“Blue Grey” Chocolate Truffles

by ACP on December 27, 2009

‘TWAS THE NIGHT before Christmas, and all through the house . . . Or at least in the kitchen, I was stirring up the scents of simmering cream, bittersweet chocolate, and black tea with bergamot.

Truffles Earl Gray Ingredients

It’s been four or five years since I last made these Earl Grey truffles. The recipe (which I will loosely describe but won’t reprint, because I firmly believe everyone who makes desserts should own the book) comes from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, by Claudia Fleming with Melissa Clark.

Back then, I made the truffles for a friend who may just love chocolate and black tea equally—which says a lot; she’s been known to make entire, decadent meals of either or both. My only regret in giving them to her was that I later felt like a drug dealer supplying her with vice in a quantity sufficient for overdose, which she admitted to freely (”I ate them in one sitting!”). Any bellyache has long since been forgotten, however, and in recent months she’s mentioned the truffles a few times, rather wistfully I thought. I figured it was time to make them again. I’d also remember to reserve a secret stash for myself.

The bonus for me this year was that I was out of my usual supply of Earl Grey when it was time to heat up the cream. In a last-minute rush through Grand Central Terminal (I was putting my father on a train after a lunch date and hand-off of stocking stuffers), I darted into The Tea & Honey Store to see whether they had any loose-leaf Earl Grey. You should know: this is one recipe for which you may not snip open a tea bag and dump out the contents in lieu of using whole tea leaves. You just don’t want the pulverized dregs that go into the average sachet; not for a confection this good. Turns out the store had one variety in stock, and it was one I’d never seen before. I now believe fate played its hand in the discovery. I see no reason to ever drink another Earl Grey again; I was destined to find this one.

Blue of London Tea

The tea is called “Blue of London” and is sold by the purveyors Le Palais des Thés, a well-known French enterprise that includes online commerce plus tea shops around the world. Le Palais des Thés also adheres to a buying code of ethics, which according to their Web site means that their suppliers comply with the following: “no child or forced labor, respect for the environment and adoption of clean farming methods, no deforestation, decent wages for workers, compliance with health and safety regulations.” Cheers to that.

Blue of London is a blend of Chinese Yunnan tea and bergamot from Calabria, Italy. The tea is as lovely to look at, with its sparks of blue flowers dancing like flames among the curled black leaves, as it is to smell and taste. As far as Earl Grey blends go, it’s the most delicate I’ve had. Actually, I was worried that it would be too delicate for the truffles; that the extra-bittersweet ganache and the unsweetened cocoa coating would overpower the light aroma of the tea. Nothing doing. The subtlety was no problem, and I am yet again convinced: using the finest of everything you can lay your hands on really does pay off.

Earl Gray Cream

The truffles, presented to my friend in a holiday candy box, were received with the kind of surprise and awe that make you feel that any amount of trouble in the kitchen would be more than worth it. Happily, these truffles are no trouble to make. It’s true that I didn’t remember having so much difficulty shaping the ganache into balls or keeping the almost-ball shapes intact as I dipped them in melted chocolate and rolled them in cocoa. My finished truffles looked pretty gnarled, some almost spiky—not at all the near-perfect spheres Claudia Fleming turns out—but there’s nothing wrong with free form, either. The most important part is the taste, and that was still divine: intense and creamy beyond the outer chocolate shell, bitter and citrus-bright with that bare hint of bergamot. I say “was” with a twinge of sadness: the last of my reserve disappeared after tonight’s dinner. Who knows when I’ll make them again. The relief is that with them gone, there’s no more risk of overdose. At least not for me—I’ve yet to ask my friend how long hers lasted. I’m guessing a day, tops; hopefully longer than an hour. They really are that good.

earl gray truffles

Claudia Fleming’s Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles

I suggest you get your hands on a copy of The Last Course and make these exquisite truffles according to the original recipe. I’m citing Claudia Fleming here, since I can’t imagine taking credit for these in any way, but the description that follows is mine and is loose on purpose. If you don’t have access to Fleming’s book, you can certainly adapt any basic chocolate truffle recipe you have, in order to create an Earl Grey variation. Use 1/4 cup tea leaves for every 1-1/4 cups cream. If you can come by the Blue of London blend, use that (you’ll love drinking what you don’t infuse in the truffle cream), otherwise just make sure to use a fine quality loose-leaf tea.

Method:

Simmer heavy cream with tea leaves; infuse for a couple minutes off the heat. Into a bowl, strain the cream over finely chopped extra-bittersweet chocolate. Let rest briefly, then whisk to melt chocolate completely. Cover and chill until set (around 4 hours). Form the set ganache into balls, then refrigerate again for at least 15 minutes to firm them up. Meanwhile, melt two-thirds of a quantity of bittersweet chocolate (enough to coat truffles) over—not in—simmering water; remove from heat and add remaining chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth and room temperature. (If you’re impatient like me, you will have a hard time with the form of the truffles.) Place unsweetened cocoa powder in a bowl. Dip chilled truffles one at a time into melted chocolate, then roll in cocoa.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

edava December 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

You KNOW I’m all over this recipe! Earl Grey and Chocolate? Yes and Yes. I think I’ll use my leftover earl grey lavendar loose tea from the cookies I made.

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Donald LaRue December 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Wow! A box of these was just opened and within a few minutes, half have disappeared! I think J Child, CF, AD, and other saints living and not, were involved in these truffles lending inspiration to the masterful hands, giving heart, and saintly Greek soul of ACParker. Thank you, epharisto, gracias, danke, grazie, and merci!

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ACP December 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Edava: You must use the Lavender Earl Grey in some truffles. Definitely. If I know you, you’ll find a way to improve the original recipe. Let me know if you decide to make them.

Donald: You’re welcome, parakalo, de nada, bitte, prego, and avec plaisir! Thank you for the best praise I could wish for—a half-empty box of truffles (keep the rest in the fridge).

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