Lesson One: Make A Water Ganache Chocolate Truffle
I watched a video a while back by the legend that is Paul A. Young, who shared his recipe for making a water-based chocolate ganache.
Chocolate and water aren't known as the best of friends, and the rule is often to not let them mix - it's like feeding gremlins after midnight. Just don't do it kids.
But here, Paul effortlessly blends water, sugar, and dark chocolate into a smooth emulsion. Curious as to how it works, and buoyed by the fact this simple recipe needs just three ingredients and no fancy equipment or skills, I decided to tackle this project first.
What We're Aiming For
Here's the master in action:
I'm sure you'll agree, it's a lovely recipe that seems very easy to follow, which is why I picked it to begin with! There's an added benefit that these are vegan chocolates.
Paul recommends the following:
- 350g dark chocolate
- 75g light muscovado sugar
- 150ml water
- 200g cocoa powder (for decoration)
For my attempt, I used:
- 350g CasaLuker 1906 Origin San Martin 72% dark chocolate, which I chose because I had a 2.5kg sack of it (and because I love the rich, fruity flavour, of course).
- 75g Billington's Natural Unrefined Cane Golden Caster Sugar, as I didn't want the treacle-like properties of the muscovado sugar interfering with the vibrant flavour of the chocolate on this occasion.
- 150ml water, infused with an ASDA Extra Special Earl Grey tea bag. Why? Because I wanted to do something fancy, and was inspired after tasting Oski's Earl grey chocolate bark (admittedly, theirs had real tea inside the chocolate rather than just an infusion) Paul suggests in his video that pretty much any liquid would work, including wine, champagne, and whiskey.
- A shallow bowl with a stingy amount of ASDA Cocoa Powder, to roll the chocolate truffles in and to dip my fingers into, without much wastage (as I hate food waste).
- Pop the sugar and water in a pan and bring to a simmer.
- Pour over the chocolate and whisk by hand until the chocolate is melted and a smooth emulsion is formed.
- Pour into a container and refrigerate for two hours.
- Roll small pieces into truffle balls (the recipe should make around 40 to 50 truffles).
- Dust the chocolate balls in cocoa powder, and voila!
More Detailed Recipe
Paul takes the sugar and water to a simmer in a pan, so that's exactly what I did. I made sure the sugar crystals had fully dissolved before moving onto the next step. The result was a slightly tinged, clear hot liquid.
I switched off the hob and added the chocolate to the pan before I realised I should have added the water to the chocolate in a cold bowl. Now it was a case of holding my breath and hoping I hadn't singed the chocolate.
I also stirred with a spatula rather than a whisk. Lesson one was veering off course thanks to this rebel!
Despite my seeming inability to follow simple instructions, I ploughed on and got to a stage where a smooth, velvety emulsion formed. Phew!
At this stage, Paul explains that the warm chocolate ganache can be used in a multitude of ways, from smothering a cake, or pouring over ice cream, to being eaten as it is, or for dipping fruit into, much like a chocolate fondue. Instead, I diligently followed the instructions (there's a first) and poured the ganache into a plastic tub and popped it in the fridge for a couple of hours. As for the leftovers in the pan, well they were chef perks!
Two hours later, I ended up with a solid block of ganache. Not content with being able to easily eyeball the desired amount, I ran a knife through it to divide it up into evenly-sized cubes.
Then, with my cocoa-dusted fingertips, I began forming the cubes into balls. Paul explains that the tips are the coolest part of your hand so you need to use these to roll the balls, not your palms. I quickly discovered why as I ended up with gooey, truffle-covered palms. It's not easy rolling with your fingertips (which is why I ignored science and tried using my palms).
Up until this point, I had fun. The rolling part of the recipe - which indeed took around half an hour as Paul had predicted - felt tedious, partly due to the machine-like technique, and partly due to the repetitive nature of tying to form what could feasibly pass as a 'ball'. I aimed for balls but ended up with an assortment of chocolate pebbles spanning a variety of shapes and sizes. I strongly suspect this is a skill that gets better with practice.
I dusted mine in cocoa as I went along, first by rolling them in the cocoa powder and then I sieved off the excess. Here's what I ended up with:
Perhaps not the prettiest in the world, they tasted great. The fruity, bitter dark chocolate led in the flavour, and the extra hit of sugar helped to tame the bitterness. The Earl grey flavour failed to materialise until towards the end, when the gentle notes of bergamot and lemon arrived. These subtle flavours worked well against the fruity notes in the dark chocolate.
The texture of the freshly-made chocolate truffles was sublime. Almost gooey in nature, it was like biting into a dense chocolate brownie.
Over the next few days, the texture firmed up a lot, and the Earl Grey flavour developed. The cocoa dusting had been absorbed by the chocolate truffle so I had to re-dust them after a few days. Perhaps I over-sieved them at the start, and perhaps this helped accelerate the firming of the texture?
Overall, I preferred the more pronounced Earl Grey flavour of the last chocolate truffle I devoured, but preferred the gooier texture of the first one. This recipe was a pleasure to follow and the results are highly recommended.
As my first foray into the world of the chocolatier, I felt this was a positive step forward. The results might have looked non-uniform but the flavour and texture delivered.
It's such a shame I'll have to make more of these to practice my chocolate truffle making skills....
- I'd like to try a recipe that uses milk chocolate as the Earl Grey tea flavour was drowned out slightly by the dark chocolate. I'm not sure how the dairy component of milk chocolate would react in such a recipe so I need to do some further research on what to expect.
- Next time, I'd be tempted to get hold of some loose Earl Grey tea (perhaps a visit to Fortnum's° is in order next time I'm in London?) and grind that down to a powder to run it through the ganache for extra punch.
If you've followed this recipe, please share your results. Did you change any of the ingredients? Did it work? Do tell below in the comments!