Chocolate is as old as time itself. Indeed, one of Melissa’s strangest sounding recipes, her “chili pepper truffles”, is based on recipes that go all the way back to the sixth century. Archaeologists discovered clay pots in El Salvador containing a chili pepper and chocolate mixture akin to mole sauce. Use of cocoa was common in Aztec and Mayan cultures. Melissa’s recipe for chili pepper truffles was inspired by the Mexican hot chocolate Vianne made for the grandmother in the movie Chocolat.
All of Melissa’s recipes are original and were inspired by what she thought would make a tasty truffle. Every year her least favorites are replaced with new flavors. Each year she has a harder and harder time deciding which flavors to give up!
Some people find that chocolate is tricky to work with. Commonly, people melt chocolate on their stoves and dip strawberries, only to be very disappointed by the results. They find that they just don’t look or taste like the store bought ones. This is because of the science behind chocolate. If you know a little about the science, you can successfully work with chocolate.
Have you ever opened a chocolate bar and seen a white powdery substance all over the surface? That is a chocolate that has gone “out of temper”. That means that at some point the chocolate became hot enough that the cocoa butter separated. It is safe to eat at that point, but it isn’t pretty. In order to melt chocolate and get it to solidify with the nice shiny surface you see on professional chocolates, you have to go through a process called “tempering”. If you've ever heard of “tempering steel”, the process is much the same. Tempering involves heating and cooling the chocolate to get it to solidify in the right crystalline state where it will be nice and shiny, and will “snap” when you bite into it. A well-tempered chocolate will also have a “velvety” feel in your mouth, and will set up quickly, whereas an un-tempered chocolate can take hours to solidify.
This tempering process is the time-consuming and tricky part about making truffles. Melissa has a machine that does it for her, but there are ways to do it in your home kitchen too. You can use the home method described on Martha Stewart’s website, or put your feet up and let Melissa do the work!