Chocolate Truffles

Truffes au Chocolat

This year for Christmas, I made chocolate bites of two kinds to give to my family, and bought small confectioner’s crystal bags at a professional store to put them in. I also wanted to make little tags to tie around the bags. I bought delicate ivory paper, beautiful green leaves made of very fine thread, and some silver yarn. I cut out rectangles of paper, wrote “Chocolate & Zucchini” with colored pencils on them, and sewed each rectangle to a green leaf with the silver yarn, tying up the label to the bags with a little knot.

Pretty, and it packaged up my goodies nicely : in addition to the mendiants, which I told you about yesterday, I made an assortment of chocolate truffles.

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I have always loved the idea of giving out food gifts. As with any handmade present, it seems a very personal way to show you care, and that you love the person enough to spend a few hours making something nice for them. Last year, I didn’t plan for it early enough to make it happen : Christmas is always a busy period, and we had just moved into our apartment a month before. But this year, I thought about it well in advance, took care of the necessary planning and shopping and set out to make two kinds of chocolate bites to give out to my family on Christmas day.

The first kind of chocolate bites I made are called Mendiants, little bits of goodies atop disks of chocolate.

The Christmas tradition in Provence (South-East of France) is to end the celebratory dinner with “les 13 desserts de Noël“. However decadent this may sound, it is actually a pretty ascetic assortment of thirteen (as in Jesus and his twelve apostles) simple desserts : black and white nougat, olive oil bread, various nuts, and dried or fresh fruit. Among these are the four “mendiants” (beggars), symbolizing four mendicant monastic orders and the color of their robes : raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnuts for the Augustins, dried figs for the Franciscans, and almonds for the Carmelites.

This is the origin of the name “mendiant”, more generally given to food preparations that involve dried fruits and nuts : cakes, ice cream or, in my case, chocolate bites.

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Joyeux Noël!


Thanks for everyone’s well wishes, and Happy Christmas to you all! Tonight and tomorrow will be spent at my parents’, basking in the Christmas family glow and helping my mother with the cooking!

And I will be back with tales about the food, the gifts and the food gifts…

Chocolate Vanilla Petit Pot, Caramel Petit Beurre Ribbon

Petit Pot Chocolat Vanille, Ruban de Caramel au Petit Beurre

[Chocolate Vanilla Petit Pot, Caramel Petit Beurre Ribbon]

This is the dessert I served to end Saturday night’s dinner. The idea came to me during the same bus ride through Paris that brought us the goat cheese mousse. I don’t know what was in the air that day, but ideas just kept bubbling up, a swarm of dishes taking shape and morphing in my mind, which I kept writing down furiously. Stepping out of the bus, I even had to sit down on a bench to finish writing what I had in mind. Euphoria is the closest word I can find to describe the feeling.

And this is the brainchild of such a bout. A small, transparent glass. On the bottom, a layer of chocolate cookie crumbs. Then a thick layer of crème à la vanille. On top, a layer of ganache, studded with toasted pecan fragments. On the side, a strip of shiny caramel, encrusted with bits of crispy butter cookies.

I used our Duralex glasses which I like so much, bought at the Madeleine Résonances store. Duralex is the name of a heavy duty unbreakable glass material, but their particular charm stems from the fact that they are the typical glass you get at school cafeterias in France. They also happen to be a very important vector of social structure among kids : each glass has a number engraved at the bottom, and the one you get leads to endless interpretations and conclusions. Whoever has the smallest/largest number has to give away his dessert, or has to go fill the water jug (and during this absence anything can happen to your food and/or your popularity), or maybe this number is the age at which you’ll get married, or the number of millions you’ll make, the number of kids you’ll have, or even the age at which you’ll die. Wasn’t school just sheer fun?

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Roast Beef, Shallot Compote, Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

Filet de Boeuf, Compotée d'Echalottes, Rattes au Romarin

[Roast Beef, Shallot Compote, Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes]

While planning for our Saturday night dinner, I conducted a little research to find out what was best to eat with Baptiste’s bottle of St Julien. My sources were comfortingly unanimous. Red meat, roasted, was the card to play. I chose to roast a filet de boeuf, a very tender beef cut, and serve it with a shallot compote and roasted rosemary potatoes. The meat was promptly ordered at our favorite butcher’s, La Boucherie des Gourmets in the rue Lepic.

As you will infer from the many comments in the roast recipe, I am really not a meat specialist. Steaks, ribs, chops and other single-serving cuts I can handle, but I tend to be a little intimidated by big slabs of meat (both in the literal and figurative sense), and I don’t have a lot of experience cooking them. It always seems to involve a lot of complex techniques I shy away from – brining, basting, probing, stuffing – and I don’t even own a meat thermometer. But I’m more than willing to play with the big guys and learn. Especially when it turns out as well as this…

And without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here are the recipes.

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