I have an attitude problem – I’m a perfectionist. Simply means I will not settle for anything less than the best. Which indicates that I’ll not give up until I get what I want. In the positive manner, it means I will keep improving until I get the best. On the negative side, it just means I can stress myself too much. But it is this attitude that brings me this far in my food styling, food photography and culinary journey, so that that I keep perfecting my skills and creations, until I achieve the best or right results. It can be stressful at times, but as the saying goes, no pain, no gain.
I’ve been trying to make chocolate truffles since end January this year, but still on the quest to make the best. What to do, it’s in my genes, I just have to make it perfectly! It’s a very delicate process that needs lots of patience, attention to details, and skill. For me, after repeated attempts with some successes and a number of failures, I’ve realized that successful truffles greatly rely on a few factors, namely: 1. taste, 2. texture & mouth-feel, and 3. shaping. I’ve recently read an online article by Bill Yosses on finecooking.com and made the truffles yesterday based on his guidelines. Turned out pretty well and the article helped me understand why some of my previous truffles didn’t turn out the way they should be.
First, let’s talk about the taste. I’ve read over and over again the first most important thing to make perfect chocolate truffles is to use top quality chocolate, with a higher content of cocoa solids, preferably 60% and above. I’ve tried making with Lindt and Frey (both Swiss made, and 70% cocoa solids and above), the results were pretty good. And I’ve also made with huge blocks of so-called “good quality” cooking chocolate (which I forgot the brand) from the baking supplies shop, and my clients said they tasted like some “flour lumps with chocolate flavour”. Now those were disappointing, and I swear that I’ll never ever make with those again.
With the above in mind, I went to hunt for the top French chocolate brand, Valrhona in Singapore last weekend, and came back with the Valrhona Grand Cru Araguani 72% cocoa solids, milk chocolate and also the white chocolate couvertures. I also bought a few packets of Callebaut chocolates from Belgium, which I would like to compare with Lindt, Frey and Valrhona. For me, I prefer my truffles to be less sweet, with more intense chocolaty flavour. I like my truffles infused with liquor, either rum, liqueur, brandy or cognac. It gives you the “kick” when you bite into the creamy velvety center, only something you can perceive when you eat it yourself.
Next, the texture and mouth-feel. Another very important feature of a good chocolate truffle. The texture of the truffle mainly comes with the cream emulsified with the chocolate, which is called ganache. A sensational chocolate truffle should melt in your mouth with a velvety smooth texture, bursting with intense chocolate flavours. In my experience, temperature plays a very important role in making the ganache. Many times I had my ganache seized and the emulsion of chocolate and cream/butter separated because I added in cold liqueur to warm ganache. Well the truffles were still edible but just didn’t have very good texture and appearance, because you could see a layer of separated fats after the ganache sets.
Finally, comes my biggest horror when making truffles – shaping. This is the hardest part for me. I always have problems shaping the truffles in perfect round balls. I’ve been using a melon scooper to scoop the cooled ganache then shape with my hands, what a mess! I have to constantly move between the preparation table to the sink to get my hands cleaned as the ganache balls melt very easily the moment I start rolling between my two palms. Too bad I don’t have an air conditioner in my kitchen now, but I’ll make sure the new food styling kitchen that I’m moving in later this year is cold enough! Next time, I’ll try piping the ganache (as Bill Yosses does) and see if it’s easier to work with and turn out better!
The recipe I used yesterday was adapted from Bill Yosses’ guidelines. I used 150 g of finely chopped Valrhona dark chocolate, 100 ml good quality thickened cream, boiled (I used Paul’s from Australia, the best I can find in Malaysia), 1 tbsp of Bulla butter, whisked, 1 tbsp of cherry brandy (make sure you add it in bit by bit when the ganache liquid has cooled down to room temperature or the mixture will seize immediately when you stir in the brandy; you can substitute with normal brandy, rum or vodka or any other liquor that you like), and Valrhona cocoa powder to coat the truffles.
The verdict? The truffles tasted really really good, it felt like heaven in your mouth! The velvety texture combined with the dense chocolate flavour lightly infused with cherry brandy, and the perfectly roasted fine cocoa powder is really something to die for. Sinful, but wonderful!
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