I haven’t always given as much thought as I do now about where my food comes from, but over the last few years I have tried to become a better educated and more responsible shopper and eater. This is not just in terms of nutrition and what is in my food, but also in terms who is growing, making and selling it, and what is involved in its production. When I saw that R khooks was hosting a Stop the Traffik Chocolate Competition to promote awareness of child labor on cocoa plantations, I definitely wanted to contribute a submission.
How do you know the cocoa beans in the chocolate you are buying haven’t been harvested by the hands of children or forced laborers? One way is to look for the fairtrade label, showing that the product complies with international standards regarding fair prices, labor conditions and environmental sustainability, among other things. There are several brands of fairtrade chocolate that are pretty easy to find, so I went to my local healthfood store to have a look. I saw an organic brand called Cocolo that I hadn’t tried before, and picked up a couple bars of their dark chocolate and a bar of white chocolate with almond crunch. Then I spent some time wondering what I’d do with them. I broke off a teeny sample of each. Truthfully, all white chocolate makes my teeth hurt a little, and eaten straight-up this one was no exception, but the crunchy almond bits were what attracted me to it. At 58%, the dark chocolate was a bit sweeter than I would normally use, but it was smooth and I knew I could put it to good use. My plan for the chocolates would take a couple days from start to finish, but I decided to make tartufi– delicious little balls of chocolate-coated ice cream with a cherry hidden in the center.
First I made a regular custard-style ice cream base, adding in chopped white chocolate and almond extract after it was off the heat. I like to make my base the night before I plan to spin my ice cream, so it can have time to chill really well before I use it. And since I don’t have a self-freezing ice cream machine I put my canister in the freezer at the same time. This way, every thing is good to go the next morning, and I can even churn the ice cream while I’m getting ready for work.
Once I had my white chocolate and almond ice cream made, I put it away to firm up before scooping. It’s a good idea to put a plastic lined sheet tray in the freezer as well, so you have a cold suface ready to go when you form your tartufi. It will take several hours of chilling before the ice cream will hold a round shape (although if you find you’ve jumped the gun and they get a bit melty, just put your ice cream scoops back in the freezer for a couple hours and gently reshape). About ten minutes before scooping, I macerated some drained canned dark cherries with a couple drops of almond extract. I used a spring-loaded 1 3/4-inch scoop to make nice round balls of ice cream, tucking a cherry into each one as I scooped. Then they went back into the freezer overnight.
While there is a lot of wait-time involved in making tartufi, the only challenging part is coating them in chocolate. I saw one recipe that advised skewering each tartufo with a toothpick and dunking them one-by-one in the melted dark chocolate. I managed this for my first one, but after that, the ice cream was sliding around on the toothpick and the chocolate was getting too cold. Potential disaster! On to plan B, which was using a couple spoons to gently coax the glaze onto each ball. There is also plan C, which is just to put a nice spoonful of glaze on top of each tartufo, and let it drip down around it. I did for that about half of my tartufi. While they were not completely encased in chocolate, they still looked pretty.
Made with lousy ice cream, tartufi can be pretty lackluster. But with great-flavored homemade ice cream, I can’t even tell you how *seriously fabulous* these are. And they taste even better knowing you have made them with fairtrade chocolate!
White Chocolate and Almond Tartufi- makes 15 pieces
-Make the ice cream and chill it until it is quite firm (recipe below). Place a plastic-lined sheet tray in the freezer for later.
-About 10 minutes before scooping, drain 15 canned dark cherries. Put into a small bowl and toss with a couple drops of almond extract. Set aside to macerate.
-To form each tartufo, scoop a round ball of firm ice cream (I used a spring-loaded 1 3/4-inch scoop), inserting one cherry in the center as you scoop. Place onto the chilled plastic-lined sheet tray. Repeat for each one, and then return to the freezer for several hours or overnight. You may have extra ice cream (which is delicious as is)…you can can save it in case your scoops melt a little on you. If that is the case, re-form with the ice cream scoop, using extra ice cream if needed, and re-chill before dipping.
-Once your scoops have chilled firm, make the chocolate glaze (recipe below). Pour into a cup or a deep bowl. Use the technique that works best for you to coat the scoops in the chocolate. You can either dip them with a skewer, use two spoons to turn them in the glaze or simply spoon the glaze over them. Gently re-heat glaze if you need to.
