DIY: Chocolate Truffles

Okay, so what do we have here: a tub of unsweetened cocoa and a bowl of chilled ganache.  There’s also a spoon and a saucer.  Now, what could all these possibly be for?  Why, truffle making, of course!

It was one of those ideas that hit me from out of the blue.  I still had a large bowl of what I now refer to as my Galleon Trade Ganache (so named because I used South American chocolate [a blend of Ecuador and Peru from Heavenly Chocolates] and local dairy products) left over from last weekend when someone ordered a dozen Whoop-de-dos filled with dark ganache.  Now, I’m not the sort to waste anything – least of all a bowl of dark, glorious chocolate! – but none of us at home has been in the mood for cake, of late.  And, while the weather has been gruesomely hot enough for sundaes, everyone seems to prefer chugging down tumblers of iced tea instead of scarfing down ice cream. 

That said, the bowl has been in what we refer to as the deli section of the fridge – colder than the main part of the fridge, but not as polar as the freezer.  I had a spoonful of the ganache for dessert the other evening when I came home bone-tired from work.  Then it hit me: why not make truffles?  I mean, it’s virtually a no-brainer.

The original chocolate truffle first made its appearance in 1895 at the shop owned by the Dufours of Chambery, France.  Cold lumps of ganache were rolled in cocoa powder, a process which added an appealing layer of bitterness to something that would otherwise have been too sweet.  In the early 20th Century, the Swiss improved on the technique by adding butter to the ganache and pouring the resulting compound into molds to ensure uniformity.  This is the technique used for the Truffettes de France sold at the kiosk of the same name at the Shangri-la Plaza.

I will be honest at this point and say outright that I don’t have molds for making truffles; nor did I use butter for my ganache.  In fact, let me let you all in on my secret ingredient for this particular temptation…

I used carabao [water buffalo] milk rather than cream.  Yep, a cup of incredibly butter-fat, full cream carabao milk from Saint Mary Dairy (P 170.00 per liter from SM Supermarket).  The end results were a ganache that was much smoother in its molten state and a truffle with slight caramel-ish notes and a rather toothsome texture: firm to the bite, but dissolving into a rich puddle almost as soon as you close your mouth.  Mm-hmm…divine decadence, indeed.

Just one thing, though: plan your craving a couple days in advance as the ganache needs time to firm up to optimal truffle condition.  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1 cup full-cream carabao milk or 1 330-mL carton of all-purpose cream
  • 200 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup single-origin dark chocolate buttons
  • cocoa powder for rolling

In a non-reactive saucepan (enamel or copper work best) over low heat, bring the milk or cream to a boil whilst stirring constantly.  Add the chopped chocolate and the single-origin buttons and keep stirring to prevent scorching.  Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened.  Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature; chill in the coldest part of your refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours.

Cover the surface of a saucer or a plate with cocoa powder.  Drop rounded tablespoons of the ganache and roll in the cocoa till well covered.  Place finished truffles in an airtight container and chill before serving.

Makes approximately 50 truffles.

A Little Cup of Heaven – Nestle Heaven

There’s your standard-issue supermarket ice cream and there are your super-premium frozen delights from Haagen-Dasz, Ben and Jerry, and – on the local front – Sebastian’s and Theobroma.  To steal a line from the first Ghostbusters movie: don’t cross the streams.  Which is to say, in foodie-speak, the twain should never meet.

So, how then does one explain the new Heaven line from Nestle Philippines?  According to the blurb on the side of the cup, it’s supposed to be richer and creamier than most regular ice creams currently available on the market.  For one thing, it has more butterfat; for another, there’s a lot more cream.  (Dear Lord, it sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen, doesn’t it?  :P)

This particular product comes in three flavors: Vanilla Secret (vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and chopped almonds), Belgian Bliss (chocolate ice cream with chopped Belgian dark couverture), and Very Strawberry (strawberry ice cream with a ripple of strawberry preserves).

By this time, you all know me: I’ll try anything once – even if it becomes detrimental to my waistline and backside, it’s worth it.  So when I spied this in a convenience store freezer, I decided to take the plunge.

It didn’t look too promising when I opened the cup.  I mean just the usual piped top of vanilla ice cream mottled somewhat with splotches of caramel sauce.  But when I dug deep into the cup with my spoon, I was rewarded with a butterscotch-y gusher and every spoonful was rich, unctuously creamy, and peppered with a lot of chopped almonds, giving the treat a toasty-smoky counterpoint to keep it from getting too lush for comfort.

