When was the last time you tasted something new – and fell in love?
As I experience new gustatory thrills, I often associate certain ingredients or combinations with a particular locale or restaurant, then tuck the memory away.
If there were one thing I wish I could remember, though, it’s my initial encounter with chocolate. Oh, to turn back time, and re-live that singular moment when I first savoured a piece of heaven. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because I’m still filled with infinite delight with every bar, truffle or a mini pot of mousse au chocolat.
I’m not what one classifies as a chocoholic. Neither am I a snob. Even though I appreciate luxury chocolate, I also seek comfort in the occasional candy bar. A chasm lies between the two, and it boils down to how much of the cacao bean is actually in the product.
During manufacturing, the meat of the cacao bean is ground to form chocolate liquor/mass/solids. Its fat, called cocoa butter, is also extracted. The two are then blended in varying quantities with milk and sugar to produce chocolate as we know it.
Dark chocolate contains the most chocolate solids; more upmarket brands will now even put its percentage on the packaging. White chocolate contains none at all, but because it is made from cocoa butter, the debate over whether white chocolate is actually chocolate, should favour its proponents – just saying.
Cooking with chocolate is, quite frankly, a piece of cake – especially because it exists in so many forms: cocoa powder, chocolate chips, cooking bars! Many recipes call for melting chocolate, which seems to cause unnecessary anxiety. Indeed the traditional method renders one hobbled over a double boiler. But these days, a microwave will do the job in less than two minutes, so long as one remembers to stir half way through so the chocolate pieces don’t end up burning.
One of the first things I learned to make with chocolate is still my favourite: the hand-rolled truffle. A straightforward process, it involves mixing boiling cream into chocolate to produce a ganache. When chilled, little balls of the mixture are formed into truffles, then rolled in cocoa powder to resemble its namesake, freshly dug and coated with dirt.
Truffles now come in the most imaginative of flavours: lavender and thyme; lemongrass and peppercorn; sea salt and Goji berries. When truffling at home (yes, a made-up verb, but one which works in this case), I err on the side of the conservative, preferring to let the professional chocolatiers go wild.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’d much rather give — and receive — a box of pistachio dusted truffles than ginger wasabi ones. Again. Just saying.