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Monthly archives for January, 2015

How do you make Truffles?


Chocolate Gifts

When I meet people for the first time and tell them what I do, the response is ALWAYS the same – ‘You make chocolates? WOW! I’ve always wanted to do that, but it looks so complicated! I’d never be able to do it!’. My response to that is ALWAYS the same – ‘Yes! You can!’. I firmly believe that everyone has the capability to make, at home and with the minimum of specialist ingredients and fuss, gorgeous chocolates that will make everyone else gasp and say (with the most satisfying degree of envy) ‘Did you really make those!?’

You don’t have to be a trained chef, or even really have any experience in the kitchen to make your own basic chocolate creations, and to prove it to you, I’m going to give you a crash course in the basics of chocolate making :-)

So, your journey towards home chocolate-making demigod status starts with a basic ganache truffle – essentially, a thick, creamy mixture made by using equivalent amounts of double cream to chocolate, then flavoured by whatever method you choose. The fantastic thing about ganache is that you can quite literally flavour it any way you like – if you like things on the tipsy side, add a little of your favourite alcohol; if you prefer things a little more zingy, add some zest and juice to the mix; if nuts float your boat, chop some up and chuck them in – the choices are endless, and entirely yours!

Ultimately, the basic truffle mixture, whilst being smooth, chocolatey and moreish in the extreme, can be altered and enhanced to make it…whatever you want it to be. This is the beauty of chocolate ūüėČ

A basic ganache truffle is absolutely the EASIEST thing in the world to make, with no need for any fancy-pants equipment or ingredients, so you should be able to pull what you need out of your kitchen cupboards.

THE EQUIPMENT

  • Mixing Bowls.
  • Plastic Spatulas.
  • Saucepans
  • Microwave: to melt chocolate – I can hear many shouts here telling me that you’re NEVER supposed to use a microwave for melting chocolate! ‘Use a bain-marie otherwise it’ll burn!’, I hear you shout, but in my (quite extensive) experience I have NEVER used a double boiler to melt chocolate. Ever. As long as you use medium-high power max, and blast it on 20 second bursts, giving it a good stir in-between blasts, it’ll be fine. Believe me.

THE INGREDIENTS

  • Double/Whipping Cream.
  • Chocolate – Dark, Milk or White, dependent on the truffle – please, please use the BEST quality chocolate you can find for the ganache itself, and DON’T, whatever you do, use cooking chocolate. The resulting truffle will taste and look horrific!
  • Whatever flavourings you intend to put into the truffle.

THE FINISHING TOUCHES

There are number of ways in which to finish your truffles – coating the completed balls of amazingness in high quality cocoa powder, rolling them in crushed nuts – or you can make them look REALLY awesome and dip them in melted chocolate, which will give you a finish similar to those truffles that you’d buy from an artisan chocolatier; the entire truffle will be coated by chocolate, thus ‘enrobing’ the soft centre. Personally, I believe that an enrobed truffle is, quite simply, the best. They not only look amazing, but the contrast between the crunch of the hardened chocolate exterior with the smooth flowing interior really is hard to beat. If you choose to do this (and I highly recommend that you do!) then you’ll need the following:

  • Fork: for dipping the chocolates.
  • Wire tray: for putting the enrobed chocolates on to dry – a cooling rack would be perfect.
  • Chocolate to enrobe the finished truffle balls –¬† this merits further discussion, as there are different ways to do this:

Professionally enrobed chocolates are coated with tempered chocolate – this is chocolate that has been heated then cooled to specific temperatures, thus changing the structure of the molecules within the chocolate, making it easier to work with and enabling it to dry to a high shine. Tempering chocolate manually can be a tricky business, because actually getting it to temper in the first place takes practice, while keeping it in temper takes ALOT of practice.

So! With this in mind, it may be politic NOT to temper the chocolate that you’ll be enrobing your truffles with! In which case, you now have two options remaining:

  • The first is to simply use melted chocolate to dip the truffles in – it won’t have the high shine reminiscent of high-quality, artisan chocolates but, hey, how many people do you know who can make their own chocolates complete with a chocolate shell? You’ll be utterly AWESOME for making them in the first place, so who cares if they’re a bit less shiny than professional ones!
  • The second option here is to use coating ‘chocolate’, which is a kind of artificial chocolate substitute – made with natural ingredients though! – that will give the appearance, and to some extent, the flavour of¬† tempered chocolate, without taking 4 hours and 30 attempts to get right. If you choose to go this route then search on google for coating chocolate to buy and you’ll find it – it costs about ¬£4.99 for 500g.

