5/11/17

Chocolate Truffles (Truffes au Chocolat)

Since arriving in France, I have been missing working with chocolate.  Naturally, I enjoy eating the creations of renowned Parisian chocolatiers, but there is something special about eating delicious bonbons made with your own two hands.

Last weekend, with the help of my now photographer boyfriend, I whipped up a batch of simple chocolate truffles.  I made a trip to Déco Relief next to St. Eustache to pick up some Mexican Cacao Barry chocolate and a new spatula.   




These truffles are a great place to start if you are new to the world of chocolate making.  Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Chocolate Truffles
-300g chocolate
-165g heavy cream
-20g honey
-30g salted butter

-tempered chocolate (for dipping)
-cocoa powder (for rolling)





First, you will measure all of your ingredients.





Melt your chocolate very slowly in the microwave or over a pot of simmering water.  Stir often.




Add the warmed cream and honey in 5 or 6 stages.  Stir vigorously.  The ganache will look split at first, but fear not, it will come together.





When all of the liquid is incorporated, add the butter and use an immersion blender to mix.






Leave the ganache in a covered bowl overnight or in the refrigerator for a few hours, until it is firm.



Roll pieces of the set ganache into spheres and temper your chocolate.





Put some cocoa powder in a shallow container.  Dip each piece of ganache in the tempered chocolate and cover it in cocoa powder.  When the chocolate has set, sieve and set aside.











  

Enjoy!



Bonus Outtake:



Déco Relief

Kitchen equipment store specializing in cake and chocolate decorating supplies.

6 Rue Montmartre 75001

Metro: Les Halles/Chatelet











5/1/17

Cheap Chocolate in Paris

With a chocolaterie on each corner, you might wonder why there is even a necessity for cheap chocolate in Paris.  Does anyone even buy those colorfully wrapped bars in the supermarket? In a country where children consume an average of 11.9 grams and adults 5.7 grams of chocolate per day, it is not exactly surprising that someone is buying the cheaper stuff.  In addition to price, when stockpiling chocolate it is important to remember the shelf-life.  When you buy boutique chocolates, it will be necessary to consume them within two or three weeks so that nothing spoils.  But with "cheap" bar chocolate, this worry disappears.  Hurray!  Your stash is safe from mold!

I have taken it upon myself to test and compare the chocolate and confections commonly found in French grocery stores for you, my dear readers.  Enjoy this guide to 4€ well spent.  Recognition must be given to my boyfriend who has sacrificially helped me try many different chocolates over the last few months.  

Lindt

Before beginning this journey, I was not aware of the various "collections" available from Lindt.  There are different distinctions written on the packaging like: EXCELLENCE, LINDOR, CREATION, CONNAISSEURS, RECETTE ORIGINALE, LES GRANDES.

The least expensive and least interesting lines are the "original recipe," "Lindor," and "excellence."  These are the lines you will find most often in the states.  They are the traditional, plain dark and milk chocolates with infusions or small twists.  

The "Creation" line are thin bars of dark or milk chocolate with soft fillings that range from typical praline to whipped fruit fondant.  They are made in indented molds for easy breaking and each tab is a generous bite.   

Naturally, the best line is the most expensive line: "Connaisseurs."  These are thicker bars with no lines to indicate where one should break or how much is a serving.  Obviously, this is fantastic, because it is pretty clear to me that one bar is one serving, right?  The bars in this line are filled with thick pralines and caramel fondants.  You cannot go wrong here.  


Rocher Noir is a nod to a classic French confection.  Rocher means "rock" or "boulder" and the mixture of almonds with chocolate piled into a mound is often referred to this way.  This particular member of the Creation line comes in dark or milk chocolate and deserves a good report as a yummy bar for the price.   



Coulis de Chocolat was a bit of a disappointment.  The filling was more sugary than chocolatey and the texture was off.  


Passion Frappée is supposed to be served straight out of the refrigerator, which I did not realize before tasting it.  It was unpleasant and tasted fake.  After storing in the refrigerator it was slightly more palatable, but mostly because the chill took some of the flavor away.  

Praliné Façon À L'Ancienne was pretty delicious and full of hazelnut flavor.  It is part of the connaisseurs line and I am fairly certain that this flavor is unavailable in the states.


Passionnment Fondant Noir is pretty similar to some Lindt varieties you can find in the USA.  It is a good staple.  This one is not overdone and you will not be disappointed, especially if you eat it slightly above room temperature.


Délice Pistache was not particularly délice-ious.  As is usually the complaint of my resident pistachio specialist, the filling tasted more of almond than of pistachio and green food coloring must have been used.


Praliné Feuilleté is in the running for my favorite bar in the "Creation" collection.  The texture is perfectly crispy and the nutty praline really stands up to the chocolate.



Noir Intense is the typical dark bar you can find anywhere and I used it for baking because I am a snob and cannot say that I always enjoy eating this one on its own.  If I want a piece of dark chocolate by itself, I will splurge for the Valrhona or Cacao Barry.


Opéra is inspired by the impressive, multi-layered French cake made with coffee.  The bar was a nice homage to the pastry, but still does not measure up to anything in the "connaisseurs" collection.

Truffe Craquante was crunchy, as advertised.  However, perhaps it was a little too heavy on the orange flavor.


Praliné Feuillantine wins.  It is probably the favorite of each one of my team of experts.  Sure, it is  not made with Valrhona's praline paste, but who can afford that anyway?


This brand is certainly not on the same level as Lindt, but several of their offerings are pretty good, plus they are decidedly less expensive.  They are also rolling out a line of organic chocolate bars.

Truffé Noir is light and easy to eat, as chocolate should be.  What is chocolate if it's not easy to eat?  There is not any real intensity in this bar, but it is a nice sweet treat.


