Chocolate: just the mere mention of this innocuous little word conjures up all kinds of delightful thoughts, evoking memories of sumptuous tasting treats, that unmistakable texture in your mouth & familiar sweet scent. The Latin for cocoa is “Theobroma”, which literally translates as “Food of the Gods” & kind of sums it up really. It’s one of those special treats that can be quite mesmerising, especially if it’s “the good stuff”! This can be anything from that inexpensive but delectable store brand that just hits the spot, to the purse-draining handcrafted, mouthwatering delicacy that is almost erotic & should come with an 18 rating on the wrapper! Whatever does it for you, I won’t judge – chocolate is personal in every way.
The simplest of recipes will produce the best results, so I would suggest finding one that you are comfortable with & use the best ingredients available to you. The standard recipe is equal quantities of milk or dark chocolate to double cream (so 150g chocolate & 150ml double cream, for example).
Break up the chocolate into a heat-proof bowl or bain-marie, add the cream & place the bowl over a pan with about 2 inches of boiling water in the bottom. It’s important to make sure your bowl sits nicely on top, with no steam escaping the pan & that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Be careful not to get any water in your ganache either, because it will go gritty & horrible, end up in the bin & you will be a bit miffed (trust me, you might even invent a few swear words too!). The steam will gently melt the chocolate & cream together. Simply stir it gently with a spatula, until everything comes together in a nice thick chocolate paste. Leave to cool for at least a couple of hours in a cool place or the fridge until firm (if it goes too firm, just leave it to rest on the worktop for half an hour). Then you’re ready to start creating your own treats!
Personally, I like to use a blend of milk chocolate & plain in mine, so that it’s got that right amount of “bite” & the ganache is not too sweet (otherwise you get a sickly, cloying chocolate that will set your teeth on edge & make you look like you sucked a lemon). My tip is to taste a variety of different chocolates to find which ones do it for you – get them home, eat a couple of pieces together until you discover the right combination to give the taste you want. Write it down, make some notes & then you can increase the quantities to make a decent sized batch. Get creative, use a recipe as a basic template & experiment with it! After you have made the ganache, things get really interesting – you can add alcohol, chopped nuts, dried fruit, biscuit, etc. The only limits are your imagination & your pantry!
Once your ganache is cooled, you can start to make your truffles. I have made them in all kinds of random shapes (sculpting a pair of ladies’ size three shoes from a large piece of chilled ganache was an epic challenge, but worth it), however I would suggest starting small & making little balls to begin with. Simply scoop out a little ganache using a teaspoon or a melon baller, set aside on a parchment lined baking tray, then continue until you have made lots of little chocolate truffle balls.
Once they are done, you can roll them in a little powdered chocolate or chopped nuts if you want to keep them simple. Or, you can dip them in melted chocolate using a fork, tap it on the side of the bowl to shake off the excess (like excess chocolate is really a thing!), then slide the coated truffle onto a parchment lined baking tray using a toothpick. Then simply decorate them as you like – coat in coconut, roll in chopped roasted nuts, sprinkle with sugar or drizzle melted white chocolate patterns on top. It’s up to you!
There are moulds you can use to get your ganache into little shapes, which are best to use when it’s still warm & before chilling – just press the ganache firmly into the mould shape to expel any air bubbles, then chill. If you find moulds a bit fiddly like I do, then try using a piping bag to create shapes – I made squillions of lovehearts using a piping bag & they were all unique, which makes them so much more special. Once cooled, they can be decorated however you choose.
One of my favourites is my Black Stone Cherry Chocolate, inspired by one of my favourite rock bands. Once dipped in chocolate, before they dry I like to drop some chunky pieces of Amarene cherries on top with a drizzle of the syrup mixed with Bourbon (you know the one). These have a nice kick to them & play a rich little riff on the tongue!
Since writing this article, I’ve been creating all manner of modelling chocolate delights from both the above ganache recipe & my homemade modelling chocolate,. If you’ve been following me on any of my social media, you’ll have seen all the pictures I’ve shared along the way. Alone or blended with a little sugar paste or fondant, modelling chocolate can be used to create an array of amazing animals, flowers & shapes.
This Easter, I sculpted a selection of sugary shoes, cute bunnies & delicate roses of all sizes. Once set, these are perfect for decorating delicious cakes or just as a unique gift for someone special. The daffodil shoe shown here started out as a sketch & then I got to work, mixing the modelling chocolate with some emerald green sugar paste to get that gorgeous green hue. The daffodil was hand-painted once I had mounted it on the shoe, then I made tiny stamen for the centre (getting them to stand up was interesting!). Although you can get templates for making sugar shoes, I used one of my own as a visual aid & just went from there.
One of my Easter bunny creations was a little rock star bunny (we called him Dave) & I made a miniature electric sugar paste guitar for him, using my Husband’s as a template. The strings were painted on in black gel food colouring & I used some edible glitter to highlight it too. The hardest part is knowing someone might eat them, so I try to make them as cute as possible to deter them for a while (hopefully!).
Whatever you decide to make, the best thing about making your own chocolate treats is that you can always have a secret stash in the back of the cupboard, just for those little emergencies when you need a shot of sweetness. Share the love & a little bit of chocolate! Stay hungry! A 😉 x