28 February 2009

Chocolate Islands in Crème Anglaise


Dinner and a Movie

Here it is the end of February, the month I most closely associate with chocolate, and I haven’t posted about chocolate even once. I’ve thought about it. I’ve compared it, I’ve sampled it, I’ve even cooked with it, but for some reason I haven’t written about it.

But then I found something that caught my eye, Dinner and a Movie at No Recipes and Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. I have a passion for movies and food movies in particular so I wanted to participate. And what could be a more perfect movie for a February round-up than “Chocolat”?

For this event we are free from major rules and asked to create something, anything, inspired by the movie. I suppose it could have been a healing bowl of chicken soup, an herbal remedy, healthy dog biscuits or Kangaroo Stew, but really, it seems that all I can think about when I watch the movie is chocolate and chile peppers, two things I am very fond of.

"Chocolat"

I did watch the movie again, looking for inspiration. I noticed how the movie is set in the season of Lent. In the movie Comte de Reynauld insists that the community should give up chocolate, among other indulgences, for Lent. He makes it a matter of public morality. Unfortunately as a by-product he also encourages them to give up good manners, hospitality, and an opportunity for healing as they make a show of their abstinance. He encourages them to be closed to relationships instead of reaching out in love.

Normally giving up something for Lent seems like a personal matter. It is a small reminder to focus on God as we deny ourselves some indulgence in this world. It is a personal reminder to look to what the narrator suggests, the larger lessons that need to be taught. At least that's how I think I see Lent.

It seems to me that giving something up for Lent is not an end in itself but a way to make room for something else. In fact, it seems to me that as we let go of one thing, we often find that God is waiting to fill us up with something better if we will only let him. As Père Henri says in his Easter sermon, goodness or virtue is not only about what we deny ourselves, or resist, but is also about what we are willing to embrace and create.

Artisanal Chocolate

Thinking of creativity and chocolate takes me back to a great series by Stef at Food Interviews as she talked with Art from Amano Chocolate. Art makes small batch artisanal chocolate from single origin cacoa beans. Art is passionate about chocolate and is involved in the process from "bean to bar." The series of interviews was fascinating! I eagerly read each segment and even won some of Art's wonderful chocolate.

Since I received my chocolate, I must confess, I've been hoarding it. I've kept it in my own secret stash, waiting for just the right time to use it. Finally this felt like the right time to let it go. Still, this chocolate is special and since it is specifically made without added flavorings, so that the cocoa beans can “really speak for themselves,” I wanted to use it in a recipe that was fairly pure. After some thought, I decided to make truffles.

The Recipe

I’ve made truffles before. I made some wonderful truffles last year. This time, inspired by another recipe in "Table for Two: French Recipes for Romantic Dining," I decided to try something both a little more rustic and a little more complex.

As I let go of my stash and made truffles from a ganache of only Amano’s wonderful Ocumare Handcrafted Dark Chocolate and cream, I also tried something new. After I loosely shaped the ganache and rolled it in cocoa powder, I set it adrift like gypsies in a sea of Crème Anglaise, something I had never made before. Then, for a lift, I added a pinch of chile pepper for color and to add a hint of fiery adventure to the presentation. Then I garnished it with white chocolate curls and tiny chocolate candies.

All of this was composed in two sizes. A single rounded teaspoon sized truffle on a small sauce tray for just a hint of dessert at the end of a meal. With coffee or liqueur this size offers a nice restrained finish to a memorable meal, without a hint of overindulgence, and offers a taste of this fabulous chocolate to a larger number of guests. I also made it in a larger full sized dessert for a more traditional ending to a dinner party or other occasion.


Chocolate Islands in Crème Anglaise

Basic Truffle

½ cup heavy cream
6 ozs chocolate, chopped

Set the chopped chocolate in a bowl.

Heat the cream over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute or two. Stir the chocolate and cream together.

Place in the refrigerator to set for several hours.

When the mixture is fairly firm scoop out rounded teaspoon sized balls with a cookie scooper and roll each in cocoa powder, or use a larger 2 tablespoon sized scoop for larger truffles that you might make into a flattened egg shape. Roll in cocoa powder.

Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Crème Anglaise
From Joy of Baking

Set out a medium bowl with a wire mesh strainer.

Stir together egg yolks and sugar with a wire whisk. Set aside. (Don’t let the eggs sit too long.)

In a small to medium saucepan, scald the half and half with the vanilla bean placed in it over medium low heat. (I use a three quart saucepan with high sides.)

When the half and half is just below the boiling point and bubbles form around the edge of the saucepan remove it from the heat.

Pour a small amount of the scalded half and half into the egg yolk mixture as you whisk.

When combined slowly pour yolk mixture into the scalded half and half, whisking constantly.

Place the saucepan over low heat and place a candy thermometer in the mixture. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, just until the mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of 170 – 175 degrees. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Immediately remove it from the heat and pour through the wire mesh to remove any clots and the vanilla bean.

When the vanilla bean is cool enough to handle, split it lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the Crème Anglaise. Whisk until the seeds are evenly distributed.

Store the Crème Anglaise in the refrigerator for several days if desired. Store it with the vanilla bean in it for maximum flavor. Remove the vanilla bean pod before serving.

Assembly

Assemble dessert by scooping out a pool of crème anglaise onto a saucer or into a small dish. Drop one chocolate truffle into the pool. Sprinkle a pinch of ancho chili powder (or cinnamon if you prefer) over the truffle and into the cream. Garnish with white chocolate curls and/or other chocolate bits.

Serve and enjoy!

Note: These recipes are versatile. Other flavors might be added to the truffle mixture or the Crème Anglaise, if desired. Experiment.

For a denser, less creamy but more substantive, truffle I also tried the recipe from "Table for Two..." It takes a few more ingredients but is very delicious. I can’t really say which is my favorite. I enjoyed them both. Floating in a sea of Crème Anglaise it would be hard to leave behind either island.


Chocolate Truffles
Changed slightly from a recipe in "Table for Two: French Recipes for Romantic Dining"

5 oz dark chocolate
1 teaspoon milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon liqueur (kahlua)
1 Tablespoon cocoa

Break chocolate into pieces and melt with 1 teaspoon milk in the top of a double boiler. When smooth, remove from heat.

Stir in butter gradually until thoroughly mixed and glossy.

Add egg yolk and cream as you continue stirring. Beat in the sugar and liqueur.

Refrigerate mixture until firm, approximately 2 hours.

When chilled, scoop the chocolate mixture into flattened ovals (or ice-cream shaped scoops or other shape of your choice) of approximately 2 Tablespoons each. Roll in cocoa powder.

Chill until serving time.

13 comments:

noble pig said...

Okay this is seriously so good looking...wow, so impressive and creative! A sure winner.

Stef said...

I hoard my good chocolate too! Glad you found something really special to use it for. Looks amazing!

Cathy said...

This is amazing, Lisa, and it looks beyond delicious. What a creative combination of flavors.

Bunny said...

WOW this looks decadent and beautiful!

Grace said...

"it seems to me that as we let go of one thing, we often find that God is waiting to fill us up with something better if we will only let him..."

i really, really like that thought and i really, really like your chocolate treat. :)

Claudia said...

I liked your comments on Lent. A better take than the old legalistic one. Often it's good to take a break from habits of any sort.

The floating truffle was a creative idea.

Nicisme said...

Wow, a huge truffle in a creme anglaise sauce - my kind of dessert!!

Krysta said...

how beautiful!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

What a lovely and elegant dish! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I'm flattered that you used your "secret stash" for our little old event. Can't wait to see what you come up with next month!

Lorraine@NotQuiteNigella said...

This looks magnificent and so indulgently good too :)

Sophie said...

wow, your dessert looks so fab!!!! Beautiful edibility!

Passionate About Baking said...

That's just too beautiful Lisa. I love the first picture & the tiles in the background, gorgeous!

Robin Sue said...

This is a very clever dessert for such a great movie! I will have to try floating these islands sometime.