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.

 

Volunteering at Undone Chocolate

Conching machine or melangeur

So I actually wrote this post more than a week ago but put off posting it because I was waiting for pictures.  But given the cataclysmic blizzard we’re expecting this weekend, I probably won’t get out to Union Kitchen on Sunday as planned, so pictures will have to wait.

So long story short: last Friday was amazing. Adam (founder) and Liz (chocolate maker extraordinaire) at Undone Chocolate showed me around their facilities at Union Kitchen, a D.C. incubator for food industry start-ups. What a cool place to work — there were folks all around us baking cupcakes, making pastries, smoking meat… I had no idea D.C. had such a strong  and vibrant entrepreneurial community.

But back to chocolate. Adam has a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry and originally studied the antioxidant properties of chocolate in the lab before he began making chocolate out of his tiny New York City apartment. In addition to being extremely talented and driven, he’s also a fantastically nice guy.

Adam agreed to let me volunteer in his chocolate kitchen in exchange for the opportunity to get some hands-on chocolate making experience. It’s amazing, interesting work, and Liz encouraged me to get involved in every step of production, from polishing and filling molds on the vibrating table to working with their massive tempering machine (55 gallon capacity!). I even got to help empty the enormous, 550 lb melanger, which looks something like this:

Conching machine or melanger
Chocolate melangeur (Photo credit: Mark Chamberlain via Rochester City Newspaper)

I know — yum, right?

On my first day, Liz sent me home with little baggies of chocolate samples from previous chocolate batches they had made… Nicaraguan 74%, Dominican 72%, wild Bolivian (don’t remember the % cocoa, but it was delicious)… my favorite was their extraordinary (highly addictive) spice chocolate flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and cayenne.

Undone Chocolate spice bar

My experience at Undone has been AWESOME, I can’t wait to go back. I’ve become such a fan of their chocolate too. Unlike most chocolate on the market, including high-end chocolate, Undone’s is made with only two-ingredients: cocoa and sugar (both organic). No emulsifiers, no added flavors like vanilla. Their chocolate is so intense, almost fruity, and yet so silky, without too much distracting sweetness.  That they can create chocolate like that with their limited small-batch equipment is so impressive.

I’m so bummed that I ate through all my Undone Chocolate samples right before the snow storm! How am I going to survive? I may head to Yes Organic while the streets are still drivable and pick up a few spice bars to tide me through.

For more on Undone Chocolate, check out this 2015 piece in the Washington Post. And to for the sake of transparency, I’m not getting paid a dime for this glowing review of their chocolate. It’s really that good.