Praliné Intense Noir was heavy on the nuts if a bit too sweet.  Not a bad afternoon snack.  Ignore my empty box of Kinder Chocofresh...


Fin Noir Orange was not delicious.  The little bits of orange were unpleasant and abundant.

Mousse au Chocolat Noir circling back to Lindt...was another one of those ho-hum tablets that is best enjoyed as an afternoon snack.



Here is a brand readily available at each "Bio" or organic market in Paris.  The prices are a little higher as you are paying for the organic-ness, but overall I would say it is worth the money.  They even offer couverture chocolate for professional use.

70% Cacao was a great first selection and I look forward to trying more of their bars.


Also tried, but not recommended: Framboise Intense, Noir Puur, Schoko-Bons


Let me know in the comments if there are other brands and flavors I should have tried!


4/26/17

The Jacques Genin Experience

You are visiting Paris.  You have 20 or 30 left in your wallet.  The weather has just taken a turn for the gray and you have a hankering for a pick-me-up.  Of course, you could go to Le Bon Marche to hide from the rain, find some gifts to take home, and have a bite to eat.  It also wouldn't be a bad idea to head over to Shakespeare and Company  or Pont Neuf for a boat ride.  But, if you really want to spend your time and those last few euros wisely, you really ought to make your way to Jacques Genin.  





This perfect boutique and tea room is located in a tastefully updated old building on Rue de Turenne.  Chocolates and confections are expertly displayed and a serene tea room is set up on one side of the shop with fresh flowers on each table and a spiral staircase to heaven/the pastry kitchen     







I have visited this special place many times now and have grown to have a great respect for Chef Jacques Genin and the quality he manages to maintain day in and day out.  The chef himself seems truly to be present in his kitchen.  During one of my visits, he descended inconspicuously to place bags of perfectly baked madeleines on the sales counter.  My companions and I saw him strolling outside with an interviewer and he later returned to go back to his kitchen.  My mom, who was visiting from the US, told him how exquisite her experience was and he humbly thanked her like a real professional.  


Each front-of-the-house employee is dressed in refined black clothes and they all at least speak French and English.  If you can, visit around the time of a holiday to see the elegant chocolate displays and take one home with you to enjoy that evening. Because let's be real, no matter how beautiful it is you are not going to be able to resist having a taste.  If you are lucky enough to visit when the chef himself descends with a limited amount of some special treat he has whipped up, snatch a bag without hesitation.  They will not last long and are worth the price.  



The chocolates at Jacques Genin are mostly decorated with acetate cocoa butter transfer sheets.  Genin chooses minimalist designs that allow the rich tones of the dark and milk chocolate to shine through.  This master works with Valrhona chocolate and he knows how to add flavor to this perfect product without compromising the taste of the chocolate itself.  Many of his offerings are delicately infused with spices and herbs while others are filled with classic praline mixes that never disappoint.




If you have the time to sit in the tea room and order a pastry, you will leave Paris feeling that you have had a true French experience.  You will have the choice of several beverages to accompany your freshly made pastry.  You will be presented with your coffee, I recommend the café crème, a glass of water, a small plate of chocolates and/opâtes de fruits, and your flawless pastry.  Even if you are trying to resist the tourist itch of taking photos of everything you eat, you will not be able to resist documenting these wonders.  



Paris-Brest

The Paris-Brest is a pastry that was created in the early 1900s by Louis Durand in honor of a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris.  It consists of pâte à choux ring, meant to symbolize a bicycle tire, sprinkled with sliced almonds, baked, and filled with rich praline cream.  It is often adorned with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Jacques Genin makes the minor change of swapping the almonds for chopped hazelnuts because the praline paste he uses savors primarily of hazelnut.  



Tart au Chocolat (Chocolate Tart)

Normally, a chocolate tart is a simple pate a sucree shell filled with a ganache of dark chocolate.

Chez Jacques Genin does not deviate from the original.  It is a smooth and crunchy morsel of deliciousness.



Saint-Honoré

The Saint-Honoré is named for the patron saint of bakers.  This wonder mixes a few of the most delicious components in French pastry.  A base of puff pastry is adorned with a ring of pâte à choux, and cream puffs with caramelized sugar.  The cake is filled with crème chiboust and topped with crème chantilly.  

Traditionally, this pastry is in the form of a circle.  Genin updated its format by beginning with a rectangle and omitting the piped pâte à choux.  His version still includes the cream puffs.



Fraisier

Perfect for springtime, the Fraisier is a strikingly beautiful and classic cake.  Genoise, or buttery sponge cake, sandwiches a generous layer of vanilla cream bejeweled with fresh strawberries.  The entremet is finished with a thin layer of almond paste or marzipan.

The marzipan layer is often artificially colored green, but at Jacques Genin you will not find any fake colors in your almond paste.



Forêt Noire (Black Forest Cake)

This well-known cake originated in Germany, but that does not stop other nations from making it.  You will find layers of chocolate sponge cake and whipped cream highlighted with boozy cherries and chocolate shavings.

The version at Jacques Genin is modern and sophisticated.  Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse, and whipped envelop whole cherries and a shard of tempered chocolate sticks like a piece of fancy jewelry to the side of each slice.  



Well, internet, now you know my obsession with Jacques Genin.  If you want to see the man in action, but cannot visit the shop, check the links below for a few short videos.




Jacques Genin

http://jacquesgenin.fr/fr/

Perfect bonbons, refined tea room, and perfect ambiance.  

133 Rue de Turenne
75003, Paris

Metro: Republique

27 Rue de Varenne
75007, Paris

Metro: Varenne or Rue du Bac