Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Among my internet Christmas buying for others I snuck in a copy of "Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts" by Claire Clark (pastry chef at the French Laundry) as a little present to myself. I said in my introduction that I like a culinary challenge and this certainly poses one. It is a fantastic book - but it's not for beginners. Many of the recipes consist of more than one stage - some of the chocolate ones invole steps such as tempering it first. On the list of things to try soon include: orange pistachio cakes; warm chocolate and raspberry tarts; mango and lime mirliton tart; fig and blueberry creme fraiche tarts; green tea and jasmine delice. I forsee a lot of baking in my future!!

In my initial flick through the book these truffles immediately caught my eye, while I like white chocolate it needs something to cut through that cloying sweetness and the combination of balsamic vinegar and black pepper suggested here intrigued me. There are three basics steps to the recipe: preparation of the ganache; tempering the chocolate and covering the sweets; coating them in the strawberry flakes.

The quantities are slightly off in this recipe - it is supposed to make 40 truffles and I got about twice that many. They are quite rich and I wouldn't want to be making them any bigger that I did, it just means that there are plently for sharing.

Strawberry, Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar Truffles (from Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts" by Claire Clark).

Strawberry Flakes:
500g strawberries (I used frozen ones - just be careful that there is no added sugar in them)

2 tsp black pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 110 degrees C
  • Line two baking tins
  • Blend the strawberries until smooth
  • Place all but 1 tbsp of the puree onto the baking tins and spread out thinly with a palette knife (spend some time trying to get it a uniform thickness so that it dries out at the same rate)
  • Put in the oven for about 2 hours until it is dark red, dry and crisp (recipe says 1 1/2 hours but I left mine in for 2 hours and should probably left it for another 15 mins as it coul have been a little crisper)
  • Leave to cool
  • Crumble and mix with the black pepper

Ganache Filling:
300g white chocolate
150g dark chocolate
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp reserved strawberry puree - see above
200ml double cream
1 tsp black pepper
  • Chop the chocolate finely and place in a bowel with the balsamic vinegar and strawberry puree
  • Heat the cream to boiling point, remove from heat and pour it over the chocolate
  • Whisk until smooth
  • Stir in black pepper
  • Leave to cool
  • When cool fill a piping bag with the ganache a pipe lines on a baking tray (this step worked like a dream - line upon line of neat chocolate cylinders)
  • Refrigerate until cool
  • Slice into 3cm sticks (using a metal knife warmed in a cup of hot water makes this step easy)

White Chocolate Coating:
500g white chocolate

Ok this is the bit that defeated me, I didn't temper the chocolate for the coating. For the scientifically minded among you when chocolate is tempered it simply means that it contains many stable crystals giving it a glossy sheen, smooth feel in the mouth and makes it easier to handle. Which all sounds good, but it involves heating to 30.5 deg C, cooling to 27 deg C and warming again to 28 deg C and I only have a sugar thermometer in my kitchen! At some point I will tackle this challenge.

Spread the strawberry flakes out in a thin layer on a chopping board. I simply melted the chocolate in a bowl, dipped the tubular ganache into it and then dropped each one onto the strawberry flakes.

Even though my coating is not a smooth and gloosy as one might like the final verdict, as always, goes to the tastebuds. Result: these are very very good, the pepper and balsamic vinegar are good counterpoints to the richness of the white chocolate and add a extra dimension to the flavour.


Sarah@lettersonlunches said...

Hi Kate, your blog is lovely! Please, PLEASE make the warm chocolate & raspberry tart. Choc & rasp is my all time favourite combo!

Kate said...

Mine too!! I promise to make this soon - once I move house and find all my baking stuff again, my kitchen feels very bare at the moment.