Saturday, January 9, 2010

15 Amazing Truffles to Try

Van's Chocolates from North Carolina sent in two offerings for The Chocolate Cult this past week, our first new offering of 2010, so I wanted to get to one of their offerings right away.  They sent two identical boxes that had different assortments inside.  The boxes were packed in a fair amount of Styroform peanuts, which I saved to be reused or donated to a charity that can use these.  Today your Chocolate Priestess will look at the "Truffle" assortment they sent.  Since there are only five weeks until Valentine's Day, you should start thinking about whether Chocolate is going to be part of your plans or gifts.

Inside one of the the simple black boxes with golden seals on the top lay 15 of the 20 flavors of truffles they offer.  These were not labeled, which is not uncommon for chocolatiers, but it does make things more difficult if you have allergy concerns for things like tree nuts or peanuts, and it requires that each of you, Sisters and Brothers, embarks on this mysterious taste journey with me today.  From just looking at them I can guess that one is French style, one is white chocolate, and three are milk chocolate, and that leaves 10 that are dark chocolate, at least on the outside.  The website gives more information about the milk chocolate truffles, so I'll start with those.

The truffles are all approximately an inch across on the bottom and dome up to just over an inch tall, making each one a good 2-4 bites, depending on how much you want to eat and how big your mouth is.  Each is cool to the touch and does not feel waxy at all.  The dark truffles all smell darker than the milk chocolates, and the white chocolate — well, we'll talk about that below when I reveal it fully.  Based on the website and some logical deductions, I'm guessing at the start that these are, in order from left to right in the photograph I took, the "Triple," the "Irish Cream," and the "Caramel Temptation."  Let's see if I'm right.

The first piece with the dark and then milk chocolate lines over it smells very milk chocolate with just a hint of darker scent.  The outer shell is thick, and it covers another hard shell of dark chocolate and then a softer layer of a bittersweet flavor of chocolate.  These three flavors — thus I'm right that this must be the "Triple Truffle" — combine to make an explosion of flavor in my mouth, and they start to create that wonderful chocolate rush that high quality chocolate or higher cocoa content can cause.  Letting the second bite melt releases each chocolate more fully and then melds it into the next until it is overpowered only to flow into the final flavor.  Excellent truffle, well deserving of Sacrament title.

The second piece has white and milk chocolate lines across it and smells very much like milk chocolate.  Inside a thinner outer shell I find a nice soft truffle with a strong Irish Cream flavor that blends well with the cocoa.  Personally I think that the Irish cream and hazelnut flavors blend the best with milk chocolate, though quality chocolate can come in almost any variety one can imagine.  The second bite reveals that the center is also a bit chewy and sticky, which makes for more interesting eating than I was expecting. Another excellent chocolate, though it offered no Cocoa Buzz.

The final milk chocolate truffle has sort of tan lines drizzled over the top of it and has a hint of sweetness to its scent when I take a nice deep whiff of it.  The outer shell is a milk chocolate that hides a huge, soft inner truffle with a definite caramel flavor.  The caramel starts to overpower the cocoa in a few bites and leaves behind a cool tingle in my mouth that I normally associate with mint flavors.  More for a caramel lover than a chocolate lover, and certainly very tangy sweet.

Next your Chocolate Priestess will turn her attention to the white and French truffles.  The first is probably a "French style," which most often means a simple truffle covered not in a hard shell or ganache but a dusting of cocoa powder.  The other is clearly white chocolate with a light green drizzle over it that has a lime scent.  (Guess whose camera's batteries were starting to go low?)

The "French Style" turns out to have a very thin outer shell under the cocoa.  Inside is a very soft dark chocolate which within moments of biting reveals this is not simply what I thought.  This has a very spicy kick to it that burns back in my mouth and throat but manages not to overpower the chocolate itself if you eat it slowly.  This was a huge surprise, and I was both "heated up" as well as tickled by it, since this is a quality spicy truffle.  Which spice is responsible I can't honestly say, but it leaves a mark on the back of my tongue and lingers at the top of my throat for several minutes if that helps some of you, Sisters and Brothers, who are more familiar with spices of a wider variety.  If you have a guess as to which spice this is, please leave a comment and let me know.  I have to clear out my mouth and throat for a while before trying the next truffle.

The white truffle has a thicker outer shell, and inside is a semi-soft white chocolate truffle. Yup, this is lime, and it mixes very well with the very creamy and buttery tasting white chocolate.  The lime provides a nice cooling tingle to my mouth in a few chews.  A true delight for anyone who likes lime and white chocolate, this one gets a grin of approval from the White Chocolate Acolyte.

Now I can turn my attention to the 10 dark truffles in this assortment.  Again I'll turn to the website to see how many I can match up, but then it's going to be a guessing game for us all, Sisters and Brothers.    I don't want to do 5 at a time; I think that separates the photo from the paragraphs describing each truffle too much, so how should I divide this?  I'll start with these three, which I think I can identify right away from their pictures or descriptions: "Bittersweet," "Cappuccino," and "Pomegranate."

The sixth truffle from this selection, then, has a swirl of dark chocolate on top of its dark chocolate covering and a nice, strong dark scent.  The coating isn't very thick, and it bites easily to reveal a semi-soft dark chocolate, or to be more precise, bittersweet chocolate.  This is smooth, melting in my mouth, and by the end it has started to conjure a nice little cocoa rush.

