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The Fruit of Our Chocolate Labors
I had the pleasure of discovering a new chocolate fantasy in a specialty store when I was traveling last month. Nestled in small wicker baskets were filled milk chocolates from Italy in the shape of tiny fruits and vegetables. They were covered in confectioners' foil that had been designed to compliment the fruit or vegetable shapes. The "onion" was wrapped in cream foil with brown striations encircling the globe of chocolate and ending with a brown twist of the foil coming to a point at one end. There were tiny purple eggplants with green stems, bright citrus colored lemons, limes and oranges, and exquisite little bright red tomatoes. I fell hopelessly in love and had to buy a dozen, even at $21.50 a pound. I could picture them being presented to my special friends in a crystal bowl at the end of a perfect dinner. What an example of the "art" of chocolate! There are not many other foods that can be consumed in such diversity. These tiny chocolates are a world away from my favorite chocolate milkshake, but each is a masterpiece in the hands of a chocolate artisan.
Even though I couldn't actually replicate these tiny treasures unless I could find the molds that made them, I decided it would be fun to use them as inspiration for little chocolate truffle lemons, limes and oranges. I had guests coming for a barbecue and wanted to arrange these in three's on each person's saucer during the coffee service.
Chocolate Citrus Delights
1/3 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
8 oz semisweet or milk chocolate finely chopped
1 tbsp. citrus based liqueur such as Grand Marnier
1/2 cup cocoa sifted with 1/2 cup confectioners or icing sugar into a wide bowl
Confectioners' foil in orange, yellow and green 3 or 5 inch squares
Tiny silk leaves on wires from a floral design store - optional decoration
Confectioners foil is readily available in most cities at kitchenware stores or bakery supply distributors. I got a dozen 3-inch square sheets of orange, green and yellow. These colors are usually easy to get as they are used for Halloween, Christmas and Easter respectively. You could use 5-inch squares cut down in size as well.
Now I needed to produce a bite-size chocolate that could be formed in the shapes of an orange, lemon and lime. It needed to be a stiff truffle mixture to hold its shape at room temperature. I decided to coat the chocolates in a mixture of 1/2 cocoa and 1/2 confectioners' sugar. This would seal the outside and protect the shape while I wrapped them in foil. I choose this procedure instead of dipping them in chocolate, since dipping would distort the shape I had worked hard and fast to create.
To make the truffle mixture: Place the cream in a saucepan over high heat, bring just to a boil then remove from heat. Immediately add the chopped chocolate, beating vigorously until well blended. Add the liqueur and beat until well mixed.
The truffle mixture should be stiff. If it can be molded into shape after mixing, go ahead and make orange, lemon and lime shapes about 1-inch in diameter. If the mixture is too soft, place it in the refrigerator until it is stiff enough to shape. In forming the truffles, I found this technique to work -- I scooped the truffle mixture into a round with a small 1-inch scoop that I use for truffles. A melon baller will work as well. Then I patted the ball into shape with my fingers. If your hands are warm, dip your fingers in the cocoa/icing sugar mixture. It might help. Place the shapes on a tray lined with waxed paper or parchment paper and put in the refrigerator until very firm.
Remove the firm truffles and working quickly, coat the truffles with the cocoa/icing sugar mixture. Place the truffles back on the sheet and put them in the refrigerator until firm.
Removing a few of the coated truffles from the refrigerator at a time, roll them across a clean dry (non lint-producing) towel to remove the excess cocoa mixture and give the surface a slight bumpy texture. Working quickly, wrap them in the appropriate colored foils. Depending on the truffle's size, you may need to cut off any excess foil. You don't want lumps and bumps of extra foil. Be prepared to have a couple of "duds" until you get the hang of it. The finished little lemons, limes, and oranges can now be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer until you need them.
When it's time to serve the truffles, add some tiny silk leaves (available at florists or craft stores) and cut the end of the wire to a length of about 3/8-inch. Stick the wire into the little truffle fruit at the appropriate place. Stand back and smile!