If anyone really does have a burning desire to learn how to temper chocolate then let me know and I’ll devote another post to it ūüėÄ

The truffles themselves really are the work of moments, involving heating the cream, mixing it with the chocolate and flavourings, and leaving it to cool before rolling small amounts into balls and re-cooling them. If you then choose to just encase them in crushed nuts, or cocoa powder, then they’ll be finished in no time. If, however, you choose to enrobe them in chocolate, coating or otherwise, then it’ll take a little more time, but not obscenely so.

So!! How do you make truffles? That’s how! Super easy, super quick!! Go on…give it a try ūüėČ

Lia x

©2004 Р2015 Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates

If you like this article, why not link to it from your website or blog… Or, if you wish to copy this article you may do so subject to the following conditions:

PERMISSION TO COPY. This article is Copyright of Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates and is protected by international copyright law. You are more than welcome to copy it for personal or non profit, or educational purposes and you have our permission to do so, provided it is copied and re-published in it’s entirety complete with copyright notice and website address. If you wish to copy it for electronic publication on an intranet, website, blog or Newsletter you may do so provided¬† the article is copied and re-published in it’s entirety with all html, copyright information and hyperlinks intact and unaltered in any way with no redirects. If you wish to copy it for any other purpose please contact us for permission first.contact@aphrodite-chocolates.co.uk

 

Chocolate… an Aphrodisiac?


So, it’s approaching that time of year when we all go love crazy…yes, it’s almost Valentines Day! But, I hear you shout, what to buy for that special someone!? The traditional old standby of flowers are always appealing, but do they really pack them same punch when it comes to creating that loving atmosphere, as the scientifically proven, love-inducing fever created by chocolate? I think not!! Want to know why? Then read on ūüėÄ

 

Handmade Chocolates

Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

The reputation of chocolate as an aphrodisiac originated in South America over fifteen hundred years ago, where cacao was believed to have both mystical and aphrodisiac qualities within the Mayan and Aztec cultures. The Aztec emperor Montezuma is reputed to have drunk fifty golden goblets of chocolate each day in order to enhance his sexual prowess, understandable when you consider that he had 600 wives to keep happy, so when the Conquistadors discovered chocolate and introduced it to Europe, it was natural that they continued to associate it with passion. The observed effects of chocolate on human behaviour reinforced the belief, and it is these effects that have ensured the lasting place within almost all modern cultures of chocolate.

Chocolate as a food source is extremely complex – so complex that scientists are only now beginning to unlock its myriad of secrets. Among its many constituents, chocolate has been found to contain the substances Phenylethylamine and Serotonin, both of which are mood lifting agents. Both occur naturally in the brain and are released into the nervous system when we are feeling happy – they are also released when we are experiencing feelings of love, passion and lust. This causes a rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure, increasing the heart rate and inducing those feelings of well-being and euphoria that are usually associated with love and lust.

This phenomenon has been scientifically observed and recorded, so it isn’t unreasonable to suppose that it was these observed physical effects that gave rise to the belief of ancient civilisations like the Mayans and Aztec’s that chocolate enhanced sexual prowess, particularly when you consider that chocolate gives an immediate and substantial energy boost, thus increasing sexual stamina. Additionally, both of these substance are mildly addictive which could give us an additional explanation of why cacao was as revered as it was.

Recent research has suggested that women are more susceptible to the effects of Phenylethylamine and Serotonin than men; however, Casanova was said to have consumed vast quantities of chocolate for its aphrodisiac qualities, so perhaps this is not quite true!?

Lia x

©2004 Р2015 Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates

If you like this article, why not link to it from your website or blog… Or, if you wish to copy this article you may do so subject to the following conditions:

PERMISSION TO COPY. This article is Copyright of Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates and is protected by international copyright law. You are more than welcome to copy it for personal or non profit, or educational purposes and you have our permission to do so, provided it is copied and re-published in it’s entirety complete with copyright notice and website address. If you wish to copy it for electronic publication on an intranet, website, blog or Newsletter you may do so provided¬† the article is copied and re-published in it’s entirety with all html, copyright information and hyperlinks intact and unaltered in any way with no redirects. If you wish to copy it for any other purpose please contact us for permission first.contact@aphrodite-chocolates.co.uk

 

How Chocolate Is Made


Chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, found in pods (illustrated above) growing from the trunk and lower¬†branches of the Cacao Tree, Latin name ‘Theobroma Cacao’ meaning “food of the gods”.

