Modern chocolatiers love experimenting with unusual flavour combinations. This recipe takes full advantage of the fragrant herb, lemon verbena.
By Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage
Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage | Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor | Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2005
"Lemon verbena is a small shrub with green leaves that possess an intense lemon scent with floral tones. It's so appealing that it is used in perfumes as well as in foods. If you have a plant, or know someone who does, gather the leaves and dry them. If you're not making the ganache right away, gently put the leaves in an airtight container and store at room temperature; they will keep their heady aroma for up to 4 months. Because the lemon verbena needs to be dried and then steeped in cream, you will need to start making the recipe at least 2 days before you plan to make the ganache." – Michael Recchiuti
Yield: About 50 dipped squares or round truffles
For the Lemon Verbena
Several fresh lemon verbena sprigs (about 100 small leaves)
For the Ganache
1 cup plus 3 tbsps. (9.5 oz.) heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tsps. (3 3/4 oz. by weight) invert sugar (stir before measuring)
3/4 cup dried whole lemon verbena leaves
9 oz. 61% to 70% chocolate, finely chopped
5 tbsps. (2% oz.) unsalted butter with 82% butterfat, very soft (75°F)
1/4 cup melted untempered 61% to 70% chocolate, if dipping squares
Tempered 61% to 70% chocolate for dipping squares, or unsweetened natural cocoa powder for rolling truffles
Dry the lemon verbena
Arrange the lemon verbena sprigs in a single layer on trays of an electric dehydrator or on a baking pan. Set the dehydrator or oven temperature to 105°F, and dry the leaves until no moisture remains and they are brittle, 12 to 24 hours. Carefully separate the leaves from the stems, keeping the leaves whole. You should have 3/4 cup leaves. Discard the stems.
Make the ganache
Stir the cream and invert sugar together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, remove from the heat, and stir the lemon verbena leaves into the cream. Cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap. When the cream has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap.
Put the chocolate in a medium stainless-steel bowl and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate melts and registers 115°F on an instant-read thermometer. Lift the bowl from the pot.
When the chocolate is almost at 115°F, bring the infused cream to a simmer and strain it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into 2-cup liquid measure. When the liquid has run through, pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze the remaining drops into the sieve. If necessary, add cream to bring the volume to 9 1/2 ounces. Check to make sure the temperature is at 115°F and adjust if necessary.
Pour the chocolate and cream into a 1-quart clear vessel. Blend with an immersion blender using a stirring motion and making sure you reach the bottom of the vessel. The ganache will thicken, become slightly less shiny, and develop a pudding-like consistency. Add the butter and incorporate it with the immersion blender.
Pour the ganache into the lined pan. Spread it as evenly as possible with a small offset spatula. Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature until it has set, 2 to 4 hours. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to dip squares or roll truffles.
Dip the ganache squares in chocolate or make truffles
See instructions for tempering chocolate.
Lift the square of ganache from the pan, turn it over onto a work surface, and remove the plastic wrap. If you are dipping squares, apply a thin coat of melted untempered (115°F) 61% to 70% milk chocolate to one side of the ganache square with a small offset spatula. (If you are making truffles, don't apply the chocolate coating.) Let the chocolate harden. Turn the ganache square over and trim the edges. Cut the ganache into 1-inch squares with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each cut and wiped clean after each cut.
If you are dipping squares, temper the chocolate and then dip the squares. Store the dipped chocolates in a cool, dry place, not in the refrigerator.
If you are making truffles, dust your palms with cocoa powder, roll the ganache squares into balls, and then coat with cocoa powder. Place the truffles in a bowl or plastic bag that contains enough cocoa powder to keep them from sticking together. Store in the refrigerator, but remove them 30 minutes before serving.
Chocolate Obsession © 2005 Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage. Photo © Stewart, Tabor & Chang. All rights reserved.
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