For as long as I can remember, chocolate has always been a special reward for me – from little treats when I was a kid to the mastery of the precise and demanding confectionary art. During my childhood in Moulins, the highest form of brownie point my parents could bestow on me was a box of chocolates called “Palets d’Or”.
The shop that sells them is one of the most famous chocolatiers in the region and boasts a noteworthy historical background. The Palet d’Or was created in the late nineteenth century by Bernard Serardy, a Master Chocolate maker who pioneered the use of golden leaves as an ornament for the candy. Palets d’Or were offered as gifts at every social occasion and became so notorious that the pupils from Moulins’ School of Fine Arts, under the orders of Italian painter Galfione, turned the little shop into a golden sweet box with incredibly beautiful moldings and a stunning painted ceiling. If you are traveling to central France, this boutique is well-worth a stopoff.
On my (rare) days off nowadays, I like to pull out my molds and fiddle with ganache. Even though the process takes some time and requires a great deal of precision, I find it to be a relaxing, creative activity that provides a great space for self-expression. The ganache – the real star of the candy – is where I am looking for an unique combination or an unexpected surprise. In my latest batch I have played with the subtle tanginess of yuzu, the surprising intense association between white truffle and cacao, the enticing ylang-ylang and the sweet and warm comfort of the crème de marron (chesnut cream), among others.
Chocolate is notoriously fickle when it comes to melting it down for dipping and candy making. If you miss a step it can go from silky to chalky within a couple of minutes. To avoid that, chocolate needs to be tempered. Tempering involves melting and heating it to about 110°, letting it cool to below 80°, and then bringing it back up and holding it around 90° (those temperatures are only valid for dark chocolate). It can then be used for preparing the molds, as tempered chocolate coats things evenly, has a glossy look once it hardens, and snaps cleanly in the mouth. It also melts smoothly on the tongue. Untempered chocolate looks dull and often presents gray streaks and a grainy texture.
For chocolate amateurs who are not ready for the whole adventure, I am including here a recipe for ganache that can then be dipped in cocoa powder to make delicious chocolate truffles.
250 g of 70% dark chocolate
250 g (about 1 cup) of 35% whipping cream
100 g cocoa powder
- Cut the chocolate into small pieces
- Heat the cream until boiling
- Pour over chocolate, wait for 2 minutes and mix gently with hand
mixer for about 2 minutes.
- Allow mixture to cool until set
- Scoop into desired portions and dust with cocoa powder.
- Store in a lidded container until ready to serve
(If kept at a cool temperature they will last for a few days.)