6855 4th St NW | Los Ranchos de Albuquerque
I’ll openly admit at least two of my most major addictions — chocolate and Groupon. This little adventure fed into both of those particular indulgences, and I assure you I would have satisfied each of those cravings again had they not been related.
I got to play chocolatier for day: just as much cheer as being a mouseketeer but without the ears and with messier hands. Joliesse Chocolates is a quaint little coffee and chocolate shop tucked away in an unassuming shopping center off of 4th street in northwest Albuquerque. It’s a charming little place that offers single source coffee drinks named after various Broadway musicals and — most importantly — chocolate wares and chocolate classes. Now don’t get me wrong, I would have happily had a mug of Wicked, their dark chocolate and chile espresso latte, but I was there for another reason. I was there to make chocolate truffles… lots of them.
In the class I learned the how and why of chocolate tempering, how to make a butter ganache, and finally got to get down and dirty by hand forming and decorating some of my own truffles.
For this outing, I dragged along my friend Shannon, who didn’t require any arm twisting. This always seems to be the case when chocolate is involved. Odd. We attended a Tuesday night class, though Sunday nights are also an option for truffle making. The classes are limited to 16 folks, but we were lucky enough to get plenty of attention, as we were in a class of only four. However, it is possible that the supervision was simply present as I really shouldn’t be trusted around that quantity of chocolate.
Class started with a bit of a chocolate history lesson and five different distinct and definitive samplings of chocolates, taking us each though a palleted journey, starting at white and moving darker and darker, then finishing off with the typical food service chocolate chips. One of these things was not like the other. All of the first samples were composed of only cocoa butter, cocoa (except for the white chocolate), sugar, and lecithin. The food service option, however, also had an artificial paraffin-like wax added expressly to replace the expensive cocoa butter present in “real” chocolate. Yummy, wax. Think of that the next time you bite the ears off a cheap chocolate bunny. They were trying to prove a point about quality, and I think they succeeded.
Next up in the grueling “why would anyone want to make their own truffles” courses was the mini session on tempering chocolate. For those of you not in the know, or cool enough to have already have taken this class, tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate so that it forms crystal bonds, making it good for dipping, coating, and generating that overall smooth composition that will melt perfectly at body temperature. This provides the wonderful silky smooth melt-in-your-mouth texture. (It also gives you the perfect melt-all-over-your-hands-and-smear-it-all-over-your-friend’s-phone consistency when you’re hand crafting chocolate balls, but more on that later.) The tempering itself consisted of taking already melted chocolate and thinly applying it over a room-temperature marble slab for cooling over and over again, then reintroducing said chocolate to the melted batch and repeating. The cooling of the marble slab created type V (remember Roman numerals?) crystals, which then seed the entire molten batch of chocolate into a tub of decadence.
After tempering chocolate, the next step was to combine 1 part unsalted butter to 1.7 parts of the chocolate by weight and mix until properly incorporated. Once combined, this becomes our ganache. Hence the alternate name of “butter truffles” for French truffles. We were told that this can also be done with cream, or a mix of cream and butter in order to obtain the desired thickness of the end product.
It was at this time we had the option of adding various flavors to our truffles. A host of spices, herbs, and liqueurs were presented. I went with chile, ground pepper, anise, and a pinch of cardamom. My cocoa-compatriot, Shannon, went with what I believe was a mixture of ground anise, rosemary, and cinnamon.
I’m taking this opportunity as I write to try one of her truffles for the first time. (It was terrible, Shannon. Don’t bother trying them. Just give them all to me and I’ll get rid of them for you.) Mine, however, were delicious, and I’m not nice enough to share them with anybody.
After a quick trip to the fridge allowing the ganache to rest and become more workable, it was time to turn our concoction into the actual truffles. This basically meant taking a wad of gooey messy chocolate and trying one’s best to roll them into little balls of yumminess. Think chocolate meatballs.
It is possible that this process resulted in chocolate everywhere. This is probably the only time in my life that I’ve had more chocolate on me than in me. It was oddly satisfying, even if there was chocolate under my fingernails, on my elbow, and apparently a bit freshly adorning my confectionery copilot’s phone. I think it was an improvement. Everyone has had a caramel dipped apple, but I doubt there are too many chocolates rolled iPhones. A tasty collectors item had I ever seen one. The mess is part of the experience, I’ve been assured that it wouldn’t have been as much fun had there been gloves and aprons involved.
Once we had our little chocolate noms formed, we were given the opportunity to roll them about in various coatings including crushed nuts, sesame seeds, gram cracker, more chocolate, or the traditional cocoa power. Truffles came by their name as these little cocoa powder dusted lumpy balls of delight that greatly resembled the freshly dug up dirty mushrooms of the same name, or possibly because the French have run out of words, I’m not really sure. It has only been more recently that truffles were dusted in something other than cocoa powder. Celebrating modern times and given that the lesson of the night was making a royal mess, I did what any rational person would do and used a bit of everything to coat my truffles.
Finally we packed our freshly minted truffles into paper wrapping cups and pristinely placed them in a translucent Chinese takeaway box finished with a golden seal. They looked so elegant, it is hard to believe the amount of chaos it took to birth them. But it wasn’t just a mess that was created, there were also chocolate, laughs, stories, and smiles.
Would I go back? Absolutely. For starters I ended up with a batch of delicious truffles made exactly to my specifications. Even though the shop is way out of my way, they have other chocolate classes, a cozy lounge, and even a bacon & vanilla espresso. I’ve already recommend the class to a smattering of friends in hopes that they too will become a chocolatier for a day.