Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Beauty and the Beast: Chocolate Truffles on Artichoke leaves

All summer I've been enjoying bars of unique, sensuous, and completely addictive Hummingbird Chocolate and I always pick up a few bars from Drew and the mysterious Erica on Sundays at the Ottawa Farmers' Market in Brewer Park.  In my household, they don't last long!

Wanting to share this new find with friends, I was transforming a few of their Hispaniola bars into chocolate truffles as the grand finale to a dinner party later in the day and I had a light bulb moment.

Also on the menu was a salad made with some of Acorn Creek Farms' magnificent globe artichokes and while I was pulling off leaf after tough outer leaf to get to the delicate, edible centre, the modern day mantra of "reduce, reuse recycle" was running through my head.

I was thinking about how that huge pile of artichoke leaves had a dim future on the compost heap when an idea struck.  Why not use them as a base for the chocolate truffles?

Out came my scissors and voila!  In no time at all, I had a bowl full of practical truffle bases.

A last minute pardon from the compost heap
Interestingly enough, turning Drew and Erica's chocolate into truffles intensified the fruity, intense flavours characteristic of some of their bars.

Needless to say, the truffles were a big hit, especially after I served everyone some delicate Darjeeling tea.  The conversation paused as the truffles melted in our tea-warmed mouths.

This presentation worked really well at the dinner table and it would work well at cocktail parties too.  As you pass the plates of truffles, guests can grab a leaf and pop a truffle into their mouths without getting their pinkies covered in cocoa powder.

Just make sure you make a lot of them for your guest's happy, appreciative mouths!

Chocolate Truffles on Artichoke Leaves

You won't need to add liqueur or butter to these truffles as most truffle recipes call for.

Hummingbird chocolate is complex and smooth enough to stand on its own.  Don't mess with perfection!

Makes approximately 15-20-1/2" truffles. 
Piping bag, or a melon baller or a small spoon (to preform truffles)
Baking sheet covered in parchment (on which to pipe the ganache)
Disposable rubber or latex gloves (optional)
Fine meshed sieve

100g (2 bars) Hummingbird chocolate.  Bolivia, Hispaniola, Ecuador...
50g   heavy cream (2 ounces or 1/4 cup less one teaspoon)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (Droste, Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, Van Houten)
Artichoke leaves

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces
1.  Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl.  The pieces should be smaller than blueberries. 

2.   Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan or microwave and when it starts to boil, pour it over the chopped chocolate.  Let it sit, undisturbed for 1 minute.

Smooth, shiny, silky ganache, ready to pipe into mounds
3.  Create the ganache.  Starting in the middle of the bowl, stir the cream and chocolate together vigorously in small circles, and then continue stirring outwards until the mixture is smooth.  If you have pieces that are not melted, let the mixture sit for a minute or two.  The heat of the cream should melt these pieces.  If not, sit the bowl in a bit of hot water for a minute or two and stir again.  Repeat this process if needed.

Coating the truffles in cocoa powder
4.  Cover the ganache with plastic pressed to the surface and let it sit, undisturbed for about 1 hour until it solidifies. It may take longer to firm up depending on the ambient temperature in your kitchen.  If the mixture is taking too long to cool or you're pressed for time, place it in the refrigerator but only for a few minutes at a time, checking it and stirring it. If you're piping the ganache, you'll want to harden the mixture somewhat but leave it soft enough to pipe. If you're using a melon baller or spoon, you can keep it in the fridge until it hardens completely.

5.  Either way, while you're waiting for the ganache to firm up, trim the bases of your artichoke leaves and arrange them on a serving plate.  Sieve the cocoa powder into a bowl or plate.

6.  Place the ganache into a piping bag and pipe rows of mounds onto your parchment lined baking sheet about the size of a large grape.  If you're not using a piping bag, use your melon baller or small spoon to scoop the mixture into mounds.

7.  Put the mounds in your fridge for a few minutes to firm up.

8. Drop the mounds, 3-4 at a time into the cocoa and make sure they are completely coated. Form each them into smooth, round balls by rolling them between your palms. Wearing gloves will help keep the balls from melting too quickly.  As you form them into balls, gently drop them back into the cocoa, no more than 3-4 at a time. 

9.  Roll the balls around gently in the cocoa, making sure they're completely coated.  Use a spoon to transfer the balls into a fine meshed sieve and gently shake the sieve to remove some of the extra cocoa powder.

10.  Place a truffle in each of the artichoke leaves or set the truffles aside, at cool room temperature or refrigerate if you wish until serving.  

If you do refrigerate your truffles, be sure to cover them well and let them temper at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.

If you can't find Hummingbird chocolate bars, poor you, you'll get good results from other "bean to bar" chocolate such as SOMA or Olivia.

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