One of my great love in life is of course chocolate. I say of course because not only I am a woman but I am Belgian!!! Belgium, the country nobody knows nothing about it except that that's where you find the best beers and the best chocolate!!!!
I live in London so it is quite difficult, to say impossible, to find good quality dark chocolate, unless you want to spend a lot... So many trips to the "continent" are used as an excuse to fill up the suitcase...
Although I buy value products in Belgium, it is still of higher quality than here... How sad is that???
So, to explain how I got into pralines making and chocolaterie, let's start at the beginning...
It was Xmas time 2009, I was in Belgium! Early afternoons are the perfect time to lie down and watch afternoon French or badly-dubbed-German movies on French TV. One day, I was relaxing with my mum, watching a movie about a chocolate factory. In there they were clearly explaining how to make chocolates, fillings, nice ingredients, etc... And it quite fascinated me. As a chemist and baker apprentice, this sounded like a good new challenge!!
All I needed was a silicone ice tray, some good chocolate and a good recipe for ganache!!
I got home a few days after watching that movie. I checked online how to do, basically I did a bit of research...
One day, I decided it was time to make my first attempt... Photos here are not from that day but nothing much changed from my subsequent attempts to be honest, I had a good recipe so I kept it ;)
I did try to properly temper the chocolate but it's a lot of trouble for not much if you just want to eat them straight away like me...lol... But if you do want to keep them for a few days and not see them sweating, then you'll have to invest in a nice thermometer and check out the temperature at which your specific chocolate needs to be tempered!!
A friend had previously given me a tray of ice cubes in the shape of guitars - my then-BF fiance being a musician!
So, in short, melt the chocolate on a bain-marie. Once melted, pour it into the ice cube tray, leave 1 minute and pour the excess back into the dish. You will therefore leave a nice thin layer of chocolate inside your tray cubes. Leave in the fridge to solidify for at least 10 minutes.
Prepare your ganache - any google search will do - add your spices you want in your chocolate (secret for everyone of us!;)), add anything else (nut, fruit, liqueur, etc..).
Take your tray from the fridge and fill the holes with your ganache (if you have one of those pipes to help you, it's easier, otherwise just a spoon is ok as long as it's warm therefore liquid, it will be easier to manipulate than when it starts to cool down).
Put it back in the fridge, leave at least 30 minutes to make sure it has set.
Warm up some more chocolate on a bain-marie.
Take tray from fridge and spread the warm chocolate on the surface tray, slide a knife on the surface to remove any excess. Put it back in the fridge and leave to set!
There are your pralines...
NB: On the photo above, I also made some truffles with the rest of the cooled down ganache, I dipped them into cocoa powder; and some coconut rochers which are, if I remember correctly, just a simple mix between whisked egg whites (3-4), sugar (100g) and coconut powder (150g)!
***Here is a photo of Poor Fiance (PF) pretending to play his chocolate guitar! I have to say Bless him, PF has to try everything I bake/cook/make and unfortunately he's not really a dessert person!!!***