Sunday, December 6, 2009

Louise and Her Chocolate Factory

It should surprise no one that my favorite childhood book was Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Right from my very first reading of it at age six, I was transported into a magical world, one where a chocolate river churned by waterfall ran through the heart of it while chocolate delights beyond my wildest dreams waited at every turn. I was always disappointed in the Halloween loot I collected each year, thinking that none of it ever held a candle to the scrumdiddliumptious chocolate I imagined that Mr. Wonka created for children and adults all over. I used to have dreams about winning a golden ticket to that chocolate factory, as well as dreams in which I was capable of creating chocolate wonders of my own that made people swoon.

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. In my 17 years of serious cocoa-based experimentation, I can say with confidence that I’ve made more than a few swoon-worthy chocolate creations by now. My apartment is certainly not big, and my kitchen lacks adequate storage and counter space. But I’ve managed to create my own little chocolate factory in here, regardless, and I’ve just begun my third Christmas season of CocoaRoar truffles.

You can create your own chocolate factory too. First of all, you’ll need some chocolate. Lots of it. I happen to have FIFTY-SIX pounds worth of Valrhona bittersweet chocolate in varying percentages of cocoa in my kitchen right now, as well as some Callebaut white chocolate too. (I hope that will be enough to get me through this month.)

You’ll also need an appropriate amount of heavy cream if you’re planning to make truffles with those aforementioned 56 pounds of chocolate. Truffles are basically hot cream and melted chocolate mixed together to form an emulsion, which is known as ganache. When the ganache sets, it can be scooped out and rolled into little truffles.

A truffle made of pure extra-bittersweet chocolate is a thing of beauty, but you might want a few other ingredients to flavor your other batches of ganache. I usually do six flavors at a time when I’m in CocoaRoar mode, and it’s always challenging to narrow it down to just a half-dozen flavors since I have so many favorites. Meyer lemons are only in season at this time of year, and I love the way their floral lemony-ness enhances white chocolate. Knobs of freshly grated ginger infuse cream with spicy-sweet heat for a fabulous ginger truffle.

 This special Raspberry Earl Grey tea blend from Tealuxe has long been one of my favorite pairings with chocolate, making my knees buckle each time I dip my spoon into this warm ganache. And since friends are ordering entire boxes solely of Peanut Butter & Sea Salt truffles, I know I’ll need several more jars of PB to keep up with the demand. (I’m also doing a zingy passion fruit truffle, but the passion fruit puree is not so photogenic and opted out of this photo session.)

I often wish I had Oompah-Loompahs to help me in my own chocolate factory, but honestly there wouldn’t be much room for them in here. Yet I’ve found that it’s an extremely efficient use of time to prep the packaging materials in advance before chocolate production actually starts. If you’re boxing up your truffles to give to friends and you feel compelled to line your little red boxes with leopard-print tissue paper as I do, it’s helpful to prepare the boxes in advance before your apartment and your hands are semi-permanently covered in cocoa and melted chocolate.

Let the chocolate madness begin!

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