Handmade gift-giving is an important tradition I strive to always carry out. My do-it-yourself nature aside, I just plain like making things for people. However, running a small handcrafting business this time of year really motivates me to look for new ideas that have nothing to do with wool or acorn caps to create something to show appreciation to the people in my life. This year, I decided to make things out of chocolate. Specifically, truffles.
It all started with the cocoa beans my friend John imports with his business, Chocolate Alchemy. The beans were cracked in a Champion Juicer and winnowed in the Aether Winnower he invented and constructed this summer. The photo above shows the cracked and winnowed cocoa nibs, which were then ground into a powder.
The powdered nibs were added to cocoa butter and sugar in this fine machine called a melanger, which ran for about two days grinding it all into chocolatey loveliness with two hefty granite stones.
Then what we had was chocolate. The chocolate for these truffles was a melted down conglomeration of many test batches of chocolate made over the course of the Summer and Fall, many of which I helped to make. John said it was all just lying around anyway and needed to be used up. I could never imagine saying such a thing about chocolate, but he is also always says chocolate making is boring, mostly because it involves adding things to the melanger and letting it run. I will never understand how this is boring, but given that he does it all the time to test the beans he carries, I can see how it would become a regular occurrence, maybe commonplace...no, I still don't see it. Boring and chocolate are two ideas that just don't go together.
We mixed up truffle filling of cream, sugar, and various tasty flavorings mixed with chocolate. For this truffle making extravaganza, we decided on rum-rosemary, alder smoked Pacific sea salt, lavender, espresso-orange-cardamom, and hop-malt. Maybe it was a little ambitious, but heck, if you're going to make truffles, you might as well go for it.
We steeped the herbs like the rosemary, lavender and hops in the cream heated to boiling, and then carefully whisked the cream and sugar into the chocolate. Over-stirring here can cause it to separate, so one does need to be a bit delicate.
After these fillings sat out in the garage at cold temperatures for a few hours, we began rolling truffles.
And then we coated them in liquid chocolate.
And then rolled them in the cocoa powder coatings, many containing the same powdered herbs as the fillings.
After topping them with identifying bits of plant material, coffee beans, etc, we had around 350 handmade chocolate truffles completely from scratch. All together, it was quite an impressive spread. I have concluded from this project that I thoroughly enjoy making things out of chocolate, and might need to start percolating some ideas around this. Who knows, maybe there will be a selection of wild mountain woman chocolates coming soon.