocolate you’ll turn into a snob too. Chocolate is extremely finicky and if not tempered (heating and cooling the chocolate to certain degrees depending on type and brand) correctly or handled with delicate hands, it can cause you to pull out your hair. It can seize up on you (turn into an un-useable gloppy mess when even just a little drop of water touches it), it can turn gray and ugly (fat blooms where the fat from the cocoa butter separates from the chocolate liquor, usually sign of improper tempering or it was exposed to heat or the freezer), it can be dull and crumbly (improper tempering), and it can be extremely messy. I found that if you use good quality chocolate (I used Cacao Barry by Callebaut couverture) and treat it with respect (no kissing on a first date!) it’ll melt better and love you like you love it.
Back to the truffles! This year I stuck with favorite flavors of mine and my friends: chocolate caramel with Maldon sea salt, hazelnut crisp (like a Crunch bar, but hazelnut/Nutella flavored), white chocolate orange cream, and cookie dough. Each one was hand-rolled and hand coated/dipped in tempered chocolate decorated with something to symbolize the flavor.
I also acquired a new favorite kitchen machine of mine for this project, the chocolate tempering machine! Yes, to be an artesian chocolatier, I should be table-tempering the chocolate by hand, but when it took me over 40 minutes to temper 1 lb of chocolate, I gave in and shelled out some hard-earned money for this baby! After a few beeps and 30 minutes or so, you have perfectly tempered chocolate to dip truffles or your fingers into and it’ll stay tempered until you’re done (including over night)! Icarumba it was expensive, but I’m hoping to use it more often to churn out more chocolate goodness or at least dipping anything I can find in chocolate just for fun.
I must say the packaging was the biggest challenge of this whole process. Next time, I’ll have to remember to make truffles that fit the design and packaging instead of the other way around, and to start earlier with a design and to stick to it! If anybody has any suggestions on design, sourcing and ways to ship, please comment away!
Thank you to all my family, friends, and family friends for all the support in the process and for believing in me! Here’s to another year of kitchen adventures!
PS. If you’re a recipient of the truffles, I hope you enjoy each bite and please let me know what you think and any suggestions!