Springtime….new blossoms, puppies, bunnies, and new beginnings.
In the Northwest it means an emergence out of the dark, drizzly days we know all too well. We get excited just to see daylight early in the morning and we savor the sun late into the evening.
We are a grateful group who appreciates every ounce of sunshine possible.
I look outside now and can see the possibilities of afternoon cocktails on the deck.
We had a preview of the fun days ahead for this summer with a little chocolate truffle making party.
This spring I am going through a kind of rebirth. After many years of running a small publishing and media buying agency I am going back to my previous career in sales as an account executive. And to celebrate spring, Easter, and this new job I had a few of my crazy friends over for what promises to be an annual event.
I prepped for the day by getting all the supplies together and making most of the ganache (chocolate flavored cream centers) in advance and my friends brought over a great little lunch which we supplemented with Sophia Coppola’s new Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine. We used champagne glasses but each individual can has its’ own straw, probably designed for picnics…….this is a whole new way to look at juice boxes!
The sparkling wine was tasty…. for tank induced bubbles. (Those wine classes have made me a bit exasperating I have to admit –there is a point at which some people have too much knowledge!) My friend Suzanne kept the bubbles going to keep us energized for the difficult work ahead of us. She is very wise in so many ways.
The Tempered Housewives
We started at 11am and worked non-stop til 3:30 churning out over 300 chocolate truffles. As I write this I am listening to Death by Chocolate by Sia, how funny that should come up in the iPod shuffling of songs at just this moment.
Really, what was I thinking?
Before we got together I made up 5 flavors of ganache and many solid chocolate bunnies, chicks, and cherry cream filled eggs. Necessary prep work because keeping my friends on task proved to be challenging. Anyone who actually listened to my directions was deemed the teacher’s pet. I get no respect…..
We love getting together, catching up and laughing– having to actually focus on the tedious nature of kitchen prep work would never have worked. It took a solid 4 hours just to temper the chocolate, dip the ganache, decorate the truffles, and we still haven’t finished boxing it all just yet.
Laughter….that was the best part of the day. It was a day we will all remember.
One picture I took of my friend Martha makes me think of the food blog called Not Martha which in my mind should be called Completely Martha since everything featured there is as perfect as Martha Stewart in so many ways…. but I digress. The real Martha in action is much more fun, she was one of my buddies at the pie shop with a real flair for style and grace. Somehow when she was on duty making pies they all had a big letter M cut into the dough (for Martha…. not Marionberry, silly).
She did make some amazing caramels for our day…..
Caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with grey salt is a popular item these days and we wanted to give it a try…I have a special bag of salt for this treat….
…five years ago my family went to Loreto, Mexico and the eco-resort we stayed at had a view of the Island of Carmen on the Sea of Cortez where they harvest sea salt. (It is very sad to know that this property is now a cookie cutter resort, probably one of those with a “swim with the dophins” pool. When we were there we had to bring flashlights to see anything after dark, and a walk to the beach was an adventure since rattlesnakes frequented the path at all times. The food was incredible and the residents in a nearby village of shacks were trained to run the resort, it allowed them to be self-sufficient in a land that today is quite troubled.)
Looking out at the Island of Carmen
The owners sold bags of sea salt naturally harvested on the island across the way , I love the hand embroidered bag, this salt was the perfect topping to our Grey Salt Caramels.
Salt from the Island of Carmen, off Loreto, Mexico
All day long we continually impressed ourselves!
Amaretto, java, cherry, mint, orange, grey salt caramels enrobed in dark chocolate, Easter themed molded chocolates, and we made it all gluten free.
Another friend on this day was Lucy, I want to be like our Luuuceee!!–of course we had to emulate the I Love Lucy show where she is pulling the chocolates from the conveyor belt and eating them. Somehow the original 300 truffles were reduced down by at least 10% by the time we were finished. And I have the PROOF on my face today…arrrgh!
If you want to make your own chocolate truffles you can probably find a class to take in your part of the world. Here in Seattle the “go to guy” is The Chocolate Man. Try googling that and you get hunky guys looking very tan and buff !!!
……..but my Chocolate Man, Bill Fredericks, rents this tempering machine that produces shiny professional chocolate and he sells fine chocolate from Guittard, Callebaut, Felchin, and a variety of supplies— all at very reasonable prices.
Clockwise: bittersweet, milk chocolate, white chocolate and also the chocolate fork and scoop used for the ganache
Chocolate Tempering Machine
Tempering chocolate is necessary for a shiny finish that doesn’t have white streaks throughout. The machine is quite easy to use but taking a class from Bill is worth every penny since he takes you through the history of chocolate, let’s you sample a wide variety of fine chocolates and then takes you through the process of hand tempering chocolate and also using the machine. He provides a variety of decadent truffle recipes. I took his class over ten years ago and amazingly remembered enough to lead my friends through the process to produce all this.
A very simple way to make chocolate truffles without having to temper chocolate is to infuse the chocolate cream centers with espresso and roll that ganache in fine cocoa. We used Felchlin Cocoa for these. The recipe is at the end of this post and also in the new digital book Cooking Gluten-Free!
chocolate fork to break up the 10 lb. block
The egg is filled with cherry creme, it is fantastic.
The cherry cream filled egg was something new for me this year. I found some great cherries at Trader Joe’s……
……simmered them for awhile and pureed them in a little Cuisinart, combined with cream and chocolate to create a slightly runny center in the dark chocolate egg—-a truly decadent treat!
In our neighborhood we have at least 27 Karen’s (like the song 27 Jennifer’s!).
At most parties there is a healthy sampling of Karen, Karin, Kerin, however you want to spell it) so my friend Karin has amassed a mother lode of Karen pictures. One day when we are old and gray we are going to have a party to look at all of her pictures. Maybe we will do that after we play golf. This same Karin brought us funny stories and lots of ribbon and decorations for our chocolate truffle boxes.
Java Chocolate Truffles
8 ounces milk chocolate
1/4 cup mocha coffee beans
2/3 cup cream
1 cup cocoa for coating
Melt chocolate in the microwave in short time increments being careful not to burn. Remove and stir until smooth.
Grind coffee coarsely then pass through a sieve to remove small particles. Mix cream and ground coffee in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer, remove from heat. Simmer a little longer if you want a stronger coffee flavor.
Pour cream, through a sieve to catch the ground coffee, into a medium sized bowl. When chocolate and cream have cooled to lukewarm pour chocolate into cream and whisk until smooth. This mixture is called ganache, cover it with plastic wrap and chill to set.
Scoop ganache into balls using a 1-inch scoop with a release lever. Drop each ganache ball into a shallow bowl of cocoa and roll about until thoroughly coated. Shake off excess cocoa and place into small paper candy cups.
For the dark chocolate lover substitute the milk chocolate with 40unces of bittersweet chocolate and 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate.