Joliesse Chocolates 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.
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. An old-fashioned apple pie, with the New Mexican addition of freshly roasted Hatch Green Chile and some cheddar cheese.
THE MATH : Apple Pie + Cheddar = Delicious.
Cheddar + Green Chile = Magical.
Apple Pie + Green Chile + Cheddar = Magically Delicious.
By “old-fashioned” I mean I gleaned the starter apple pie recipe from the pages of a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook circa 1968.
Because I live in the modern age and I’m kinda lazy, I always use Pillsbury Pie Crusts (the kind that come rolled, 2 to a box). They are good and easy and I don’t think I could do it any better.
TO MAKE THIS PIE:
Create the apple pie filling in accordance with the BH&G recipe listed above.
Grate some Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, and chop up some Hatch Green Chile (which ideally has been roasted out on the grill like an hour earlier, but frozen or canned will do just fine).
To add the cheese and green chile, first unroll the bottom pie crust and form it to the bottom of the pie dish. Then sprinkle some grated cheddar on it.
Next, stir about 2/3 cup of grated cheese and 1 cup of chopped green chile into the apple pie mixture. (Save back a little cheese to sprinkle on top later.) Pour filling mix into pie crust.
Add a few pats of butter on top for extra yumminess. Unroll second pie crust on top, seal the edges together, and pinch a fancy design in if you are so inclined and able. My mom did mine. Don’t judge me. Cut some vents into the top. I did mine in a Zia symbol, just for funzies.
Bake at 400 deg for 50 minutes or until done. About halfway through, cover the edges with foil to prevent burning. When golden brown and bubbly, remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top.
Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then serve it up!
THIS PIE IS WONDERFUL. And I guess because it has green chile and cheese in it, we didn’t feel at all guilty about having it for lunch.
I’d suggest some mild vanilla ice cream to serve alongside.
If you recall, I proclaimed my love for the piñon previously, in my recipe for Banana Piñon Muffins. So it may come as no surprise that my second recipe on this blog has piñons in it. The next one probably won’t, but really I can make no promises.
This recipe started out with a simple idea:
It’s summer! Let’s make ice cream!
I love making ice cream. I have a nifty little countertop no-ice-required ice cream maker, so it’s pretty easy.
Plus, it’s fun to try out new things! I knew immediately that I didn’t want to just make vanilla or chocolate ice cream. I LOVE those two flavors, but you can get them at any grocery store, and I’m probably not going to do any better than, say, Haagen Dazs, who has their recipes pretty dialed in. I wanted to do something unique. Something with a hint of FALL and a hint of NEW MEXICO.
Caramel + Apple + Piñon = ALL THE THINGS
2 1/3 c heavy cream, plus 1/4 – 1/2 c for melting caramels
2 1/3 c whole milk
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 c sugar
1/3 c piñons, roasted (see “A Note About Piñons” below)
1/2 c applesauce (I used homemade — see “A Note About Applesauce” below)
Caramels — about 15 little squares
A NOTE ABOUT CARAMEL:
I knew that I didn’t want to make my own caramel. I am a NOVICE in the kitchen, and I was on a deadline (wanted this ice cream for dinner that night), so if I messed up the caramel, it would throw me off schedule. So I grabbed the cheapest bag I could find of the little wrapped caramels and got my daughter to work unwrapping them. I think she only ate about 6 or 7. They worked just fine, but I admit homemade caramel would have been tastier.
This is a traditional custard-based ice cream, so it requires a little planning and working ahead (4+ hours minimum), because you have to make the custard base then let it cool in the fridge before putting in the ice cream maker.
Combine the cream and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to just a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer (mid speed) to beat until the mixture is thick, smooth, and creamy (about 2 minutes).
Measure out about a cup of the warm milk mixture and, with the hand mixer on low speed, add the milk mixture in a steady stream to the sugar/egg mixture. (Adding it slowly tempers the cream. If you were to add the eggs straight to the hot milk, your eggs would probably cook — egg drop soup style.) You can add another cup of the milk mixture to the eggs in a slow drizzle, just to be safe.
