Thursday, July 28, 2011


So I made chocolate.

No really, I did. I mean, I didn't hop off to Belize and harvest cacao pods by hand and dry the seeds in the sun or anything.  But I did take ordinary bars of dark chocolate and transform them into infused bites of deliciousness.

Michael Recchuiti's book, Chocolate Obsession,  which I've checked out from the library about 27 times, will be the death of me for certain. But it includes a recipe for earl grey tea-infused ganache, which sounds exactly like a chocolate truffle I had in Florence and haven't found anywhere else. Plus, there are about a thousand of his other recipes that are calling my name. So I got started.

I'd been scared of candy-making for a while, as I mentioned in my caramel-into-toffee post this past winter. But really, I've started to believe that candy-making is all about temperatures, and not much more. The ingredients are simple: in this case, chocolate, cream, sugar, butter, and tea. The problem is, it's easy to blast way past the desired temperature, and then the very small window of opportunity is gone. Or maybe it's just my problem, since I get impatient waiting around for the Perfect Temperature, and start doing other things. You know, multitasking. And then when I check on the chocolate, its temperature is sky high. Fortunately for me, chocolate-making is more forgiving than hard candy making, since all I have to do is wait a little while for it to cool down to The Right Temperature. Whereas with hard candy, once I've hit Hard Crack, I'm f*cked. (Oh wow. SO not what I meant.)

        The first batch came out well. Well enough to impress people, even. The ganache in the middle was the perfect consistency, and the tea infusion was just like the one I ate while prancing around in my new Italian leather boots and pretending I was a bona fide italiana under the shadow of Il Duomo... I had poured the ganache into a square baking dish, but had a hard time evening it out before it set, so the pieces I wound up with were of many sizes, shapes, and thicknesses. Some of the lopsidedness was masked by the tempered chocolate coating, but the bigger pieces were on the verge of being sickening.

Perfectionists hate imperfection. Which is why one of them invented chocolate molds. So for Round 2, I made a small batch of chili-spiced dark chocolate ganache and set it in molds that create perfect two-bite pieces. This flavor combination has been one of my favorites since "Chocolat" (if you are a teacher or parent, your kids can read about it here. Plus Robert Burleigh is a super-nice guy.). Recchiuti says to rap on the backside of the molds to release the chocolate once it has set. Evidently one can rap too hard, since I left nicks on the tops of my pieces from all the knife-rapping I did.  Note to self.

Molds are great. But it turns out that round pieces are hard to coat evenly since they have no edges. SO not perfect.

Now that I have the whole temperature-plus-perfect-size-and-shape thing down, I need to work on my decorating skills. Recchiuti suggests gold dust, which sounds like a recipe for A Huge Mess, along with microscopic drizzled lines of tempered chocolates, which sound like a recipe for It Looks Like a Three-Year-Old Made This. But then again, I was once afraid of the Perfect Temperature, and look at me now.

The square one on the right isn't quite dry. And I'm not sure what the swirly streaks are on the round and other squares-- cocoa butter rising to the top?

And by the way, Sur La Overpriced Table, it is unbelievably irritating that you sell candy thermometers that don't gauge below 100 degrees when you know perfectly well that tempering chocolate requires said chocolate to be at either 87 or 90 degrees. Crate and Barrel sells one for half your price that drops to a precarious 60 degrees, so now I own two candy thermometers. Which has turned out to be remarkably convenient.

Yes, I realize the SLT one is in the chocolate. That's because I'm not tempering it yet. Smarty pants.


  1. Mia, Mia, Mia...another fine posting with language so descriptive I can almost taste it. I think you have actually inspired me to take some cooking lessons!

  2. So, I was wondering if you could ship some if these to me and Ken in time for our anniversary on August 17. They look and sound delicious!

  3. Ramona, I will have to figure out how to ship them without having them melt all over the place.
    Patti, how about if I just become your personal chef?

  4. They look delicious. I love chocolate and I would call myself chocoholic! I've made truffles once for a cooking group and it was very labor intensive! Great job!

  5. Thank you, Kahori! They are definitely a labor of love, but once I get the hang of it, they should become easier and I will be better able to make them for friends and family.
    How did you get involved in a cooking group? Which country was it in? I've heard of them and thought they sounded interesting and quite fun, but have never joined one.