The Imperfect Present
A little beginner’s luck is a dangerous thing. I made truffles for the first and only time a couple of years ago for a dinner party. They came out well and everyone raved. I was outwardly modest but secretly thrilled. Hoping I’d discovered a secret talent for handling chocolate, I could see the Brooklyn storefront in my future -warm chocolate shop, pretty apron, tiny smudge on my cheek. Though I hadn’t made them since then, a mixed bag of failures and moderate successes have shown me just how difficult it is to work with chocolate. It has a temper and when it turns on you, it is not cute.
I needed a gift for a friend who loves truffles so I decided to make a batch infused with orange syrup and rum. Having attended a truffle demonstration by Kir Rodriguez, a former monk and self-described current agnostic in love with food, I followed his recipe. As I started working, my mind wandered. Having already set up a small chocolate factory in my kitchen, why not knock out a few extra batches for my brunch friends the next day or for the person who’s coming to hang my shelves next week? Unfortunately, while I imagined gifting the neighborhood with prissily packaged homemade truffles, the orange syrup got gloopy, the cream boiled over and I took a small rum bath when I was trying to adjust the measurements. The chocolate and cream did not emulsify beautifully as described, or even girlfriend cute. Anxious to see if any of it was salvageable, I refrigerated my bowl of chocolate puree to see how it would set. It was edible, but not giftable.
Despite my first success, I’d waited so long try truffles again partly because it had come so easy. Friday’s fiasco on the other hand sent me immediately back for more. I read the recipe more carefully, got the recommended chocolate, and started again. I infused the zest and honey in the cream and remembered to measure it again after it had boiled to make sure I was adding to the right amount of liquid (260 grams add milk as needed). Once I added the cream to the chocolate, I agitated it from the center out to create the emulsion and allowed it to set overnight as directed resisting the urge to refrigerate. By the next morning, I could see they were in good shape, night and day from the previous ones. I considered quitting while I was ahead and just rolling them directly in cooca powder instead of dipping them beforehand in tempered chocolate as Chef Kir had recommended. Having regained some ground on my second try, I couldn’t stop now. For the couverture, I tried the accompanying easy and foolproof tempering method. It was in fact foolproof and worth the additional step.
A little rougher than the perfectly formed spheres I’d imagined, they weren’t flawless but were certainly giftable. I know that people enjoy the tiny imperfections that indicate something truly homemade, but I am not one of them. I always want everything I make to be the perfect reflection of my intentions, though that rarely, well really never, ever happens. In this case however, having seen all the tiny things that could go wrong, I could really appreciate what went right for once, and leave perfect for another day.
Orange Rum Truffles
The original recipe for the Orange Grand Marnier Truffles can be found Kir Rodriguez’s blog, The Chocolate Whisperer. An instructor at the French Culinary Institute, he’ gives several options and possible substitutions. I used 30 grams of rum in place of the Grand Marnier and dipped the set truffles in tempered chocolate before rolling in cocoa powder. Click here for the original recipe for Orange Grand Marnier truffles and here for his recipe for the easy and foolproof tempering method.