Intro to layered chocolates: caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond truffles

Caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond truffles

Caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond ganache

Full disclosure: I meant to write about this months ago. Seriously, I think there was still snow on the ground when I first made these delicious, creamy, double-ganache truffles. But at the time I was frantically trying to complete my chocolatier school coursework and didn’t really have time to pull this post together.

Anyway, enough with the excuses. Here it is (finally).

This was my first attempt at making layered truffles. Back in those early days of my chocolate education, I wasn’t exactly working with professional equipment… basically I owned a whisk, a candy thermometer and a lot of patience. I actually used Tupperware containers as my molds because I hadn’t bought a professional ganache frame yet.

ChocoVision Mini Rev Tempering MachineOh but I did own one very fancy piece of very fancy equipment: a brand new (at the time) ChocoVision Mini Rev tempering machine, which I absolutely LOVE and still use pretty much constantly. If you have any desire whatsoever to make your own chocolates, I highly recommend you invest in one of these bad boys. The 1.5 lb capacity model shown below is by far the cheapest small batch home tempering machine on the market.

But more on the ChocoVision Mini Rev in a later post.

Anyway… for this particular truffle recipe I made a caramelized white chocolate ganache for the bottom layer and a dark salted almond ganache for the top. I poured one over the other, smoothed them out with a spatula and let the layers set up at room temperature overnight.

Letting ganache set for 12-24 hours in a cool room (<68 F) gives it a chance to crystallize, which results in a more stable ganache that has lower water activity. To refresh, the lower the water activity, the less water (from the cream) is available to grow pesky microbes and the longer the truffles will last at room temperature before they mold.

Anyway — by the next morning the ganache was firm enough for me to unmold in one solid piece…

…and cut it into 1″ x 1″ squares with a sharp knife.

Here’s where the fun began (and, yes, the mess…)

After tempering some of Undone Chocolate’s amazing two-ingredient chocolate, I dipped each square (this process is called “enrobing”) in the bowl of tempered chocolate, fished it out with two special enrobing forks (although regular forks will work too) and sprinkled it with kosher salt.

I wasn’t working with professional couverture chocolate here, and as a result you’ll notice my shells turned out a little thick — but really they’re not so bad, especially considering my less-than-ideal tools (Tupperware, anyone?) and general inexperience..

Close-up of hand made chocolate truffles

Ever since I started making my own truffles, I’ve started noticing how many low and mid-range chocolate grands produce bonbons with really thick shells. Seriously — check it out for yourself the next time one of your colleagues leaves an old box of chocolates in the pantry at work. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel better if you’re having trouble achieving those wafer-thin chocolate shells that professional chocolatiers love so much.

My official tasters (aka my husband and stepson — and a rotating group of friends) went wild for these truffles. They got raves, which made me really happy. But personally I preferred the salted almond chocolate truffles (on the left in the picture above) to the fancier layered truffles. I just really loved their strong, undiluted almondy taste. But it’s really a matter of personal taste  — they’re both delicious.

Two layer truffle: caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond

 

Homemade salted chocolate truffles

 

 

Recipe: Gianduja Crunch Truffles

Gianduja Hazelnut Crunch Truffles
Gianduja Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Image: Amber Latner

This truffle was inspired by Perugina’s Baci, those addictive Italian chocolate-hazelnut confections that have started showing up in American supermarkets everywhere.  I wanted to add some texture to the classic round truffle by pressing a whole hazelnut into its center. The result is delightful; the hazelnut provides a wonderful textural contrast to the otherwise uniform creaminess of the gianduja.

And since we were talking about sugar-free chocolate last week, here’s another cool thing about these truffles: other than what’s already in the chocolate, there’s no added sugar in these. The ingredients are nuts and dark chocolate. That’s it. As noted in a previous post, homemade gianduja is so much more wholesome than Nutella. You could almost consider these truffles… healthy?

Two ways of decorating Gianduja Crunch Truffles
Don’t want to temper chocolate? Roll them in nuts instead.

I decorated the truffles using a piping bag filled with tempered milk chocolate. It’s a really fun technique — I felt like I was in kindergarten art class. But feel free to skip this part. In fact, you can make these truffles without any tempering at all! Dip the truffle centers in untempered chocolate (melted in the microwave as described below) and then roll them in chopped hazelnuts, sugar, crushed corn flakes or whatever else you think of. Nobody will know the chocolate shell is untempered if it’s hidden this way.

