Challenge:Accepted!

From the French Kitchen- Lavender Truffles

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When I worked at a chocolate shop in Boston, the number two question we would get, after “How do you work here and not eat everything?” was, “Which is your favorite?” And for me the answer was always the lavender truffle. I would always get a quizzical look, or a “really??” but many people trusted me, and I think many people were converted. A creamy ganache made with 67% dark chocolate infused with lavender, covered with a thin shell of chocolate and painted with a shiny purple luster powder for pizazz. So, so delicious, and made all the more wonderful by the fact that it is unusual (not hazelnut or caramel, which are so obvious) and unexpected (floral flavors tend to be very cloying and perfumey, not so here). When I left the chocolate shop to go to France, visions of creating my own lavender truffle were already dancing in my head.

If you are thinking that this recipe is not exactly from the French Kitchen, you are right. I am cheating a bit, but lavender is so french, right? And so is chocolate, so I’m going with it. I’ve made truffles before, notably as holiday gifts in huge batches of many different flavors, and they are really quite simple, if slightly intense and find-chocolate-in-odd-places-for-months messy. At the shop we didn’t make the chocolates, so I had no recipe to go on, but it turns out that a very basic truffle recipe, with quality ingredients and a touch of real lavender, tasted exactly like my favorites.

Lavender Truffles

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (Good quality, in whatever percentage you prefer. I used Scharffen Berger 70% and found it perfect.)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds (Grow your own, or purchase in a store or online, just make sure they’re organic and edible! I found mine at a natural foods store in the bulk tea and spice section.)
  • 1-2 tablespoons good cocoa powder for rolling (optional if using chocolate coating)
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate for coating (optional if using cocoa for rolling)
  1. Heat heavy cream in a small, heavy saucepan until boiling. Add lavender. Remove from heat and let steep.
  2. In a double boiler (or a makeshift double boiler: a metal bowl or pot over a larger pot of boiling water) melt 6 ounces of chocolate.
  3. Remove from heat and add 2 more ounces of chocolate. Stir until melted.
  4. Place a strainer over the bowl or pot of chocolate and pour the cream mixture over it, catching the little bits of lavender. Discard lavender.
  5. Stir the cream and chocolate mixture slowly with a whisk, working from center to the edge, being careful not to beat any air in, until it is a smooth, creamy ganache.
  6. Let ganache come to room temperature and then refrigerate for about an hour. Check on it periodically; you want it to be perfectly scoopable but not too firm.
  7. Line a baking sheet, tray or pan with parchment or waxed paper.
  8. Using a spoon, scoop a bit of the ganache and roll in your hands to form a loose shape, like the namesake truffles, and set on the tray. Size them how you like, but I think golf-ball sized makes the perfect bite.
  9. Refrigerate formed truffles for at least 15 minutes.
  10. At this point, the truffles should be coated. You can either coat in melted chocolate, or cocoa powder or both. Some people find the cocoa powder too intense, but the chocolate coating can be annoying to get just right. The chocolate coating is recommended if you don’t plan on eating them in a day or two, as it seals the ganache. It is also possible to roll the coated truffles in any other sprinkly material: more lavender, nuts, cocoa nibs, etc.
  11. If you are coating the truffles with melted chocolate, melt 4 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler.
  12. Set up an assembly line with your tray of truffles, your bowl of melted chocolate if using, a bowl of cocoa powder with a fork and a bowl with a sieve if using cocoa, and another empty tray lined in parchment or waxed paper.
  13. Smear some melted chocolate in your hand and roll a truffle in it, coating lightly, but entirely. Let set for a second.
  14. AND/OR Drop into bowl with cocoa powder and turn with fork to coat. Use fork to drop into sieve to get rid of excess powder. Lay onto tray.
  15. Repeat with all truffles.
  16. Refrigerate for one hour before packaging in an air-tight container or something cute for gifts. Store in refrigerator, but enjoy at room temperature.
Chocolate dipped truffles, which you can also sprinkle with lavender before they dry.

In addition to my gigantic, extremely rustic cocoa-coated ones, these are some chocolate-coated truffles, which you can also sprinkle with lavender before it fully dries.

Because my hosts (my parents) are vegan, and it is so rude to bring chocolate into a house that someone can’t eat, I made a cream-free version as well, using coconut oil. It came out well, although the coconut flavor somewhat overpowered the lavender. I might use closer to 2 tablespoons next time.

Vegan Lavender Truffles

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (good quality dark chocolate is usually dairy free, some of the other stuff isn’t)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Repeat recipe as above, replacing cream with coconut oil and water. Instead of boiling, heat gently to melt and let lavender steep. Continue from step 2.

 

*Recipes created from Bon Appétit, Robert Linxe’s recipe courtesy of Gourmet, Smitten Kitchen, Whole Living, and my previous experience.

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Sightings

Let them eat slightly stale eclairs!

It is so lovely when a dear friend comes to visit. Beyond good conversation and fun outings, a visiting friend can also provide motivation to get out and do some of those things that have been on the list for months.  The touristy things, if you will, that somehow get replaced by mornings of jogging in the forest, afternoons of faire des courses (grocery shopping, where you might have to hit up variously the Monoprix, the health food store, grocer, butcher, and baker for the meal) and evenings of watching every season of The Mentalist. This particular friend helped me finally get to the Louvre, for one, and we even took a tour, which I probably wouldn’t normally do. We also visited The Château de Versailles. Versailles is one of those places that I am glad exists because history but that I probably wouldn’t have gotten behind at the time it was built. See also: Colosseum. When we visited, back in February, although it felt just springy enough here in Paris to add a bounce to my step, it was still winter enough that the trees were barren, and the only flowers to be seen were sprinklings of tiny, white snowdrops. Also, the fountains were off, and the water very low so it was hard to get an idea of the gardens, beyond general enormity. All the opulence made us hungry, so we visited the in-house Angelina for lunch (there are many other dining options throughout the complex), to kill two tourist birds with one stone. We visited the take-away counter, rather than the restaurant, as the counter was already expensive but not EXPENSIVE. It was, I hope, not as good as the Parisian one, because the sandwiches were just fine and the eclairs were quite stale. Even without the gardens in bloom, the sheer vastness of the grounds, and lavishness of the castle itself is beautiful and impressive, and definitely highlights the chasm between the wealthy ruling class and starving peasants that existed at the time it was built.

While I was able to cross two important things off my list, it is still long, and somehow, after spending two months in Morocco, and after upcoming trips to Madrid, Rome, Florence, Berlin and Vienna, and back to Nantes, we will only be in Paris for one more month. I’m not sure how the year went by so fast, but I do know that I will have to really get going. Euro Disney, here I come!

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