This recipe comes to us from Natasha MacAller, from her book Vanilla Table--The essence of exquisite cooking from the world's best chefs.
Pepper, spice and vanilla-infused cream with milk chocolate – a truffle for now, and one for later!
2/3 fl cup whipping cream
2 teaspoon chai tea (from 1 bag)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, finely ground
1 teaspoon runny honey
1/2 vanilla pod, split and scraped
2 1/4 cups GUITTARD COLLECTION ETIENNE Soleil d'Or 38% milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1 3/4 cups GUITTARD COLLECTION ETIENNE Ecuador 65% Cacao, finely chopped
Heat cream, tea, pepper, honey and vanilla pod just to a simmer. Turn off heat and infuse for 2 hours or chill overnight.
Warm infused cream until steamy, place a dry sieve/strainer over chocolate and pour cream over. Shake bowl to agitate chocolate, then wait 1 minute. Using a spatula upright, gently stir chocolate in a circular motion until completely melted and smooth. Scrape into a small container, then cover, or chill, until firm.
When ganache is set, scoop with a teaspoon or small ice-cream scoop and roll into balls. Place on lined pan, cover and chill until solid, about 3 hours.
Roll truffles in sifted cocoa powder to coat and leave until just cool to the touch. Set aside a large lined tray.
TO TEMPER IN A MICROWAVE
Microwave chocolate pieces at half power for about 30 seconds. Stir pieces a bit to even out the heat then microwave again for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat a few more times using shorter intervals (10–15 seconds) until chocolate just begins to melt.
Taking time and care, microwave at half power for just a few seconds at a time until the pieces are about ⅔ melted. Don’t rush as the chocolate will overheat and then will not temper. The end temperature should be barely warm (32ºC/90°F). To test this, dip your finger into the chocolate and touch it just under your bottom lip. If it feels like ‘nothing’, neither hot nor cold, it is the correct temperature.
Temper test: Tempered chocolate looks cohesive and will show a path if stirred. If it is ready to use, it will pass this simple test: a little dribble or dab on a clean plate will set within a minute or two with even consistency and a glossy appearance.*
As you use the chocolate it may become thick and cold. Rewarm carefully for just a few seconds at a time to keep it tempered and flowing, without going over 32ºC/90°F.
TO TEMPER IN A DOUBLE BOILER
Place ⅔ of the chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan/pot of steamy but not simmering water. Using a silicone spatula gently ‘massage’ the chocolate until fully melted. Remove bowl from heat and place on a dishtowel. Sprinkle in half the remaining chocolate and continue to massage with spatula until smooth and completely melted. Add remaining chocolate and repeat. Check your chocolate is ready using the ‘temper test’ (see above).
If the tempered chocolate begins to harden around the edges of the bowl, return to the double boiler for a few minutes and gently stir until it returns to a smooth liquid.
To cover the truffles
Place one of the truffles into the melted chocolate and quickly submerge. Fish out with a small fork or dipping tool, allow excess chocolate to drain for a few seconds then place the coated truffle on prepared tray to set. Repeat with remaining truffles. Drizzle with melted white chocolate if wished.
* If you end up with untempered chocolate, there is a back-up plan! Stir in 2 Tbsp/30 ml/1 fl oz of melted fat (any sort of shortening or oil will work). This is another way to give a cohesive quality and keep crystals from separating. You still need to gently warm and stir it as it is used. The downside is that the coating will not be as hard or durable as tempered chocolate, so take care to keep your finished truffles cool.
From the author: with many thanks to my pastry instructor Peggy Alter, creator of Pastry Pieces/www.pastrypieces.com, who taught me the best way to make truffles!