-As you go, sprinkle each tartufo with toasted chopped almonds before the chocolate sets.
-Return to freezer for at least an hour before eating.
White Chocolate and Almond Ice Cream- makes about a quart
300g heavy cream
300g whole milk
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 t cornstarch
100g white chocolate, chopped (I used white chocolate with bits of almond)
1 t almond extract
pinch xanthan gum (optional, can be found in healthfood stores)
-In a small, heavy bottomed saucepot, combine the milk, cream, salt and half the sugar. Bring to a simmer.
-Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining sugar together in a medium bowl until pale and thickened. Also, place your chopped white chocolate into a separate medium bowl and set aside.
-Once the liquid reaches a simmer, temper the yolk mixture and return the whole thing to the pot, whisking. Place over low heat and use a spatula or wooden spoon to stir constantly. Do not boil it, but get it thick enough to coat the back of the spoon/spatula and hold a line if you wipe your finger through it. This will take several minutes.
-Pass through a fine sieve into the bowl containing the white chocolate. Let it sit for a minute or two to melt the chocolate. Whisk to combine and add in almond extract. Also add in the xanthan gum if using (I didn’t measure, just threw in a good pinch. The tiniest amount will help keep your ice cream from getting icy while in freezer, but this is optional.)
-Chill over an ice bath until room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight. (The next day, give it a taste before you churn it and add more almond extract if the flavor is not strong enough for you.)
-Spin chilled base according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for several hours until firm.
Dark Chocolate Glaze
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1/2 t vegetable oil
-Melt chocolate with butter and oil over a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring well to combine. This glaze will set crunchy when chilled.
OMG…there are so many events I want to do this month, and of course I’ve saved them all until the last second! I’ve always been a procrastinator, so this is really just par for the course. But anyway, there will be lots of desserts for R and me (and a barrage of posts for you) this last week of September! So to kick things off, I’m starting with what’s due in just a couple of hours– Sugar High Friday! This month’s hostess is Ivonne, author of the addictively delicious Cream Puffs in Venice, and she’s chosen ‘The Beautiful Fig‘ as her theme.
For a long time I thought figs were really not so beautiful. Fig Newtons (to me anyway) are gross, and so fresh figs suffered from guilt by association. I never even had one until my mid-twenties. I was surprised to find that a fresh fig is sweet and soft, smells great, is pretty and pleasantly seedy–nothing like the icky pasty stuff inside a Newton! I am still not crazy about dried figs, unless they have been heavily booze-soaked. But alas, the fruit (it’s actually a flower, as I read on Cream Puff’s blog) was to suffer another setback when the most annoyingly twitty boy in my culinary school class described a fresh fig as being like a certain part of a woman! Ack–why, WHY did I have to hear that, especially from him?!? Some mental scarring still remains, but I no longer take things out on the innocent fig.
My inspiration for this recipe comes from Regan Daley’s recipe for oven-roasted figs with honey and orange in In the Sweet Kitchen, one of my bookshelf favorites. I tweaked the technique and ingredients a bit because the figs right now in Sydney are maybe not quite as beautiful as their fall counterparts up in the Northern Hemisphere. Chef Daley roasts the figs in the oven in a bath of orange juice, honey and spices. I gave this method a test drive last week, and it truly tasted fabulous, but it kind of drained the color out of my figs. I like to get a pretty picture you know, so I tried again, reducing my liquid to a loose syrup on the stove top before adding the figs to just briefly soften. Once off the heat, I then stirred in a handful of raspberries for some extra visual pop (not to mention they taste great with figs). I let the compote cool just slightly and then put it over vanilla ice cream. I think it would be great with yogurt, too. Scrummy and beautiful!
Fig and Raspberry Compote- makes three or four servings, depending on how much fruit you use
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, smashed
1/4 c honey
2 T sugar
pinch of salt
2 T unsalted butter
several figs, quartered (I used 5 figs, but you could throw in a couple more)
handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
-Combine the orange juice and zest, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, honey, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan. Simmer until cooked down and slightly syrupy. Whisk in the butter.
-Add the cut figs, tossing in the syrup. If your figs are ripe and soft, you can remove the pan from the stove top, and the residual heat from the syrup should warm them through. If your figs are on the firm side, continue to gently simmer in the syrup until they soften slightly, about five minutes.
-Once off the heat, discard the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Toss in the raspberries, coating with syrup.
-Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before spooning over ice cream.