Last Sunday, June 24th, I attended a truffle-making party. For me it was a bit of heaven. I am one of those people who will eat chocolate in any form, the darker the better. I truly believe chocolate is a food group.
This wonderful experience happened at Quince Restaurant in Evanston, Illinois. Quince welcomed Katherine-Anne Confections, a local and organic-focused chocolatier, for a 2½ hour truffle confection class.
What could be better for any foodie than an afternoon of sparkling wine, delicious savory bites (in case the chocolate wasn’t enough), and chocolate and wine pairings? Six of us joined Scott Quint, Quince’s wine director, to learn from Katherine as she shared recipes and prepared the chocolates, cream, butter, salt and flavorings needed to make four different delicious truffles.
There were all kinds of tastings. We began with glasses of sparkling wine to sip as we watched Katherine and tasted E. Guittard white, milk, semi-sweet and bitter-sweet chocolate disks. As each truffle base was flavored and finished, we tasted again; then Veronica O’Brien, Katherine’s assistant, took the bases to the restaurant’s refrigerators to harden before rolling
Savory small bites from Quince’s kitchen, truly delicious counterpoints to the rich chocolate, were brought in by Scott Quint. They included a filo-wrapped spicy chicken mousse with a cucumber vinaigrette, a cauliflower soup in a demitasse, and a duck rillette wonton. Scott talked to us about wine and food pairing in general, and then the various wines that go best with different kinds of chocolate. He began with champagne, which goes so well with foods because of its high acidity and effervescence, which opens the palate. He mentioned full-bodied reds like burgundy and cabernet sauvignon, older ports, framboise, and suggested an older sherry for a caramel truffle. Scott and Katherine also discussed pairing beer with truffles; Scott said richer, maltier beers work well for the same reason as champagne, as well as often mirroring some of the flavors in the chocolates.
After the savories, Veronica brought the first truffle mixture from the refrigerator, ready for rolling. We started with a Lady Grey truffle, flavored with an infusion of Lady Grey tea (from a local blender) and lavender blossoms. Next came a carrot cake truffle, made with white chocolate, cream cheese and grated fresh carrots! A raspberry elderflower truffle followed, containing fresh mashed raspberries (seeds and all) and St-Germain liqueur, which is made from elderflowers. The last truffle was a salted caramel truffle made with semisweet and milk chocolate and flavored with salt and Katherine-Anne’s wonderful soft caramel.
After shaping (with gloves on, just in case), we rolled each truffle in a coating – cocoa for the raspberry and Lady Grey, candied walnuts for the carrot cake, and sugar with a touch of salt for the salted caramel.
The final touch of the party was to drink the wine and eat the truffles. Scott had poured a 2008 Hautes Côtes de Beaune burgundy from Domaine Berthelemot in France, which he paired with the dark chocolates in the raspberry and Lady Grey truffles. For the salted caramel truffle, he poured a Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Galante Vineyards in California. We all agreed the wines did not go with the very sweet white chocolate carrot cake truffle – it needed a sherry or a Madeira, and, Scott said, an older one would be best.
I came home from the party with almost a pound of truffles. So far I have only shared one – a salted caramel – with my good friend Lynn. Her eyes closed and I heard a low mmmmm as this fabulous truffle melted on her tongue. Now I know what I will be giving to friends and family for Chanukah and Christmas!
The truffle recipes used at the party are produced at the Katherine-Anne production studio, in addition to many other combinations. The company does not have a shop; the truffles, soft caramels and marshmallows are sold through the web and at local specialty food stores, wine and coffee shops, and farmers’ markets around Chicago. Each week in the summer, Katherine designs a limited-edition truffle to sell at the markets, such as an Elvis truffle – milk chocolate, peanut butter, and brown sugar candied bacon – or a bittersweet chocolate-blackberry-fennel truffle. Unlike the party truffles, the ones sold by Katherine-Anne are hand-dipped in tempered chocolate, giving them a glossy, professional finish – but they taste just as good as the ones we made.
Katherine-Anne Confections uses only local and organic ingredients to create the truffles. Neither artificial ingredients nor corn syrup are used. The truffles are hand-rolled and hand dipped, which means they are a little irregular, not the perfect chocolate balls made by mass producers. The intense flavors come from real fruits, liqueurs, and infusions of herbs, spices, coffee, and teas. The caramels are made with local wildflower honey and organic agave nectar. The cream Katherine uses comes from a small Illinois dairy farm.
The truffles, caramels and marshmallows are available at www.katherine-anne.com. The website provides information about the Chicago farmers’ markets where Katherine-Anne confections are sold, and a link to how to have Katharine provide a truffle party of your own.
Quince is located at 1625 Hinman Ave Evanston, IL 60201. Tel. 847.570.8400