Pour the entirety of the mixing bowl’s contents back into the saucepan and stir to combine.
Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon — a few minutes. If you cook this too hot or too long, you will end up with LUMPY CUSTARD (which I will name my punk band some day — I called it). If you end up with LUMPY CUSTARD, see “A Note About Lumpy Custard” below.
Transfer the custard mix to a mixing bowl and let it cool on the counter for a few minutes. Stir in the applesauce until combined. This does not have to be thoroughly blended, because some chunky pockets of applesauce in the ice cream will be pretty tasty.
Melt the caramels in a small saucepan with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of heavy cream, stirring constantly. The more cream you add during the melting process, the thinner the caramel sauce will be. I used about 1/3 cup heavy cream. Once melted, stir the caramel sauce into the custard base.
Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and put it in the fridge until it is completely cooled (a couple of hours at least).
Remove from fridge and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions. I use a Cuisinart counter-top ice cream maker. It took about 30 minutes to freeze this to a soft-serve consistency. When the ice cream is ALMOST frozen to soft-serve consistency, add the piñons then let it go a bit longer.
For a more solid ice cream, you can move the ice cream to a freezable container and leave in the freezer for a couple of hours to harden up.
A NOTE ABOUT PINONS
To roast/toast your piñons: Spread the shelled raw nuts out in an even layer in a dry skillet. Over medium heat, toast the piñons, shaking or stirring them every minute or so to check for color and prevent burning. You want to toast them until they are a nice deep tan color with some darker spots. Once you start to really smell them, they are about done. Remove them from the pan and spread evenly on a plate or paper towel to cool. Add a little salt if desired, then try not to eat them all.
A NOTE ABOUT APPLESAUCE
I bought a bag of “Manager’s Special” apples at the grocery store a while back. They were 99c for about 8 small Golden Delicious apples that were just this side of “iffy.” I was planning to juice them but never got around to it. There they sat, in the fridge, with a few other random old apples, dejected. Until one day I decided that the household needed some applesauce about as much as I needed to clean out the fridge. So I got out the crockpot.
To make chunky applesauce: Chop up all the apples (peels on for laziness). Put them in the crockpot with a little water (I used 1/2 c for about 12 apples). Add some cinnamon, brown sugar, and whatever other applesaucey spices you may have (nutmeg, allspice, etc.) Cook on LOW for 3-5 hours. Check on them now and then so they don’t get too soggy. Once they are cooked down, you can use an immersion blender or potato masher or fork to smash them into applesauce consistency. Add salt, sugar, brown sugar, and/or other spices as needed. This is good hot, cold, plain, as a relish, and of course, added to homemade Caramel Apple Piñon Ice Cream!
A NOTE ABOUT LUMPY CUSTARD
If, after cooking the complete custard base until it coats the back of a spoon (see step 5 above), you end up with LUMPS in the custard, do not worry! I ended up with lumpy custard at this stage, and I was really worried. Had I ruined my ice cream? Did something… curdle? Ick! So I did what anyone would have done. I googled it. The first answer I found was in a cooking forum, and it was, and I QUOTE:
“You gotta strain that shit, son!”
So strain it I did. I pressed the custard mix through a fine sieve and voila! No more lumps. And life made sense again.
This ice cream was flavorful, decadent, rich, creamy, and awesome. The caramel added a buttery richness to the ice cream base, the piñons gave it a little nutty crunch, and the applesauce made the whole thing taste kind of like apple pie a la mode.
Picture this: Some near-abandoned New Mexico back road, present day, Fall. The weather is just starting to turn and there’s a hint of a nip in the air, but you drive with the windows down because the sun is shining and somewhere someone is burning leaves. The two-lane road is in need of repair, but it is lined with skinny wild sunflowers and sage and mesquite and somehow a perfectly flat, smooth, black asphalt highway would just not work here.
