23 May 2016
We've had a quick ten or eleven days in Lima, Peru. The weather is definitely warmer than in southern Chile or Argentina, but not as warm as we were hoping. So we decided to enjoy our week and a half, and then move to warmer climes (as in north). Our original thought had been to return to Ecuador and visit the rest of the coast, since we both really enjoyed staying in the various beach towns. But the two sets of serious earthquakes impacting the coastal towns kept us from following that plan. We looked into maybe going there to volunteer and help out, but things are still in the stage where they want only people trained in emergency services, not general assistants like us.
Then we thought Costa Rica, but we've been there twice. Loved it, but wanted someplace new. Good thing we decided to skip it, turned out that Vulcan Turrialba decided to erupt. (We visited Turrialba in 2011, and went up the mountain to see the steam coming out of the vents - here's a link to that blog:
So we decided on Guatemala, and we head there tomorrow morning. I just wanted to get in a blog about our time in Lima.
It has been great, though, we visited places and people that we knew from our first time through Lima. And people recognized us! Some we expected, such as the two young men at Valentini Café, since we chatted with them each time we went in for a sandwich or coffee or whatever. (They were impressed with how much my Spanish has improved over the past six months. They agreed, however, that Argentinians have some strange pronunciations.)
But other people who recognized us were a surprise, such as the woman at the bakery counter in the supermarket - she remembered that I like to buy a single slice of apple tart when they had it available! Just unexpected.
I didn't want to take photos of the same colorful buildings that I did when we were first in Lima, or the lovely tree-lined streets with walking paths in the median. Nor photos of the wonderful cats in Parque Kennedy, where people drop off unwanted cats and the city council of Miraflores ensures the kitties are taken care of and fed. Though this one beauty caught my eye, and demanded to be photographed.
I attended another workshop at the Choco Museo - because when one has time, well, why not? So I took the ganache and truffle-making workshop again.
My instructor from last time, Katarina, in now teaching chocolate making in Dubai! How incredible! I asked about her, and the staff told me that there had been a chocolate competition at the store several months back. Katarina won, and the prize was a full-paid trip to Belgium to attend chocolate-making classes there. While she was in Belgium, a friend of hers called and invited her to Dubai to work with him. So off she went!
Our instructor this time was Silvio, and he was great! There was only one other student, a young woman from the Czech Republic, who is studying alternative medicine in Chile. (Don't you love how international this group is???)
Okay, so these are the steps. And they go in the sequence with the photos, even if things don't exactly line up.
First, we made the ganache. We boiled cream with some cinnamon sticks, to infuse the cream and also heat it up.
Then the boiling hot cream, minus the cinnamon sticks, is poured over chopped dark chocolate. This is a two to one ration - two parts dark chocolate to one part cream. This sits for a moment (5-10 seconds), and then is stirred into a thick smooth creamy liquid. And that's how you make ganache. It goes into the fridge to chill for a while.
Then, like with the magic of television, we moved on to making rolled truffles. Hands washed and disinfected, surgical-type gloves on, we took another batch of ganache that was made previously. This was flavored with passion fruit (maracuya in Spanish), which is tasty. But it makes the ganache a little wet. Anyway, so we rolled this into balls, roughly the size of maybe an acorn. Though since my warm hands tend to melt the ganache, my truffles ended up bigger, like walnuts. (I kept losing ganache when it stuck to my gloves, then it would add onto the next truffle!) I should add that chocolate melts at exactly 98.6 F, the average body temperature. Which just proves that chocolate is made for humans, right?
We made six of these each, then they went into the fridge to solidify again. At the same time, Silvio heated up dark chocolate (chocolate almargo in Spanish) - 70% lovely semisweet chocolate. We learned how to test the temperature of the chocolate, to know when it's hot enough to pour on the marble and start the tempering process. Basically, you drizzle a bit on a finger - it should be hot enough to feel hot for a few seconds, but cool off after that. (Hotter than a baby's bottle, but not boiling hot.) Then the chocolate is poured onto a marble slab, and smeared and scooped and essentially played with by us, using a metal spatula kind of tool. Tempering the chocolate mixes the chocolate liquors and the cocoa butter, so it doesn't separate when stored. It also makes the chocolate shiny when cooled. And it gives a crunchier quality to the cooled chocolate when used to cover truffles.
So we played with the chocolate until it was cooled off, then it gets scooped into a bowl. And we spooned it carefully into truffle molds, making sure we had a fairly even but not-too-thin coating to make the shell of the truffles (again, six). The excess is shaken out, and you hold it up to the light to check for missing spots.
Into the fridge to harden up. Re-melt the chocolate that has been tempered, it tends to solidify if the room is cool. And then the rolled truffles come out, and they get dipped, one at a time, into the tempered chocolate. One truffle in, spoon chocolate all over, take out with a fork, let the extra chocolate drip off, and put the truffle on parchment paper in a tray. We decorated ours with things like cinnamon, popped quinoa, Oreos (for Richard), and cacao nibs (for me). Oh, anyone reading this for instructions, decorate one at a time, right after the truffle is coated with chocolate and put on the tray. You want the decorations to stick to the chocolate before it solidifies.
And yes, the solid chocolate covering is called couverture.
Then our rolled truffles went back into the fridge for a bit. While they cooled, we used our cinnamon ganache to fill our molded truffles, spooning it in to about three-quarters full.
Those went into the fridge, and the rolled truffles came out. We put them into little cups and had a photo shoot, on nice white plates. Then into pretty little boxes for a nice presentation.
The molded truffles came out for the last bit of chocolate to enclose the ganache center. We just spooned the tempered chocolate over the ganache, making sure it covered everything and attached to the sides. And more fridge time.
We were shown the various liqueurs they make at the Choco Museo, and tried a few. They're mostly pisco infused with cacao and maybe coffee, or hot pepper, or fruit flavors. They also have chocolate and fruit spreads, which could be totally addicting!
After all of that, our molded truffles were ready to take out of the molds - right side up, a sharp rap onto the table and the lovely truffles tumbled right out.
And that was it. They went into a cellophane bag, we tied a ribbon, and we were set - a wonderful twelve truffles, with two different fillings. YUM! You can imagine that there was plenty of time for sampling at each stage - I mean, you need to make sure things are tasty, right? And no point in wasting the chocolate left on the spoon after each step.....it might as well be licked off. Yeah, lots of sampling.
I had a great time, and our hotel in Antigua Guatemala isn't far from the Choco Museo there. Hmmm, I think maybe taking the class a third time would really help me know how to do this truffle making thing!