The seventh truffle is probably the "Cappuccino," so I'll send it to our Mocha Acolyte for him to review in the future, then I'll go back and add his opinions to this post or the book we hope to pull together some time this year.

That makes the eighth piece the one with light purple drizzle on the top, which I think will be the "Pomegranate" flavor.  I take several smells of this piece but only get chocolate fragrance.  This has a very thick dark shell that makes a very soft snap when I take a bite.  Inside is a firm dark truffle with fruity flavor that gets stronger but never overwhelms with each bite.  It's a sweet but tangy flavor that must be the pomegranate, though I can't say I've ever had only the fruit to compare it with.  I'm trying to recall, Sisters and Brothers, but I don't believe I've had this flavor combination before.  It is very interesting, though not one of my favorites, and I recommend you give it a try.

These next three have a "Tiramisu" I'll pass on to the Mocha Acolyte, a "Grand Marnier," and "Amaretto" flavors, I think as I compare pictures and descriptions from the website with what is in the box.  The "Tiramisu" is the first piece and has a line of milk chocolate on top of the darker coating.

Both of the other two truffles are liquor flavors, so if that is a concern for you, you are now forewarned.   The first, "Grand Marnier," is topped with this red crystal substance that does not have a flavor; yes, I licked it to find out.  The scent of this 10th flavor from this box of truffles is pure dark chocolate.  Inside the rather thick coating is a creamy center with a strong citrus essence and a hint of alcohol.  It blends nicely as it melts in my mouth and ends with the cocoa aftertaste of slight bitterness.  Makes me want to try a drink with this type of liquor in it or at least have a piece of chocolate cake with such a drink.

"Amaretto" has almonds in it, so if you are allergic to tree nuts, this next chocolate is not for you.  It is topped with a sliver of the almonds itself under dark chocolate drizzle over the same full coating, and the only fragrance I can pick up is the cocoa itself.  When I bite I notice I have to snap through two layers of hard coating, a dark outer shell, and what tastes like a slightly more bittersweet (or less dark) inner shell before I get to the semi-soft truffle inside  The truffle itself is very Amaretto flavored and has some tiny, tiny bits of nuts in it.  With so much chocolate, though, that delightful bitterness wins out in the end.

The next pair I believe starts with the "European Butter," but I note that the visible description of the "Honey Rum" is very similar to the "Orange Pepper," so we'll have to see what is what when I eat it after cleansing my palate from the previous trio of truffles.  Luckily once I have this piece to review it should take either smell or one bite to tell the different between sweet alcoholic or citrus spice.

So what would make it European as opposed to just butter in flavor, I ask myself as I consider this dark truffle with the yellow drizzle over it. It doesn't smell particularly buttery, and when I bite through the medium thickness dark chocolate shell into the soft dark truffle center the scent doesn't change.  The taste changes a little bit with a definite buttery tang and creaminess that curbs the bitterness of the cocoa.  A really nice truffle is the result, and it provides a slight rush of cocoa by the end, Sisters and Brothers.

So is this truffle with both milk and dark drizzle on it the "Honey Rum" or the "Orange Pepper?"  Taking a deep whiff I sense a bit of pepperiness, I think.  Taking a bite through the thick shell I get a rush of orange flavor that turns a bit hot and peppery as I chew and it melts in my mouth.  For those who love spice this is likely either the perfect amount or too little; for those who don't like spice this is quickly going to become too much as the pepper quickly overpowers the chocolate and orange at the end of the second bite.  Very different from any chocolate I've had before.

The final pair, then, may be the "Raspberry," since the only piece listed on the website with simple milk chocolate drizzle is this flavor, and then a completely unlisted one with a strip of white and flecks of yellow sugar or something on the top.

The potential "Raspberry" piece smells only like chocolate even after I take a bite through the fairly thick shell.  Inside is a semi-firm dark truffle with a definite but not intense raspberry tang to it.  This is a welcomed difference, since it seems every assortment I find or am sent these days has raspberry as a flavor.  No little seeds, just smooth creaminess in this truffle, so if you like raspberry flavor but not the seeds this may be the candy you've been looking for.

The "Mystery" piece smells just like dark chocolate, so I lick the little yellow crystals; they have a light flavor, perhaps citrus in nature, but it's too subtle to be certain.  This has a brandy flavor to it as I bite through the thin shell and into the softer dark truffle center.  Sweet with a definite alcoholic edge to it, I can't guess further what type of alcohol might be in this piece.  It is interesting, and the chocolate holds its own, becoming the final flavor in my mouth and on my tongue.

Overall I was very pleased by the balance between cocoa and the other flavors in these truffles from Van's Chocolates.  It is so easy to let one flavor dominate, but as you read above, in the majority of these candies the cocoa was the primary essence, as well it should be.  If you go their website you can order truffles by particular flavor in 8, 15, and 30 piece boxes, or you can get an assortment, though I didn't see a way to select individual flavors for that.  I didn't try all of their flavors, but this large portion makes me suspect they will be great.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

1 comment:

mavido79 said...

Wow! Quite the assortment. I have friends from North Carolina who speak highly of Vans. Sounds like they not only make a quality product but also are very imaginative with their flavors

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