SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Up one side and down the other: Descriptive phrase pertaining to how extensively one has explored or considered a situation or topic. Like how chocolate is a necessity of life.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE… ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE … AND CHOCOLATE
The Beatles had a good idea in their lovely song, All You Need is Love. They just didn’t pursue the thought to its inevitable and logical conclusion.
Love is wonderful, and it makes the world go round, and it is a many splendored thing, and all those other fabulous songs. But let’s face it, a body needs more sustenance than the endorphins released by all that love. A body needs food. And not just any food.
Folks, I’m talking about chocolate. And what better time to have this discussion, than February, when Valentine’s Day and National Chocolate Month have commingled to create an annual $13 billion American consumer market for that delicious, melt-in-your-mouth food once reserved for the gods
As one of countless chocolate-themed jokes points out, there’s no such thing as Chocoholics Anonymous because nobody wants to quit chocolate.
Let me count the ways chocolate is essential to a person’s well being:
- The smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, triggering relaxation.
- Chocolate is an energy source, containing stimulants theobromine and caffeine —a single chocolate chip is alleged to provide enough energy to walk 150 feet.
- Chocolate contains anti-bacterial properties that protect against tooth decay (if not beefed up with a lot of sugar).
- Chocolate contains antioxidants such as thiamine, riboflavin and phenylethylamine, which possess cancer-fighting properties.
- Daily dark chocolate consumption has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce heart disease by as much as a third.
You get the picture. Chocolate is a good thing… unless someone consumes 22 pounds at a time, which apparently is the quantity it takes to kill the average person.
The Old Bride subscribes to the Forrest Gump and Peanuts philosophies of life and chocolate, which accommodate the concept that less is more:
“Mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.’” Forrest Gump (1994)
“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” Lucy Van Pelt (in Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz)
Less definitely is “more” in this week’s classic chocolate truffles recipe. Truffles are a chocolate confectionery made with a chocolate “ganache” filling coated or rolled in a chocolate shell, icing, toasted nuts or cocoa powder. Ganache is a French term referring to a glaze, icing, sauce or filling made from two parts chocolate melted in one part cream.
Chocolate truffles have an intense cacao flavor. Hence, the less-is-more.
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
Chocolate melts at 93˚F. The secret to good truffles is to coat properly and keep chilled until ready to serve. Whenever working with melted chocolate, it is critical not to overheat it or the chocolate will become grainy. Feel free to roll the truffle balls quickly in melted bittersweet chocolate before coating with cocoa powder. Another tip: I highly recommend adding a kitchen scale to your inventory for the purpose of weighing foodstuffs such as chocolate chips.
1/2 lb (about 1-1/3 c) good semisweet chocolate such as Hershey’s
1 c heavy whipping cream
1 T hot coffee
1/2 tsp good vanilla extract or 1 tsp Grand Marnier, Amaretto or Chambord
Cocoa powder (unsweetened or sweetened)
1 c (combined) of toasted white sesame seeds and chopped almond slices, optional
Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Chop the bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates into small bits with a sharp knife. Place them in a metal mixing bowl (3-qt double-boiler size).
With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the hot coffee. If bits remain unmelted, carefully place bowl over a larger bowl containing hot tap water and continue whisking until all chocolate bits are melted and the mixture is glossy. Be careful not to splash any water into the chocolate.
Whisk in the vanilla or liqueur until blended. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a soft spatula. Set bowl aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
Scoop chocolate ganache by the rounded scant teaspoon, using back side of a second spoon to form balls and drop onto lined baking sheet. Continue, with balls not touching, until all of the mixture has been dropped. Refrigerate, uncovered, for an hour.
To make optional almond and sesame-seed coating, melt 3 tablespoons of salted butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the unchopped sliced almonds and sesame seeds and turn frequently to coat. The sesame seeds will begin to turn brown as the almonds absorb the butter. Keep turning until light brown and remove from heat. Allow mixture to cool, turning with a large slotted spoon at intervals until room temperature. Loosely chop the almonds.
Roll each chilled dollop of ganache between both hands to form 1-inch round balls. Use your creativity to finish the truffle by dropping into the coating material and rolling it around to coat completely. Use dry teaspoon to lift coated truffle from the dish and place on the clean lined pan. Continue until all have been coated and positioned, not touching. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with tongs. The truffles will keep up to two weeks.
Read more about the history of chocolate as compiled by Laurie Triplette.
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.