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Name:Chocolate Truffles Contributor:Rob Scott
Description:review and information from a weekend truffle-training Posted:2000-05-08
Key words:cooking class Category:Desserts
ID:622 Updated:2005-12-11 10:16:57
Preparation:What a wonderful experience I had this past Saturday. I spend the day
quite literally up to my elbows in chocolate and it was indeed a fine
thing. If the mantra of Pachinko players is "Be the ball" than my mantra
on Saturday was "Be the bean, the cacao bean."

Several months ago I had to good fortune of having a cow orker recommend a
class in truffle making to me. The class is offered once per quarter
(except during the summer months) during the normal school year through
the UW Experimental College in Seattle. The principle instructor, Bill
Fredericks is an oceanographer at UW and also teaches truffle making at
several community colleges and Sur La Table in Seattle. The
co-instructor, Elizabeth Peckham is a professional truffle maker who distributes her wares in various Seattle area co-op stores and east-side boutique food shops.

The class gathered at Bill's house in Lake Forest Park. The morning was
spent on a ninety minute lecture on chocolate history, cacao culturing and
economics and the basic physics of prepared chocolate. During the course
of the lecture, we discussed and sampled various mixes and grades of
unsweetened chocolate liquor, various darks, several milks and three white
chocolates. Some of the more important tidbits that I learned from this
session were:

- White chocolate is indeed considered chocolate if it consists of only
cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and optional flavorings.

- Cocoa butter melts at 88 degrees, and must be worked at a temperature of
between 88 and 92 degrees. This is what gives pure chocolate confections
their distinct and immediate taste and mouth feel. It is also the
property that makes it particularly difficult to work with if a fine confection is to be produced.

- There are three types of cacao plants in the world: one of which
accounts for 85% of the worlds crop and is used primary for the bulk in
manufactured chocolate and the other two which are far more flavorful and are mixed with the bulk beans in most chocolate varieties. Similar to coffee
beans, cacao beans have regional distinctions and are typically blended by
the chocolate manufacturer to produce distinct and consistent products for distribution.

- Cacao plants only grow in a belt plus or minus 20 degrees from the
equator. The Ivory Coast is currently the worlds largest producer of
beans. The plants are very difficult to pollinate and each produces a
maximum of between 30 and 50 pods per year. This lack of fecundity
accounts for the relatively high price of chocolate worldwide.

- Never, EVER expose melted chocolate directly to water. The chocolate
will "seize" around the water drops and form a completely unmeltable hard
mass that will be most unpleasant in the final product.

At the end of the morning session, we prepared our first "ganache", or
creamy truffle filling. Most truffle fillings are actually quite simple
to make, typically consisting of a quantity of chocolate, heavy cream and a
flavoring of some sort. The flavorings may be as simple as a few drops of
essential oils, a teaspoon or three of a liqueur or they may be as complex
as a reduced fruit mixture strained into a concentrated liquid. Several
of the ganaches that we produced needed to set in the fridge prior to our use
later in the day.

Next we received our first lesson on tempering chocolate. This is the
true skill piece in making any chocolate confection. If chocolate solidifies
at the wrong temperatures the result is often a grainy mass that is quite
unappealing to the eye and the mouth. Only one of seven crystalline forms
is the desirable outcome, and to achieve this perfection the melted
chocolate must be quickly cooled from between 100-110F to 92F to allow
only the "Beta" crystals to form.

Bill took some melted chocolate and spread it out on a thick marble
slab. The marble (any stone slab will do, actually) absorbs the heat of
the chocolate quickly and brings it down to the required temp of 92F
without the slow cooling that allows the unfavorable crystals to form.
The art of tempering chocolate is knowing when the mixture is cool enough and
then beginning to work it. Bill showed us the various tell-tale signs of
the proper temperature and soon he had a batch of chocolate at perfect
working temperature. He then showed us now to properly fill molds in
order to later have a number of waiting vessels for our ganache mixtures.

During a brief lunch break we watched a video that showed us more about
the crystallization process in chocolate manufacturing. After the video, the
class finished preparing a number of other ganache recipes and then
proceeded to fill the molded chocolate shells that the instructor had made

Now it was time to make two more batches of tempered chocolate to seal the
filled molds and to hand dip some of the ganache in. Your humble servant
and author volunteered to temper the batch of white chocolate and it was a
great experience to be able to do so under the watchful eye of journeyman
chocolate worker Elizabeth. After tempering, there was lots of
opportunity to hand dip ganache balls to make hand rolled truffles. We also dipped lots of different fruit varieties, which is an easy and delightful
treat. Note that to avoid the chocolate seizing around any moisture on a
washed fruit (such as a strawberry) it is very important to wash the fruit
well in advance and to make sure that it has dried thoroughly before
dipping it.

When all was completed each student took two or three of everything that
we'd made and put it in a presentation box for take home with us. We each
brought at least a pound of premium handmade truffles and other chocolate
treats home. An excellent class and delightful fun, too.

Of course, WetFood and WetLeather may expect to benefit from my new found
knowledge. Let's see what I can come up with for the next WetEvent
(although I don't think that I'll be competing with SwtP for a while until
I work on some of my skills).
Equipment:marble slab or tempering machine for the coating.

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