La Muscadine - Chocolate Truffles

LA MUSCADINE - CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Bonjour from Paris!

Actually I’m on a train to Strasbourg, which has given me a moment to reflect on my few days in Paris.

It’s just two weeks before Christmas, and the city of light is certainly lit up. The store windows are glowing, and the big brands have big decorations, and entire streets are decorated with twinkling Christmas trees.

The Avenue des Champs –Élysées is lined with Christmas markets right from Place de la Concorde (where Marie Antoinette infamously lost her head), all the way up to where the retail and restaurant strip begins. This is my first visit to a European Christmas market, and it was a festive slap in the face if ever there was one. Warning: do not visit on a Saturday night. Whilst there was an exciting/hectic vibe, the huge crowds made the whole experience pretty unpleasant, and when we returned on Sunday night, it was a truly different experience. Different as in much better, and being able to move freely, rather than tightly herded.

I was expecting sweet little wooden huts selling artisan foods and handicrafts, which there were by what seemed the 100’s, but also lining the glitzy lit street were chalets, some two stories high, amusement park rides, a zombie horror house, an ice-skating rink, Swiss style eating houses that seated over a hundred, a lot of not so artisan goods, and soooo much warm spiced wine! Simply building this temporary timber town must be an enormous undertaking.

On the hunt for the sweet side of the markets, I found it was actually pretty bare. Chocolate-coated flavoured marshmallow Christmas bells were popular, as were nougat, waffles, churros and hot chocolate. The real highlight of the markets though, was the regional food – the purveyors of cheese, wine, sausages and cured meats - who bring their wares to the big smoke! The giant steaming pans of creamy potatoes and bacon ‘tartiflette’, and raclette melting under the heat lamps and being scraped warm and oozy onto potatoes, meats or to-die-for crusty bread, pretty much stole the show – a welcome carb injection on a cold winter evening in Paris.

Smaller markets are dotted around the city, and provide a calmer contrast, the little huts outside the church at St Germain de Pres were adorable. The best sweet fix however, was across the road on the pastry tray presented at Les Deux Magot – Piere Herme’s hazelnut praline mille feuille didn’t disappoint with it’s thousand layers puff pastry!

But lets talk chocolate! Alain Ducaise’s Christmas offerings were outstanding, although I guess you should expect that from a man who holds more Michelin stars than he can count on both hands. His foray into chocolate along side his fancy pants restaurants has been a welcome one – his individual fine chocolates and truffles are exemplary. His ‘build your own’ Christmas tree gift is novel to say the least, and I’d like his budget for product development and packaging.

Patrick Roger never fails to impress, his unconventional chocolate sculptures are inspired, and this year the giant rugged snow ski boots are a sight to behold in the store window. He makes me feel like such a fan girl.

The chocolate recipe I’ve included here is for La Muscadine, which are a traditional French truffle, in the shape of little log, rolled in confectioners (icing) sugar, and usually flavoured with an orange liqueur and a little hazelnut paste/praline.

Similar flavour profiles can be achieved by using Gianduja (see my hazelnut chocolate pots recipe for more info), which is more easily and readily available for the home baker. If you can’t get hold of gianduja, just replace it with the same weight of milk chocolate – they will still be delicious, but missing the gentle hazelnut note.

I first came across these sweet little morsels in France at my most favourite patisserie of anywhere I’ve visited. It’s in Amboise in the Loire Valley, and named Bigot. I love the long family history and whilst I can’t communicate fluently with Madame Bigot, we have a familiarity … or at least in my mind we do. Or she may just think I’m an enthusiastic Australian stalker who keeps turning up on her doorstep.

She’s the best, as is the patisserie. It’s very traditional – the girls wear black dresses and white aprons, and take your pastries from the window. If you’re to find yourself in the Loire Valley – don’t miss this stop! Amboise is just a few hours train trip from Paris, and the historic centre, the castle Chateau d'Amboise with it's extraordinary view of the city, and the Da Vinci house (where he spent his last years) and museum with many models of his inventions, are within walking distance. There are also many chateau in town, that offer boarding/accommodation, and Amboise makes a great base for exploring the Loire. Especially worth a trip, just a short drive away, is the ladies castle Chateau Chenonceau, not to be missed!

Well, I hope you enjoy La Muscadine – it’s a very easy recipe, and they’ll keep for a few weeks in an air tight container. In little bags with a ribbon they will make a beautiful and thoughtful Christmas gift, and in bowls as an after dinner petit four, they’re sure to impress. I think the white icing sugar coating makes them feel extra festive ... like a snowy white Christmas in the Northern hemisphere!

Au Revior!

LA MUSCADINE - CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

For a print friendly recipe, CLICK HERE!

INGREDIENTS

230g thickened cream

300g dark chocolate

230 milk chocolate

50g honey

50g gianduja (small diced)

30ml orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier or Cointreau)

METHOD

Bring cream and honey to boil.

Pour over chocolate and diced gianduja.

Stir in spiral motion from centre to outside of bowl, and reverse motion and whisk back to centre of bowl.

Set aside to cool for a couple of hours (or refrigerate briefly), until ganache is still soft but not runny, then beat ganache to lighten, whip and aerate.

Pipe long strips of ganache onto lined baking tray.

Set overnight, or in fridge for at least an hour.

Alternatively scoop ganache and roll into balls, set for several hours, then roll into small sausage shapes

Dip in tempered dark chocolate and drop into confectioners (icing) sugar to cover chocolate.

A LITTLE PEAK AT PARIS IN DECEMBER!

Avenue des Champs –Élysées - Christmas markets

Marshmallow 'bell' waffle bottom, chocolate coated

St Germain de Pres - markets

Galleries Lafayette

Alain Ducasse - assemble your own christmas street - in dome, and in pack behind

Pastry tray offered at Les Deux Magot

Bigot patisserie, chocolaterie, cafe and glacier ... in Amboise, Loire Valley.


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