Btw, this recipe can easily be doubled or halved. The important thing is that there be a 1:1 ratio of chocolate to hazelnuts in the gianduja filling. If you’re on the fence, I would make a larger batch rather than a smaller one… gianduja keeps for several months at room temperature and much longer in the fridge, so having some extra around to spread on toast or drizzle on pancakes wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world…

Gianduja Crunch Truffles
Image: Amber Latner

Gianduja Crunch Truffles

  • Makes approximately 30 truffles.
  • Shelf life: at least two months at room temperature; up to six months in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

Gianduja crunch centers:

  • 8 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used DeZaan’s 64% dark couverture, but any bittersweet chocolate will work — or use milk chocolate for a sweeter truffle)
  • 12 oz whole hazelnuts

Truffle shells:

  • 8 oz tempered dark chocolate for enrobing (optional)
  • 2-3  oz tempered milk chocolate for decorating (optional)

You can also can skip the chocolate shells entirely and roll the centers in chopped hazelnuts, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, crushed corn flakes, sugar, ground coffee beans — be creative!

Instructions:

To roast the nuts: On a baking tray on the center rack of your oven, toast the hazelnuts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re fragrant and brown but not burnt. Wrap them in a clean dish towel to cool on the counter. Use the towel to rub off the skins, and remove any stubborn skins with your fingers. Leaving the skins on won’t ruin the gianduja, but I think they taste a little bitter.

To melt the chocolate: Melt 8 oz chopped dark chocolate in the microwave. To do this without burning the chocolate, place it in a plastic container (glass or ceramic will retain too much heat) and microwave for 2 minutes, stirring every 45 to 60 seconds. Stir well.Continue microwaving at 10 second intervals, stirring well after each interval. To avoid burning the chocolate, stop when it’s 80% melted — the residual heat of the chocolate will melt the remaining pieces as you stir. The whole process should take less than 5 minutes.

To make the gianduja filling: Reserve 4 oz toasted hazelnuts. In a food processor, blend the remaining 8 oz hazelnuts into a paste. The consistency should be like that of peanut butter. Add the melted chocolate. Blend until creamy.

Congratulations — you’ve just made gianduja!

Hand made gianduja
Image: Amber Latner

You can stop here if you want, storing the gianduja in a tightly sealed container away from sunlight for 1-2 months, or in the refrigerator for 6 months or more. Note that if you store gianduja in the fridge, you’ll need to leave it at room temperature (or microwave it) to bring it back to a soft, spreadable consistency.

Or, continue on to the next step to make truffles with it.

Note: If the gianduja is too soft immediately after making it, refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before rolling it into balls. Just remember it’s very important to bring the balls to room temperature before enrobing them in tempered chocolate.

To enrobe the centers: Melt and temper the remaining 8 oz chocolate. One at a time, drop each truffle into the chocolate and scoop it out with enrobing forks (a kitchen fork will work in a pinch). Place them on parchment paper to set. If you chose to use untempered chocolate for this step, you’ll need to roll the balls in a bowl of chopped hazelnuts (or your coating of choice) before the chocolate has a chance to set.

To decorate the enrobed truffles: Melt and temper* the milk chocolate and pour it into a large plastic sandwich bag. Twist the end of the bag to push the chocolate into one of the bottom corners. Using scissors, snip off the tip of the corner  (ta-da — you have a piping bag!) and, squeezing from the twisted end of the bag, pipe milk chocolate stripes, swirls or dots onto the truffles. Work on parchment paper for easy cleanup. Fun, right?

*Milk chocolate should be tempered at a slightly lower temperature than dark chocolate, so my seeding instructions won’t be that helpful for this. For now I recommend you check out the instructions for tempering milk chocolate on Ecole Chocolat’s website.

Decorating truffles with piped chocolate
Image: Amber Latner

Tempering chocolate: seeding method

The seeding method of tempering chocolate
Adding seed to melted dark chocolate
Adding seed to melted chocolate

Last week when I posted about my first attempt using the tabliering method for tempering chocolate, I promised to review the seeding method in a later post. So here it is.

This will be a much shorter post than my last post on tempering because there is a lot of overlap between the tabliering and seeding methods of tempering.  In both methods, the melting process is the same, as is the temperature to which the chocolate must be raised to dissolve the fatty acid crystals (this happens for dark chocolate at roughly 116-118 degrees Fahrenheit).

Here are the most important differences between tempering by seeding versus tabliering:

  1. The seeding method only works if you have some tempered chocolate on hand to use as your seed chocolate. So if all you have is a block of untempered chocolate, you’ll have to use the tabliering method.
  2. The seeding method is much, much less messy than the tabliering method. No brown fingernails, no chocolate residue all over your counter. However, the tradeoff is that seeding takes 10-15 minutes longer than tabliering.
  3. With seeding, once the seed chocolate is thoroughly incorporated and the chocolate has cooled to 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re done, the chocolate is tempered. You don’t have to cool it to 82 degrees and then reheat it to 90 degrees like with tabliering.

    Melting dark chocolate couverture
    Melting dark chocolate couverture

Here’s how to get started. First, melt your chocolate in the microwave. Reserve some unmelted seed chocolate — roughly 10-20% of the total chocolate you’re working with. Just eyeball it, you don’t need to be precise.

For step-by-step instructions on tempering using the seeding method, check out this excerpt from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (provides directions for both seeding and tabliering methods).