Speaking of lushness, what really got to me with Nestle Heaven was the texture: not a trace of crystallization so the frozen custard was smooth all the way through.  It was also done in such a way that it seemed to melt almost instantly upon contact with my tongue.  Now, if I were truly wicked, I’d take a hint from Isabel Allende and put dabs of this decadent ice cream on my light-o’-love’s bare shoulder and…  Good Lord, let’s not even go there!

By far, the Vanilla Secret is the best of the three with the fruited lushness of the Very Strawberry coming in a close second.  The Belgian Bliss, alas, was marred by the taste: there wasn’t much to lift it up from the standard chocolate flavor.

Heaven is pricier than most other supermarket brands, but I assure you that it’s worth a shot.  ๐Ÿ˜€

Paella in a Flash

Despite the fact that a lot of my more health-conscious friends have been telling me to swear off the carbs, (God, no – no, no, nooooo!  >_____<) I find it difficult to go through life without rice.  I am not sure if it’s because it’s an Asian thing, but I’d rather believe that it’s because I just like rice – period.

Some days, however, plain white rice just doesn’t cut it.  And, yes: I do have days when even fried rice won’t do, either.  I suppose I could break out the Japanese curry mix cubes and do an impromptu kedgeree (more on that one of these days), but there are days when the riz du jour takes on a Spanish accent with my Paella Pronto.

All it takes is a packet of Clara Ole Ora-Mix-Mo fried rice flavoring (paella-flavored, of course), a minced onion, a tablespoon of olive oil, frozen peas, leftover grilled chicken, a Lucban longganiza (those deliciously garlicky sausages from Quezon province, and a generous cup (or so!  :)) of cold cooked rice.  Et voila: breakfast with a Spanish accent comes to the table faster than a matador fleeing an enraged bull.

Fast, savory, and satisfying…  Ahhh, muy bien

Ginataang Alimasag: The Return of a Market-day Favorite

Crustaceans make rare appearances in my family’s kitchen.  This is not because shrimp and crab are expensive (Trust me on this one: one can easily get a kilo and then some for a little less than two hundred pesos.), but because my mother is allergic to them.

However, not even the possibility of a serious case of hives was enough to deter Mom from craving for an old-school family specialty: ginataang alimasag na may labong (soft-shelled crab and bamboo shoots cooked in coconut cream).

Crab cooked in coconut cream was one of those dishes prepared at least one Saturday a month back when I was a child.  Saturday, you see, was – and still is – market day and fresh seafood aplenty appears in the kitchen.  Along with such favorites as pinaksiw na bangus (milkfish cooked in vinegar with ginger and whole peppercorns) and adobong pusit (a local version of calamares en su tinta – squid cooked in its own ink), ginataang alimasag was a dish my father and I always looked forward to.  Well, at least till Mom developed that allergy!

So, I was really startled when I woke up Saturday morning and found the aluminum basin-ful of soft-shelled crabs in the kitchen.  These little monsters cost P 160.00 (a little over US$ 3.00) for a good kilo from the itinerant fishmonger who was making his rounds through the village that morning.  They were a frisky lot, brandishing their claws and snapping them at anyone who came too near the basin.  That, dear SybDive readers, is definitely a sign of really fresh – snapping fresh! – seafood.  ๐Ÿ™‚

Cooking the crab involves the same procedure used for lobster: you bind up the claws and toss the lot into a large pot of boiling salted water.  This, of course, will not endear me and the rest of my household to those eco-terrorists at PeTA, but it’s a time-honored practice as far as we’re concerned and no nutcase bunch of vegans is going to persuade us otherwise!

The parboiled crabs are then transferred to a large wok where they are sauteed with ginger, salt, and pepper.  Labong – shredded bamboo shoots – are added to give the dish a nutty-tasting crunch.  Some versions of this dish also add siling labuyo (those tiny, incendiary bird’s-eye chilies) at this point, but we’ve chosen not to.  Thin coconut milk is added and the mixture is brought to a boil.  Thick coconut cream is added and the heat is lowered, allowing the dish to simmer for an additional five to ten minutes before serving.

It is one of those dishes that is best served with rice and eating it is definitely not for the unadventurous.  It is best eaten with one’s bare hands with a sense of semi-barbaric glee: cracking open the shells over one’s rice and sucking the sweet flesh out of broken claws and legs.  Some people prefer a bit of patis (fish sauce) spruced up with some kalamansi juice for a tart zing that keeps the sweetness from getting too cloying, but we prefer to have it as is.

My mother took one look at the dish of crab, gulped down two antihistamines, and settled down to a succulent feast.  My sister, however, was completely and utterly horrified at seeing us let our hair down (so to speak) and smash through those beautifully cooked crustaceans.  The squeamish nineteen-year-old opted to lunch on bacon and eggs and I pretty much let her be.

I was too busy enjoying the flavors of my childhood.  ๐Ÿ˜€