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Artisan Chocolate truffles & the spices that love them: salt

by Chef Eric Cayton

Humans have been using salt as a dietary mineral supplement since the first caveman licked a salty rock, so it probably was not a huge stretch of the imagination for early man to begin using it as a means to season foods to make them more palatable. Salt was also one of the earliest forms of food preservation, and it has been widely used to cure meats and fish for thousands of years. Today, worldwide salt production tops over 200 million tons, with the two most common sources of culinary grade salt, being sea salt from evaporated sea water, and rock salt mined from the earth. The main focus of this article, is to show the Reader a way to take this rather mundane, ordinary substance, and use it in an artisan chocolate truffle formula, to create something extraordinary.

Fortunately, when it comes to our food, we aren't limited to plain old iodized table salt anymore. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in gourmet salts, and these days you can find all sorts of sea salt, black salt, grey salt, red salt, pink salt...even different types of smoked salt, just to name a few. For the most part, the major differences in these sea salts is the different natural minerals and subtle flavorings in the crystals. These types of artisanal salts can add a sophisticated touch of seasoning, texture and visual appeal to all sorts of different foods, including chocolate truffles!

Even with all these unique choices available, there are few things in the culinary world more ubiquitous and common than table salt. Even a novice cook knows to shake salt onto savory foods, like meats, soups and sauces, but it also has an integral place in the sweets kitchen. Salty is one of the four basic taste sensations the human tongue can discern, along with sourness, bitterness and sweetness, so it is a very basic and necessary component to all types of foods preparation, and to bring balance to a recipe, or in this case, the chocolate truffle formula that follows.

I would not recommend using regular granulated table salt for this formula, because the super-fine crystals would simply taste far too salty on the tongue, and would most likely render the finished product unpalateable. Choose your favorite gourmet salt, such as fleur de sel, which is a hand harvested French sea salt, or Himalayan pink salt, which is a high mineral content salt mined from deep inside the Himalayan mountains. These types of unusual salts, although expensive, will add alot of interest and a certain "wow-factor" to your truffles that they would not otherwise have.

After you have procured a suitable salt for the formula, start by chopping up about 200 grams of excellent quality milk chocolate into tiny little bits. Put the chopped chocolate aside in a mixing bowl. Then place about 50 grams of whole shelled almonds on a baking sheet and roast them at 350* farhenheit for 15 minutes til they are well toasted. Pulse the roasted almonds in a food processor until they are well ground. Do not turn the almonds into almond butter, just make sure they are finely ground. Then bring about 80 grams of good heavy cream to the scald, and pour over the chocolate. Stir the chocolate and cream until very smooth. To this, add in about 20 grams of unsalted butter, and stir until very smooth and shiny. Then, add the ground, roasted almonds into the chocolate, and stir until well incorporated. After the ganache sets up to about the consistency of soft clay, form into small balls, and let them reset until very firm. Dip each truffle into tempered milk chocolate, and before each piece has a chance to dry, sprinkle a small pinch of the gourmet salt on top of each one. When done properly, these salted chocolate truffles will make quite an impression, so you may want to just go ahead and make a double batch!


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