CHOCOLATE AS WE KNOW IT

Chocolate as we know it today was largely made possible by three events:

  • In 1828, Dutch chemist¬†Johannes Van Houten, invented a method of extracting the fat or “cocoa butter” from¬†ground cocoa beans. The resulting ‘cocoa’ powder was much less bitter tasting and, when combined¬†with sugar or honey, made a drink much more palatable to our taste.
  • This process known as the Van Houten¬†process made it possible for Fry & Sons of Bristol, England to manufacture and sell the first¬†solid chocolate bar¬†in 1847.
  • In 1875 a Swiss manufacturer, Daniel¬†Peters also used the Van Houten process to successfully combine chocolate with powdered milk to¬†produce the first milk chocolate.

HOW CHOCOLATE IS MADE

Producing chocolate is a time consuming and complicated process, but we have endeavoured to provide a simplified guide which we hope you will find easy to understand:

  • The first step is the harvesting of the cocoa pods containing the cocoa beans.
  • The Pods are crushed and the beans and surrounding pulp extracted and fermented naturally for about six days in¬†either open heaps or boxes after which the beans are dried.
  • The finest chocolate is produced when the drying process is done naturally by the sun for 7¬†days or more.
  • Accelerated or artificial drying is quicker, but produces inferior quality chocolate, mainly¬†used in mass produced products and cake coverings.
  • The next process is shared with coffee in that the beans are first graded, then roasted.¬†Roasting times depend on the type and size of the beans, like coffee this can also affect the final¬†flavour of the chocolate.
  • Light Crushing separates the kernel or ‘Nib’ from the shell or husk (like shelling a nut), the husk is then separated or¬†‘winnowed’ out and discarded.
  • At this stage most¬†manufacturers put the Cocoa Nibs through an alkalisation process to help develop flavour and colour.¬†However, some purists producing the finest chocolate prefer to rely on the quality of the beans and¬†natural processing to produce the best colour and flavour.
  • The nibs, which are very¬†high in fat or cocoa butter, are then finely milled and liquefy in the heat produced by the milling¬†process to produce cocoa liquor. When cocoa liquor, otherwise known as cocoa mass, is allowed to¬†cool and solidify.
  • At this point the¬†manufacturing process splits according to the final product. If the end product is chocolate, some¬†of the cocoa liquor is reserved, the rest is pressed to extract the cocoa butter leaving a solid¬†residue called press cake. Press cake is usually kibbled or finely ground to produce the product¬†known to consumers as Cocoa Powder.

The retained Cocoa Liquor and/or solid Cocoa Mass is blended with Chocolate Butter and other ingredients to produce the various types of chocolate as follows:

BLENDING

Cocoa Liquor or Cocoa Mass is blended back with cocoa butter in varying quantities to make¬†different types of chocolate. The finest plain or dark chocolate should contain 70% Cocoa or more, whereas the best Milk Chocolate contains 30% or more¬†Cocoa and the best White Chocolate contains 30% or more Cocoa¬†Butter. In addition most chocolate contains a sweetener, usually sugar, this is because without some¬†kind of sweetener, chocolate would be so bitter as to be virtually inedible. The other most commonly¬†added ingredients are natural Vanilla for flavour (artificial Vanilla or ‘Vanillin’ is often added¬†to mass produced chocolate because it’s cheaper), and Lethicin (usually made from Soya) as an¬†emulsifier. The basic blends that we use provide a good illustration:

Our Plain Dark Chocolate contains:

  • 70%+ Cocoa solids (cocoa mass and cocoa butter), 29% sugar, vegetable Lethicin and¬†Vanilla.

Our Milk Chocolate contains:

  • 40% Cocoa Solids (cocoa butter and cocoa mass), 37% sugar, 20% whole milk powder, Lactose,¬†vegetable Lethicin and Vanilla.

Our White Chocolate contains:

  • 49% sugar,¬†33% cocoa butter, 18% whole dried milk and whey powder, vegetable Lethicin¬†and Vanilla.

Different manufacturers use different variations of the above formulas.

Inferior and/or mass produced chocolate generally contains much less cocoa solids, (as low¬†as 7% in some cases), with most or all of the chocolate butter replaced by vegetable oil or other¬†fat. In fact, the low or virtually non-existent cocoa content of these “Brand Name” and¬†other chocolate products means that strictly¬†speaking, they should not really be classed as¬†chocolate at all, as they are really chocolate flavoured sweets.

