All about chocolate

Let’s be honest, chocolate is pretty damn amazing, isn’t it? Yeah – it really is. The only moments I ever feel quite proud to be Belgian is when the topic shifts to chocolate (as it tends to do from time to time). Just the other day I was watching the BBC and the Hairy Bikers’ bakaction episode was set in Belgium (Bruges) and they were talking about chocolate. Yeah, no surprise there, but to see them speak so highly of our chocolate (as they should!) made me feel quite proud – even though I personally have nothing to do with the tradition of Belgian chocolate. But I guess that’s how that works, national pride.

There will be a couple of different things in this post. First I’ll talk a bit about tempering chocolate (melting it the “proper” way) and then I’ll give a couple of quick ganache recipes. Good stuff all around, I assure you!

First thing’s first: what kind of chocolate should you use? I use chocolate drops from Callebaut. The drops are small so they melt very easily, and callebaut tastes amazing. Any chocolate of any shape will do, however. If you get a bar I do suggest you get a high quality one, and make sure the break it up into small pieces before melting it.

Temper instructions on the side of the bag!

Tempering chocolate is basically melting chocolate, but in a way that when it sets it gets hard again, and is shiny instead of dulled. Now I know the temptation to just melt your chocolate in the microwave is big, but I really don’t recommend it. (Then again, I don’t recommend microwaving for most things – I’m kinda anti-microwave. But that’s besides the point.)

I’ve had some trouble with melting chocolate au-bain-marie in the past, but after seeing it done right on The Fabulous Baker Brothers, and getting some tips from my mom, I’ve become pretty good at it! It’s really not that hard either, you just have to know what to do.

Now, first thing’s first: melting chocolate au-bain-marie (which means you put your chocolate in a bowl, and then put that bowl on top of a pot with warm water, on the stove).

01. Your (heatproof) bowl that contains the chocolate has to be bigger than your pot filled with water on the stove.
02. The water shouldn’t touch the bowl.
03. Turn the heat on the lowest setting.
04. Give your chocolate lots of love and attention: keep gently stirring it so the hot/melted chocolate at the sides can help melt the chocolate at the top.

If any water or any vapor hits your melting chocolate it will crumble up into a horrible mess. So really make sure your bowl > pot.

Now, if the purpose of your melted-chocolate is something like a glaze for cookies or maybe you’re making your own pralines, I would recommend tempering your chocolate. Follow steps 1-4 from above but:

05. Heat up your chocolate until it reaches 45°C.
06. Take the bowl off the au-bain-marie and add more chocolate + stir so your melted chocolate cools down to about 27°C.
07. Tip: it’s better to add a little chocolate at a time, the colder your chocolate gets the harder it’ll be to melt the solid pieces of chocolate.
08. Once it’s reached 27°C put the bowl back on the au-bain-marie just until it reaches 31°C again.
09. Voila!

There is another way to temper your chocolate, but it involves whacking it on a cold surface (like a table-top) and cooling it down by manipulating it with spatulas and stuff – I very much prefer this way, it’s less messy. If you don’t have a food thermometer (they are super handy though, get one! It’s super easy to check if your meat is cooked on the inside with them, etc! Plus, they’re not that expensive!) you could just do it by feeling but that could uhm turn out not that great.

I got inspired by Angel Adoree‘s book The Vintage Tea Party Book to try my hand at fun, flavored chocolate truffles. The easiest way to make truffles is by making a ganache. The book has a recipe for Earl Grey flavored truffles, and I got my inspiration for the spicy truffles from Jeroen MeusDagelijkse Kost recipe for spicey chocolate with nuts and dried fruit. While I’m not a big fan of nuts and dried fruit, I liked the idea of making chocolate a bit spicey. Jeroen Meus made it even more attractive by adding: “Like in that movie, Chocolat!”

Earl Grey Truffle Hearts

200 grams of thick cream
250 grams of (high quality) dark or brown chocolate
4/5 teaspoons of loose Earl Grey

Ganache is nothing more than chocolate and cream. There are different ways to get your ganache mixture, I’ve seen chefs who prefer to melt their chocolate and then mix in the (lightly heated) cream. For this recipe though you’re gonna melt the chocolate with the heath of the cream.

Add the loose Earl Grey to your cream, put it in a pan on a very low heath and stir it constantly until the cream reaches it’s boiling point. Pour the cream, through a sieve (to catch the loose earl grey), onto the chocolate drops. Gently stir the cream through the chocolate until all of it has melted. If you find that not all your chocolate wants to melt, quickly put it onto an au-bain-marie and help it along with some extra heath.

Line a baking tray with some none-stick baking paper, pour the melted ganache mixture on there and put in the fridge until it’s hard (ish) again!

Spicey Truffle Hearts

First we’re making our spice mixture:

1 Star Anise
5 Black Peppercorns
1 dried clove
1 cinnamon stick
2 dried pili pili peppers (alternatively: ground piri piri/pili pili or anything else spicy)

You’re gonna have to pulverize this (don’t you just love that word?) I used one of those hand blenders, Jeroen Meus uses a small coffee blender/grinder. If it would happen that you don’t have a pulverizer you could use pre-ground pepper, pre-ground cinnamo and pre-ground pili pili and five-spice (which has star anise in it) as an alternative. Though it won’t be 100% the same, I’m sure it’ll still be awesome :)

You’re gonna put 200 grams of cream on a low heath again, now infusing it with this spice mixture. Again, pour the boiling cream over the chocolate (no need to put it through the sieve this time) and melt the chocolate.

After it’s cooled back down in the fridge you end up with a ganache that’s not quite as firm as plain-chocolate is. You can either cut this up (in squares, in rectangles, in triangles, in whatever strikes your fancy) or you can cut out shapes with cookie-cutters. If you decided to do that, don’t let the left-over ganache go to waste, gently heat it again in an au-bain-marie and let it set again.

Infusing the cream

The truffles will be a little gooey and melty to the touch, so I covered them in cocoa powder and powdered sugar. The cocoa made the spicey truffles a little softer tasting, and the powdered sugar made the Earl Grey ones really sweet and lovely

Powdered sugar and cocoa

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