Basically you want to bring the melted chocolate up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, add your seed chocolate, a little at a time, stirring constantly, waiting until the seed has fully melted before adding more. Keep this up until the chocolate cools to 88-90 degrees. It may take 10-15 minutes to cool. When the temperature hits 90 degrees, it’s tempered.

Unmelted seed in my tempered chocolate
Unmelted seed in my tempered chocolate

Dip the back of a spoon in the chocolate to do a quick test — the chocolate should firm up in the fridge in a couple of minutes.  It should look shiny, you should be able to touch it without it instantly melting, and when you try to break it you should hear a sharp snap.

If you see any extra unmelted seed chocolate in your bowl at this point, you’re supposed to remove it to avoid overcrystalization (I’ll write more on overcrystalization in a future post).

When this happened to me, I couldn’t find a good way to remove the seed, it was kind of like trying to remove egg shells from raw egg whites with your fingers. I tried a slotted spoon, but the holes were too small. Finally I gave up and left it in.

Testing the temper of dark chocolate using the seeding method
See how tests 3 and 4 have a lovely shine?

As you can see, compared to the tabliering method, it took me an extra 11 minutes to get from melted chocolate (test 1) to tempered chocolate (test 3).  However, I had no trouble keeping it tempered for 20 minutes (test 4), partially because I was obsessive about rewarming it every few minutes.

Overall I MUCH prefer seeding to tabliering.  The 11 extra minutes it took to cool down the chocolate are SO worth it for the extra control and (comparatively) minimal clean-up.

 

Tempering chocolate: tabliering method

Spreading and scraping on clean granite countertop quickly cools chocolate
Couveture chocolate (dark) from Chef Rubber
Couverture chocolate (dark)

Over the weekend I tried the tabliering (aka tabling) method of tempering chocolate for the first time, with mixed results. I did get the chocolate tempered, hallelujah.  But I wasn’t able to keep it tempered for very long — at least not the first time I tried.

Be forewarned: if you try this method, be prepared to make a HUGE MESS. Your clothes will be covered in brown streaks, your fingernails will be semi-permanently stained and you’ll find chocolate prints all over surfaces you don’t remember touching.

For great step-by-step directions on tempering via the tabliering method, check out this excerpt from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg.

Equipment: 1 candy thermometer, 1 rubber spatula, 1 microwave safe plastic bowl (glass is not allowed in professional kitchens, so might as well get used to plastic) and 1 good scraper (I use this one). Definitely clean your counter top (or marble cooling slab, if using) very, very well. Have clean dishtowels handy. Lots of them. And set yourself up somewhere close to your microwave, if possible.

Cool melted couverture chocolate on a granite counter top to temper it

Spreading and scraping on clean granite countertop quickly cools chocolate

So yes… I melted my chocolate in the microwave. It’s actually a fantastic way to melt chocolate because there’s zero chance you’ll accidentally get moisture in your chocolate the way you could using a double boiler. The microwave also melts chocolate faster than a double boiler, and you have a lot of control over how fast you add the short blasts of heat.

For more detailed microwave tempering instructions, I highly recommend Ecole Chocolat’s website. The only thing I would add is that I used high heat and halved their suggested microwave time, and it worked fine.

One thing I’ve found  very confusing is all the conflicting information online about proper tempering temperatures. For dark chocolate, I’ve seen instructions to heat it to 115, 118 and 122 degrees on various sites. It might be that I’m finding different directions for melting different kinds of dark chocolate. Variations in viscosity and percentage of cocoa butter affect how high chocolate must be heated before the fatty acid crystals completely dissolve (more on that in a later post). Fortunately, there may be a little wiggle room… Dark chocolate burns at 130 degrees, so as long as you stay a safe distance under that temperature, you’ll probably be okay.

Melting dark chocolate before tempering it
Melting away….

Last weekend I tempered the same 64% dark couverture three times. I had the best results when I brought it up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit and then down to 82 degrees before bringing it back up to the constant 89-90 degrees that is ideal for molding.

I tested the chocolate first when it melted (test 1), again at 118 degrees (test 2), again after I’d tempered it (test 3), and one last time after holding it at 90 degrees for 20 minutes (test 4).  Can you tell that test 3 is tempered?  It’s not a great picture but I think you can see how shiny and dark the sample is compared with the others. I can see now that I lost the temper sometime before test 4, which is as dull as the first two tests.  I must have accidentally raised the temperature over 90 degrees at some point. Doh!

IMG_6472
Can you tell which one is tempered?

I’ll be honest… I didn’t love this method of tempering. The mess was ridiculous, and while the chocolate cooled in mere minutes on my counter top, I spent 10 extra minutes afterwards cleaning hardened chocolate off my counter, scraper, even my the floor. And my husband was still finding bits of chocolate stuck to cabinets and wedged in counter crevices the next day.

Counter top mess after tempering
What a mess!

I tried the seeding method today and was MUCH happier with that method.  More on that in the next post.