REFINING AND CONCHING

The blended Chocolate then goes through a refining process involving heavy rollers, this grinds down and blends the particles to smooth and improve the texture.

Mostly, but not always,¬†this is followed by the penultimate process called √¨conching√ģ,¬†a¬†conch is a type of container in which the refined and blended chocolate mass is continually kneaded¬†and further smoothed, the fractional heat produced by this process keeps the chocolate liquid. The length of time given¬†to the conching process determines the final smoothness and¬†quality of chocolate. The finest chocolate is conched for a¬†minimum of a week. After the process is completed the chocolate¬†is stored in heated tanks at about 46‚ąěc (115‚ąěf), ready for the final process called Tempering.

TEMPERING

Because cocoa butter exhibits a  or unstable (polymorphous) crystal structure, the chocolate must go through a very precise cycle of heating and cooling to encourage the stable crystal formation needed to produce the desirable properties for good tasty chocolate. This final process is called Tempering.

This is the method we use, first, we melt the¬†chocolate at about 46‚ąěc (115‚ąěf), the chocolate is then cooled to between 29‚ąěc (84‚ąěf) and 31‚ąěc¬†(88‚ąěf) and warmed up again to between 30‚ąěc (86‚ąěf) and 32‚ąěc (90‚ąěf), it can then be held ‘in¬†temper’ at this temperature for use as required.

The chocolate is now ready for use as coverture, for coating chocolates, chocolate biscuits and other coated products, or poured into moulds and cooled for sale as the finished product such as solid chocolate bars. But every time it is allowed to harden and is re-melted it will have to be re-tempered again.

Well tempered chocolate has a good shiny gloss, a snappy or brittle bite and a smooth tender melt on the tongue, coating the palate with long lasting flavour and generally tasting wonderful.

Note: One of the reasons that mass¬†producers replace chocolate butter with vegetable oil (or other fat) is that they don’t then have to¬†worry about tempering the resulting concoction. An added bonus (as far as they are concerned) is¬†that vegetable oil is much cheaper than chocolate butter, but it’s addition results in a vastly¬†inferior product that is most definitely not real chocolate.

MASS PRODUCED CHOCOLATE

The average cocoa solids content of these mass¬†produced products is generally less than 20% by volume. The principle ingredients of commercial mass¬†produced chocolate are not cocoa solids, but sugar, powdered milk and sundry artificial and other¬†additives, in addition chocolate butter is substituted with saturated fats and vegetable fats,¬†(usually hydrogenated vegetable oil or HVO). These are the dietary villains responsible for¬†chocolate’s undeserved reputation as being fattening, tooth-decaying and generally unhealthy.

But all’s not doom and gloom, we are becoming¬†more discerning in our tastes, with demand for high quality, high cocoa content dark chocolate products increasing¬†year on year. Real chocolate, containing at least 70% cocoa solids for plain chocolate and much less¬†sugar than the typical mass produced “brand name” product, is much healthier by far – see Chocolate¬†– Health Benefits.¬†for more on this.

WHO LOVES CHOCOLATE?

It’s a well established fact that most people love¬†chocolate, last year (2001) chocolate lovers in the UK alone, spent over ¬£4 billion ($7.5 billion)¬†on well over half a million metric tons of chocolate products (including¬†biscuits etc)!

U.S. Consumers spent more than $10 billion (¬£4ő©¬†billion) and ate 2.8 billion pounds (1.3 billion kilo’s) of chocolate alone (not including coated¬†biscuits etc), representing about half of the world’s entire chocolate production (2001).

The average U.S. citizen eats over 12 lbs (5.45kg) of chocolate products annually, but British and the Swiss top the league, with the Swiss consuming a staggering 22lbs (11kg) per person per year. Unfortunately the bulk of the money spent by the average Briton and American is wasted on mass produced low chocolate, high fat, high sugar products.

On the other hand, the Swiss spend their money far¬†more wisely on very high quality chocolate, as anyone who has tasted Swiss chocolate will testify,¬†but you don’t have to go to Switzerland to get good Chocolate!

Aphrodite chocolates are made from only the finest quality, high cocoa chocolate:

  • 70%+ cocoa solids for plain Dark Chocolate

  • 40%+ cocoa solids for Milk Chocolate

  • 33%+ chocolate butter for White Chocolate

and finest natural ingredients with little or no added sugar.

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