This week’s installment began last week, when I led you, my salivating flock of hungry lemmings, all the way to the brink of the 69th ring of Heaven.
The 69th ring of Heaven. Dante couldn’t even do that. His tour of Hell was masterful, and his journey up the mountain of Purgatory was an epic koan of monumental proportions—if a tad lukewarm in the food department. And at the top of the mountain, Dante’s beeline to the holy babe at the center of Heaven’s rose was nothing short of heroic. Still, some might privately whisper that, upon arrival at that singularly most perfect place to be in the universe, there persisted the nagging feeling that something was missing.
Quite simply, Dante didn’t take us far enough, my little gods and goddesses—although he definitely gets an “A+” for effort. That stone he left unturned is why I, Chef Boy Ari, was in the kitchen in the back of Cafe Dolce that day.
Although Dante took good notes during his voyage, he was lost without Virgil, the long-dead Roman epic poet. And so too did Chef Boy Ari have help. But rather than the hooded ghost of the father of Western state-sponsored propaganda, my guide was a team of Scottish-flavored cooks in an Italian cafe in the Southgate Mall.
Indeed, Heaven is not a place you go after you die. It’s not even a place at all. It’s in your head. Not your brain, silly. Heaven’s gate is a hole in your head called your mouth—especially if there is chocolate in it.
Chocolate. The sweetened and fat-enhanced pulverized skin of the cacao seed. The all-time G-spot of oral-gasms, better known as the C-spot. In particular, there is the all-time flaming chariot of ultra-cosmic chocolate bliss—the truffle. That’s the ticket.
Last week, Laddy and Maggie showed us how to make the truffle filling, which we then stashed in the fridge, wrapped tight against fridge odors and stealthily hidden from grazing housemates.
This week, we address the unfinished business of coating and dressing my precious.
(My precious, I just want to lick it, and maybe take a little nibble. Oh, my, and can you imagine how good it would taste to pop the whole thing in your mouth? My precious.)
But before we can have my precious, we must melt and temper the chocolate. Tempering the chocolate results in a high-gloss exterior finish, which translates into major style points in the finished product. Conversely, non-tempered dipping chocolate is subject to blooming, or a white, dry finish. Due to the scientific nature of this process, the following temperature readings will be noted in degrees Celsius.
Maggie dropped handfuls of chopped dark Callebaut chocolate into a double boiler, stirring as the chocolate slowly melted at about 45 degrees. Then she cooled the chocolate to 27 degrees. Then she raised the temperature back up to 32 degrees. “In olden times,” she said, “people would pour the melted chocolate onto a marble slab to cool it. Then they would scrape it up and re-melt it.” In post-modern times at Cafe Dolce, they use their fancy programmable gelato (Italian ice cream) maker to temper the chocolate. At home, I would suggest a thermometer.
Meanwhile, Maggie was scooping out balls of truffle filling with a mini ice cream scoop. (It’s a good idea to dip the scoop, or spoon, into hot water from time to time, to keep the chocolate from sticking to it.) Donning latex gloves, Laddy proceeded to hand-roll the scoops into perfect spheres, about 2.5 cm. in diameter.
“Thaarrr ya go, Laddy” said Maggie, as she dropped the spheres, one by one, into the still warm double boiler. Using a four-pronged fork with the two middle prongs bent off, she removed the shiny dark precious morsels, and placed them on waxed paper to cool.
But before the truffles got too cool, Maggie and Laddy decorated them, according to the flavor of the filling. The bourbon truffles got sprinkled with raw turbinado sugar the color of gold dust. The Frangelico truffles were sprinkled with sliced hazelnuts.
“Beware fingerprints, ’til she sets up” said Laddy, as he placed the tray, wrapped tight with plastic, into the fridge to set up overnight.
“Aye,” said I.
The next day, on a cutting board that has never known garlic, onion, pepper, gorgonzola or whatnot, my guides trimmed the foot off the bottom of each truffle, placing them into little foil cups, and loading them into the truffle display case, which is kept at a constant 50 degrees.
Some would argue that for complete and true bliss attainment, you must be sipping some fine drip coffee while the magnificent morsel melts in your mouth. Oh fa crap’s sayk, I would not say “nay” to that.
E-mail Chef Boy Ari: firstname.lastname@example.org