You’re looking for somewhere to stop and stretch your legs and maybe grab a drink. A small town — not much more than a gas station — emerges on the horizon like a mirage. You slow the car. A makeshift roadside stand has been set up on the tailgate of an old beat-up Ford with rusted-out wheel wells. A hand-painted sign says: Green Chile & Piñon. An old man with a stoop and a young boy with a dusty baseball cap are roasting chile in a big black tumbler. Large burlap sacks of fresh green chile and small burlap sacks of piñon nuts line the tailgate. This is where you stop.
This is where you must always stop.
NM Piñon Nuts — the roadside delicacy — are an easy way to add some New Mexico flair to your dishes. Cookies, quick breads, pastas, and salads are some of my favorite places to use them. Roasted and shelled, they have a buttery, nutty flavor with a slightly crunchy texture.
In my opiñon (get it?), these little wondernuggets are the tastiest of all the nuts and seeds in the universe. And while other piñon or “pine nuts” (from California, Nevada, and Colorado) or the Italian “pignolias” are still super tasty, they just aren’t quite as perfect as the New Mexico Piñon. Oh and hey, they come from our state tree, the Piñon Pine. So, bonus. [ASIDE: I eat piñon nuts from the state tree. I would eat a cutthroat trout — our state fish. But I would never eat a roadrunner — our state bird. That just seems… wrong.]
Harvested in the fall, the entire piñon-ing process is done by hand. The entire pinecone is harvested before it completely opens up. (If you wait until the cones are fully opened, critters like squirrels and birds will take all the piñons because they know how good these things are.) You spread out a tarp or sheet on the ground below the tree. Then you use something long (like a broom) to whack the pinecones out of the tree down onto the tarp. Then, gather up the cones and empty them of their seeds. The piñon nuts are covered in a hard shell, which should be washed and dried thoroughly before roasting.
Harvests in the past 5 or so years have been much lighter than normal due to early/heavy snows and pests like the bark beetle decimating both the immature nuts in their shells and also the trees themselves. This causes supplies to diminish and prices to skyrocket. Anyone who has ever bought piñons or pine nuts or pignolias knows that they ARE going to be expensive. It’s just a matter of how expensive. You can expect to pay about a dollar an ounce or more. Trader Joe’s usually has a raw-shelled form of “pine nut” for about $8 for an 8 oz bag. These are not NM piñons, however. They are a smaller and blander variety imported from Russia! For true New Mexico piñon nuts, you can either buy them at a NM chile/farm store, farmer’s market, or roadside stand during the Fall, or you can order them online. A pound of roasted/salted NM piñons is currently selling online for about $30/pound. And that’s IN the SHELL. Which means more weight, less meat.
These delicious little bastards are super expensive, is what I’m saying. But they are worth it.
ON TO THE RECIPE
Whoa! I got carried away there and almost forgot this was a cooking & recipe post! Sorry about that. Here we go…
Banana Piñon Muffins
These muffins are based on a typical banana nut bread recipe, but with piñons added in place of (or in addition to) walnuts, to give it a little New Mexico flair. Usually I add green chile for NM flair, because it’s kind of a no-brainer, but I wasn’t sure it would work in banana muffins. Though, honestly, I really want to try it now.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup stick butter, softened
2 large eggs
4 medium ripe bananas, smashed
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 & 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup piñons, or a mix of piñons and walnuts if straight piñons is too spendy
1/2 c piñons or mix of piñons and walnuts.
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 medium ripe banana, sliced thin
Heat oven to 350.
Grease bottoms only of cupcake tins or use paper liners.
Mix sugar, brown sugar, and butter. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add smashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla, then beat until well mixed.
Add in flour, baking soda, and salt until moistened, but don’t overmix. Stir in 1 c of nuts.
Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full.
Stir together topping ingredients except for sliced banana.
Sprinkle the top of each muffin with topping mixture.
Top each muffin with one slice of banana — for looks. 🙂
Bake muffins about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and eat them all right there on the spot, if you’re me.
And there you have it! One of my favorite things baked into another one of my favorite things. Let me know if you try this recipe! I’d like to hear how you like it.
BONUS PHOTO: Don’t turn your back on your photo subject if your kid is hungry.