I’ve just spent the day living every child’s dream – locked in a sweet shop, eating as much as I wanted. How great is that?! I went to see my good pal Paul A Young who runs a lovely chocolate shop in Camden Passage. He’s someone I used to watch on cookery programmes on TV and an old Marco Pierre-White employee, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn how to make some chocolates with him.
First, a tasting, where we discovered 70 per cent isn’t the be-all and end-all we’d thought it was, as the 64 per cent cocoa solids we tried tasted deeper and richer than anything you can find in the supermarket. We then took a tour of the Caribbean, trying beans from different countries and noting their vastly different tastes.
To make our truffles we chose a really fruity, acidic bean from Madagascar, processed by renowned chocolate makers Vahlrona. It was a surprisingly simple process of scorching cream and sugar, pouring it over chocolate and then allowing the mixture to set. A teaspoon size nugget was rolled into a ball, coated in cocoa, then dipped in melted chocolate before another cocoa-coating was added to finish. The results were spectacular.
Alongside truffles we made flavoured bars. This required the chocolate be tempered, which has always been a bit of a mystery to me. It involves heating it to the point of ‘full crystal melt’, ie when the chocolate is completely liquid and the cocoa butter and sugar have dissolved, then folding it over and over on itself as it cools, leaving a shiny chocolate that snaps beautifully.
We chose our own flavours, and I used sandalwood essence mixed into the chocolate itself and then pretty pink peppercorns scattered over for some colour and bite. Simon, eager to show his Indian roots, chose toasted cumin and made his chocolate all the more savoury with Himalayan pink salt.
As we cut it into squares I was reminded of the way chocolate is sold in Geneva – great big random shards, snapped off and weighed. Lovely.
A few more chocolates – I told you I was in heaven – and I wandered off with a big, dark bag of choccies under my arm, my head filled with thoughts of when I might be able to return for another sea salt caramel?
Paul’s Classic Dark Ganache Truffles
Ingredients (makes 40)
250g double cream
200g dark chocolate
100g caster sugar
good cocoa powder (such as Green & Blacks or Fair-trade) for dusting
Bring the cream to scorching point (just below boiling) with the sugar in a saucepan. Pour over the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and whisk well until fully combined.
Pour the mixture onto a clean plastic tray or baking sheet lined with greaseproof. Set aside to cool thoroughly 30 to 60 minutes.
Refrigerate, and once cool use a teaspoon to measure rough amounts, scooping out a small spoonful of ganache for each truffle. Hand roll between your fingertips using cocoa powder to stop them sticking until you have even sized spheres. Dip into really good cocoa to coat and refrigerate until needed.
Allow to come slightly up to room temperature before serving.