Tasting the original gianduja

Gianduia close-up of Gianduiotto by CaffarelGianduia close-up of Gianduiotto by Caffarel

Pop quiz: What event in the mid-1800s changed chocolate production in northern Italy forever?

If you answered the Great Cocoa Bean Shortage of 1840, you would be correct. At least in principle (whoever made up that name is clearly FOS though). 😉

Back in 1865, with the price of cocoa beans through the roof, a chocolate maker in Turin began augmenting his cocoa bean supply with hazelnuts, which (in Piedmont anyway) were plentiful and cheap. The resulting chocolate-hazelnut concoction was so delicious that it landed in the chocolate maker’s permanent rotation and inspired numerous imitators.

Gianduia close-up of Gianduiotto

That chocolate maker was Caffarel, and its chocolate-hazelnut invention is now known as gianduja (or gianduia, also correct). Caffarel called its original version “Gianduiotto.” Pietro Ferrero called his version Nutella.

I’ve wanted to try Gianduiotto for years, but it’s actually quite hard to find in the U.S., in my experience.

Ironically, I found it when I wasn’t even looking — in Canada! On a recent trip to Toronto, I dropped by St. Lawrence Market, where I stumbled upon Aren’t We Sweet, an unassuming family-run chocolatier with a little shop in the lower level. There, in a neglected corner of the shop, I found a huge box of individually wrapped Gianduiotti (an entire BIN!) shining in their signature gold foil.

I’ll cut to the chase: Gianduiotti are delicious. They’re the perfect portable chocolate treat, both practical and elegant.

That said, I still prefer the dark chocolate gianduja I recently raved about by La Molina, which is a lot less sweet and has more flavor nuance than Caffarel’s version (you can buy La Molina’s gianduja here). Still, it was exciting to finally get to taste the original recipe.

How about you – what are your favorite gianduja makers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using transfer sheets to decorate truffles

Chocolate truffles decorated with transfer sheets

Dark Chocolate Truffles Decorated with Transfer Sheets

Last weekend I spent Sunday afternoon holed up at Union Kitchen with a professional chocolate maker and a former chocolatier*.

The mission: make chocolate truffles out of Undone Chocolate.

The plan: make a ganache out of Undone’s salted 72% chocolate bars, pour into a frame and let it cool in the industrial refrigerator, then cut it into squares and dip it in tempered Undone Chocolate.

The twist: decorate the truffles with chocolate transfer sheets.

Chocolate transfer sheets are like temporary tattoos for truffles: you press them on when the chocolate is in liquid form, and when the chocolate hardens and you peel them off and the pattern of the colored cocoa butter remains on the surface of the truffle as if you’ve used a stencil and spray paint. (Non-toxic spray paint, naturally).

Transfer sheets can also be used with specialty molds. We actually did consider using molds for these truffles but quickly realized it was unworkable — the chocolate was simply too thick for small molds and wouldn’t spread evenly into the corners.

Why is Undone Chocolate so thick? Well, that’s just what happens when you make two-ingredient chocolate. Most chocolate makers add additional cocoa butter to the other ingredients (primarily cocoa mass and sugar) before grinding and refining them. Undone skips this step. The resulting chocolate is potent, thick and intense, and it won’t easily spread into the crevices of molds (this is also a characteristic of “high viscosity” chocolate).

Anyway… we opted for hand dipping the ganache squares in chocolate, and we added some additional cocoa butter to it to make the enrobing process easier. This turned out to be a good call. The extra cocoa butter produced a couverture-like chocolate that tempered well and left our bonbons with nice thin shells.

Using transfer sheets to decorate chocolate truffles

I cut the transfer sheets into squares and pressed one onto each enrobed truffle while the chocolate shell was still wet. Chocolatiers with fancy equipment skip this part — they can cut the entire slab of ganache at once using a guitar cutter**, after which they send the pre-cut ganache squares through an enrobing machine (it’s like a chocolate shower) hooked up to their tempering machine.

In any event, the transfer sheets worked beautifully. I recommend them to home chocolatiers attempting to create professional-looking truffles without colored cocoa butter or fancy molds. I bought these particular transfer sheets from Chef Rubber, but you can buy small quantities of them cheaply on Amazon.

 *Chocolate makers are the people that roast raw cocoa beans and grind them into chocolate. Chocolatiers take a chocolate maker’s product and turn it into confections, like truffles.

Confectionary guitar
Confectionery guitar

 

**Btw… that guitar cutter is a $2000 piece of equipment. And tempering machines with enrobing attachments can cost ten times that. Of all the barriers to entry faced by aspiring chocolatiers, the initial capital investment in equipment is probably the most difficult to surmount. But I digress.

