Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Artisan Chocolate truffles & the spices that love them: lavender
Lavender is a beautiful flowering shrub in the same family as mint. The fragrant pale purple flowers have a very distinctive flavor and aroma, vaguely reminiscent of a cross between rosemary and lemon. Lavender is grown all over the world, but is thought to have been originally indigenous to the Mediterranean area. Southern France and particularly the region around Provence is noted for it's fields of lavender, and the use of it in their local cuisine, perhaps most famously, in the spice blend, Herbes de Provence. English lavender is a bit more pungent, but also quite nice.
Many Pastry Chefs like to utilize this slightly sweet and floral flavor profile, as an unusual component to baked goods like biscuits and scones, or in custards and souffles. Artisan Chocolatiers have also been pairing lavender with chocolates for years, so this combination is nothing new. Lavender seems to have a natural affinity for chocolate, and so it pairs equally well with bittersweet, milk, or white chocolates, depending upon your personal tastes, and the other ingredients you are adding in to the recipe. As with all recipes, if you are going to experiment with pairing lavender with different chocolates, always taste your formula to check for a good balance between the sweetness and the other flavors.
Here is an interesting formula for pairing an excellent full flavor bittersweet chocolate with lavender and lavender honey. You can use dried lavender or fresh flowers if you prefer, but keep in mind that if you use the fresh, it will take about 3 times the amount of the dried, to attain the same intensity of flavor. Start by chopping up about 200 grams of 75% or higher cacao content bittersweet chocolate, into fine pieces. Put the chopped chocolate aside, and pour 100 grams of heavy cream into a heavy sauce pot and place it on med-low heat. Into the cream, add 1-2 tablespoons of dried lavender buds, depending upon how intense you want the flavor. To this, add about 2 tablespoons of lavender honey, and bring it to a scald. Just before the cream goes into a boil, remove it from the heat, and cover the pot to steep the lavender buds for a couple minutes. Strain the flowers out of the cream, and bring it back up to the scald. Pour the hot, strained cream over the chopped chocolate, and stir it in small circles until it comes together smooth, then blend in about 20 grams of unsalted butter until creamy and shiny. After about an hour, the lavender ganache should be set enough to spoon into little quenelles with two teaspoons... or just ball it into little truffles using the smallest size ice cream disher. To make an exceptionally elegant and civilized presentation, roll them in a nice dark cocoa, and serve them with some Darjeeling tea!