tastily touring: visiting belgium with a chocolate truffle recipe by alton brown and food photography tips
We have reached Belgium on our “Tastily Touring” adventure. You can’t say the word “Belgium” without thinking chocolate. And, in light of the current issue of Food network magazine, “The Chocolate Issue”, we could not have “landed” in Belgium at a better time.
But, before we become consumed in chocolate talk, let’s learn a little about Belgium. In 1830 The Kingdom of Belgium became independent from the Netherlands. It was occupied by Germany during World War l and World War ll. Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and a member of NATO.
Located in Western Europe and bordered by Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the North Sea, Belgium is at a European crossroad and could be considered a European melting pot. Belgium derives its name from the Belgae, a Celtic tribe and during the past two millennia has been influenced by cultures: Roman, Germanic, French, Dutch, Spanish and Austrian.
Belgium has two main languages and regions: the Dutch-speaking Flemings from the region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking Walloons from the southern region of Wallonia. The capital (region) of Brussels is officially bilingual. There is also a community that speaks German. The diversity in culture and language helped to form a unique governmental structure. If we look at Belgium as a melting pot (of chocolates) we can see that some of those chocolates aren’t fully melted.
The diverse nature of Belgium makes for a profoundly rich culture that is reflected in its foods. If you play a word association game with a foodie and you say “Belgium” chances are they will say, “Chocolate” or “Beer”. While we like beer a great deal, we love chocolate even more. And, Belgian chocolate is chocolate at its finest.
Belgium was ruled by Spain during the Age of Discovery. It was the Spaniard, Hernan Cortes, who recognized the importance of the cocao bean when the Aztec leader, Moctezuma, offered him a beverage made from the bean. Cortes realized the value of the cocoa bean and the Spanish eventually brought the bean, chocolate to Europe, to Belgium. King Leopold II, of Belgium, colonized the Congo (Belgian Congo) in 1885. There were vast cocao fields in the Congo, allowing Belgium control of a large supply of cocoa. The availability of the cocoa bean enabled the Belgians to become premier chocolatiers.
Take a virtual tour of a few of the most popular chocolatiers from Belgium, proudly carrying on a tradition of excellence in the mastery of chocolates:
And, when you have finished your tour, try making these delicious truffles, created by Alton Brown, who has, as usual, given us a doable recipe for something that may not seem easy.
1. How to blur the background of your photos by switching your camera to Aperture Priority, Nikon uses a dial switched to “A”. Zoom in, choose the lowest F-number. This not only works with portraits but any subject. AV For Cannon users.
2. Food and Bakery Boxes, you can find them in pink at BPR Box. Natural Brown and Eco Friendly boxes. Here you’ll find macaroni boxes which can be used for your homemade truffles. Check this out for an idea how to package your goods. Mr. Takeout has a large variety of boxes. The box depot offers a variety of candy boxes. Our favorite place is box and wrap.
3. To create a gradient background, we use Savage backgrounds or you can use backdrop Alley Muslin. From BHP Photo supplies.
Featured Kitchen Finds
- Kate Spade New York Market Street 11 dinner plates. From Bed Bath & Beyond. Kate Spade Shop.
- Rosanna Decor Bon Bon Footed Round Cake Stand Pink. From Amazon.com . Rosanna Inc Shop.
- Now Designs Set of Three Tea towels Cakes found on Amazon.com. Yedi Housewares Shop.
- Yedi Houseware Classic Coffee and Tea Pretty in Pink Dessert Plates, Pink/Gold, Set of 6 found on Amazon.com.
- Grasslands Road Just Desserts Cupcake “Pour it in a pan..” Pink 80-Ounce Batter Bowl with Handle and Pour Spout. Found on Amazon.com.
- Butterfly paper napkins from Plates and Napkins.
Featured How to make Truffles Video
Chocolate Truffles (Alton Brown)
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine*
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1. Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.
2. Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
4. Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and set aside.
5. In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.
6. Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.
7. Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Then place the truffle into the dish with the cocoa powder, or the nuts or the coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature.
Featured Video on How to Make Chocolate Truffles
Guest Photographer: Maris