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Artisan Chocolate truffles & the spices that love them: cumin

by Chef Eric Cayton

Cumin is derived from the dried seeds of an herbaceous flowering plant related to the same family of plants that parsley is in. For all the world, appearing like a weed, less than 2 feet tall, you may well walk right by it, never knowing the spice treasure it holds within. The spice is believed to have originated in Syria, where it is widely propagated in that country's parched climate. Syria is a very ancient culture, and it's peoples have been cultivating cumin, and harvesting it by hand for thousands of years, since prehistoric times.

In modern times, cumin is used all over the world, by many different cultures and for many different uses; most notably in Northern Mexico and South Western US "Tex Mex" cuisines, Middle Eastern Cuisines, and as an essential ingredient in Indian curry mixtures. In some Asian countries, cumin is even used to create a medicinal tea to fend off the common cold, or for stomach ailments.

Cumin is most often described as having a very warm, earthy and sensuous aroma, but if added with a heavy hand, or indiscriminately to just any old dish, it can easily overwhelm and ruin the balance of the intended flavor profile. This is particularly true when adding cumin to sweet dishes, like custards, or rice pudding. If you would like to attempt creating ganache chocolate truffles with a genuine cumin infusion, start with whole cumin seeds. You may need to buy them online from a whole spice purveyor, but I have seen them in some of the better grocery stores.

Keep the cumin seeds whole, until you are ready to use them, so they retain all their volatile oils. Toast the seeds in a dry skillet on top of your stove, until you can smell that wonderful cumin aroma...about 5 or 6 minutes. Then grind them up in a coffee grinder, spice mill, or with a mortar and pestle. After you have your cumin, put about a half teaspoon to a full teaspoon (depending upon how much you love cumin) into about 30 or 40 grams of cold heavy cream, then scald this mixture on the stove top, just until it begins to boil. Add the hot cream to about 120 grams good quality milk chocolate, chopped very finely, and let sit for a minute. Then stir it all up until it's smooth.

If there ae still a few small lumps, just flash it in the microwave for 5 second intervals, checking each time, unti it's perfectly smooth. To this, add in a small 10 - 15 gram lump of unsalted butter at room temperature, and stir until smooth. Let this set up for an hour, and spoon up litte quenelles, using 2 teaspoons. Please remember to use a high quality milk chocolate with this, atleast 38%-45% cacao, as the chocolate must be able to stand up to the complex and lusty flavor and aroma of the toasted cumin.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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