 

Truffles with dark chocolate mint ganache

Molded dark chocolate bonbons

Molded Dark Chocolate Bonbons

A couple of years ago I bought an indoor herb garden as a birthday present for my husband. We grow basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and mint, but mint is the one we seem to use least frequently — so I was excited when I realized I could use all that mint to flavor my ganache.

I won’t get into too much detail about how I made these because the process was very similar to how I made the lemon ganache truffles a couple of weeks ago. The only difference was that this time I infused the cream with mint while the cream was still cold. Being short on time, I thought it would be more efficient to blend them up together in my Magic Bullet.

Fresh mint whipped cream
Fresh Mint Whipped Cream

Well… it turns out you can make really fluffy whipped cream in a blender! I had no idea. Green whipped cream too. Whoops.

Despite this accident, it turned out beautifully. I used 70.4% dark Callebaut. Not too sweet, and the ganache had just the faintest hint of mint.

At the last minute I second-guessed myself and added a drop of peppermint oil. I wish I’d skipped it. The subtlety of the mint had been refreshing, but the peppermint oil made these truffles taste like Andes Candies — which are tasty, but not very original. I’d really hoped the fresh mint flavor would come through.

Whisked Chocolate Mint GanacheSigh.

Still, the truffles came out so shiny and pretty — I couldn’t have been happier with the result (aesthetically, anyway).

Plus, now I know how to make green whipped cream in a blender. Which will come in handy… never?

First attempt: ganache-filled chocolates

Molded dark chocolate truffles

Molded dark chocolate bonbons

Over the weekend I tried my hand at making molded chocolates for the first time. I was dying to use my new chocolate tempering machine (more on that in another post), so when I found myself with a whole free Sunday and a sweet tooth, I decided to go for it.

I whipped up some lemon ganache, poured it into a piping bag, tempered a pound of deZaan 64% dark couverture chocolate, and got to work (for full instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post).

Molded dark chocolate bonbons

Here’s what I learned:

  1. One pound of chocolate is NOT a lot to work with when making bonbons. I barely had enough chocolate for one mold sheet.
  2. It’s very challenging to get the chocolate out of the tempering machine and into a piping bag without letting the chocolate get too cold (and therefore thick and hard to work with). I’m still figuring out the best way to do this — suggestions are welcome.
  3. Make sure you have a good (wide) spatula or scraper on hand, as well as some kind of wide receptacle to catch the chocolate runoff (a clean sheet pan might be perfect for this). If you try to pour chocolate from your mold tray into a 12″ mixing bowl, you’ll leave half of it on the floor (um, yes, that happened).
  4. Put down some newspaper! Or a tarp! And wear an apron, for the love of god. Or a hazmat suit. You will get dirty.
  5. Work fast so your chocolate stays close to 90 degrees. If you let the chocolate cool too much, you’ll end up with very thick chocolate shells and less room for ganache.
  6. Clear plastic molds (rather than opaque silicon trays) have the advantage of allowing you to see when the chocolates are ready to come out of the fridge. To check them, take a peak at the bottom of the mold. When the chocolate has hardened, it will visibly pull away from the plastic (this is one of the many useful things I learned while helping out at Undone Chocolate).
  7. Don’t be like me and forget to tap the air bubbles out of the molds (whoops).

    Making molded dark chocolate bonbons
    What a mess!
  8. Don’t be like me and wait too long to scrape the excess chocolate off the top of the mold tray. If you let it harden on the tray, it will be a lot harder to remove the chocolates. Trust me on this one.

Instructions for making molded chocolates:

  1. Fill a piping bag (or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off) with tempered chocolate and pipe it into the molds (fill them completely).  Then flip the mold tray upside down, letting the excess chocolate drip into a large, clean bin or tray (you can remelt it later).
  2. Scrape the front of the tray clean with a spatula, leaving a thin coating of chocolate inside each mold. Tap the tray (right-side up) on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles. Flip it upside down and stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to set.
  3. Once the chocolate shell has hardened, pipe ganache into the molds. Leave a few millimeters at the top — it’s better to under fill than overfill.
  4. Seal the molds with a thin layer of chocolate (you may need to gently reheat your chocolate at this point, or temper a new batch if you’ve run out).
  5. Repeat step 2.
  6. Gently flip your tray upside down onto a dry surface. The chocolates should drop right out. Wearing latex gloves for this step will prevent finger prints (if you care). If necessary, trim the edges with a sharp knife.
  7. Try one! Or, um… four, if you’re like me. But who’s counting.

Anyway — I hope you have a great time making your own chocolates. Please let me know how it goes!