Monday, 2 April 2012

Chocolate for the five senses

                                    Cocoa pods on tree                       getty images


I said in my previous post that I would be back here after Easter. As I mentioned to you, work and house chores were preventing me from doing much else,  but I had the opportunity to attend a chocolate masterclass at the weekend, and I just couldn’t turn it down! So, here I am, in the Easter spirit, to share with you a ganache recipe I made at the class.

I tried to attend this class at William Curley’s ages ago. William Curley is Britain’s top Chocolatier. He won the title of Best British Chocolatier for several consecutive years. The masterclass was only a taster which lasted 2h30m, but I learnt some handy tips and tricks to make a truly delicious chocolate truffle.

Before the course started we were offered a flavoursome William Curley’s hot chocolate (the “liquid gold”), perfect for the freezing day outside. Elle, one of Curley’s chocolatiers/patissiers, who was lovely and very enthusiastic, gave us a quick introduction to the world of chocolate and taught us how to make dark chocolate truffle and framboise (raspberry) ganache .

I have an old love affair with chocolate, and when I find a good chocolate, I cherish with enormous pleasure each bite that melts in my mouth. In order to appreciate a good artisan chocolate bar it is best to use all five senses to taste its flavours. Contrary to common belief, a good quality dark chocolate contains several nutritional benefits (see below). So now you have an excuse.

Enjoy it!
The different stages and percentages of chocolate 
plus a vanilla pod and sugar
Mix boiled cream with the chocolate pieces...
then add the butter which will give a beautiful
shiny creamy consistency
piping the truffles on to greaseproof paper
the tempered chocolate and a tray of chocolate
powder
the artisan truffles ready to be coated with tempered chocolate
and powder
They come out in different shapes
Ready to be taken home

Artisan Dark chocolate truffle as taught at William Curley’s

INGREDIENTS

160g 70% chocolate
145g whipping cream
25g unsalted butter (soft)
250g tempered chocolate *
150g cocoa powder

METHOD

Bring cream to boil and let it rest for one minute. Chop the chocolate finely and gradually add the hot (but not boiling) cream, stirring continuously, until the mixture forms a smooth emulsion. Add soft butter, mix until fully incorporated and leave it to set.
Once the ganache is firm, spoon into a piping bag and pipe bulbs onto a silicone lined tray or greaseproof paper.
Leave to set in a cool place.
Prepare a bowl of tempered chocolate* and a tray of cocoa powder.
Coat each truffle in tempered chocolate and roll individually in cocoa.
Allow the chocolate to solidify and then “sieve” the truffle to remove any excess cocoa.

*Tempered chocolate is chocolate which has been heated and specially cooled so that it forms a precise crystal structure. It is melted and kept in a liquid state. Here goes my personal tip for those who find it too difficult, or don’t have the time, to temper the chocolate: you can hand roll the ganache into little balls and coat them with the cocoa powder. And you’ll still have a delicious truffle for your Easter.


The main ingredient and its functional properties 

Dark chocolate/cocoa (Theobroma cacao): What’s not to like about chocolate? It tastes good, stimulates endorphin production and contains serotonin. I am talking here about the real chocolate with at least 60% percent or higher cocoa content. It’s loaded with flavonoids (a compound found in plant pigments). The particular compound found in cocoa called Flavonols make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots. Another key flavonoid is proanthocyanidins (similar to those found in grape seed extracts, berries and apples).

Dark chocolate can provide arginine, an amino acid that is required for the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and helps to regulate blood flow, inflammation and blood pressure. Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a neurotransmitter released by neurons at times of euphoria. That is one of the reasons why chocolate can be considered addictive.

The fats found in chocolate come from the cocoa butter and do not elevate LDL (“bad”cholesterol). Cocoa butter contains oleic acid (the same found in olive oil); stearic acid (it has a neutral effect in the body), and palmitic acid (the same found in palm oil). Because cocoa butter is expensive, cheap chocolate brands replace it with milk fats or hydrogenated oils. Make sure you read the labels of your chocolate bar before buying it.

Cocoa contains the highest source of magnesium – for the ladies who suffer from those nasty mood swings in their pre-menstrual cycle, the good news is that adding magnesium to the diet can increase pre-menstrual hormone levels (progesterone) and alleviate the symptoms. Dark chocolate also contains calcium, iron and potassium. Vitamins A, C, D and E.


Caution: Chocolate shouldn’t be given to some pets (dogs or cats, for instance), as they don’t produce enzymes that metabolize a compound of the chocolate called Theobromine, therefore making chocolate a poisonous option for them.


Roasted cacao beans 
ripe cacao pod
In Brazil they make a juice from the white flesh that
surrounds the beans
Happy Easter!

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