The creation story behind our Strawberry Balsamic Truffle
“What’s your favorite chocolate?”
Oh how I hate this question - all of my chocolates are my babies! However, and I think this is true for most parents, I do have a soft spot for my first creation. The strawberry balsamic truffle was the first chocolate that I created from scratch and is probably the only chocolate in the world to have been inspired by a salad!
It was the early days of my experimenting with the idea of Sugar Love – the name of the business wouldn’t even come for another several months. I was still working for the university and had a lunch meeting off-campus at a restaurant that I’ve always liked. As I was looking over the menu, I kept coming back to a salad that had strawberries on it. Strawberries weren’t in season and so I talked myself out of it several times. And then I ordered it anyway!
When the waiter brought the plate, I was disappointed as the strawberries were visibly under-ripe. But the first bite of strawberry and balsamic dressing was perfect! The rich acidic taste of the vinaigrette just made those strawberries pop!
I knew I had to do something with that combination, but I wasn’t sure how. I don’t like using essences or artificial flavors, and the chocolatiers that I had studied under almost always avoided fresh fruit. But strawberries have a special something when fresh, a certain softness of flavor, so I was determined to use fresh strawberries. As it turns out, the reason why many chocolatiers will avoid fresh fruits (besides the variability that can occur between seasons) is the high water content of the fruit.
Water is a chocolatier’s biggest enemy as it can cause mold, bacteria and even fungus to grow in your chocolates at room temperature. The way that all chocolatiers combat water within their chocolates is with sugars. Some use corn syrup, cane sugar and even alcohol can count as a sugar. These sugars in different ways bind with the water to reduce the amount of active water in a recipe. Active water is the perfect hosting medium for those bad actors mentioned earlier, so the less the better for your shelf-life. Often the thought is the more sugar the better, and while that is mostly true for shelf stability, I didn’t want our confections to taste like sugar – I wanted the ingredients to shine!
So after learning the importance of reducing the amount of active water, I realized that cooking the strawberries down to a quick jam would boil out a portion of the water. The remaining water I balanced with cane sugar and a small amount of sorbitol (a sugar alcohol) for a not-too-sweet flavor. The splash of balsamic vinegar just makes this confection sing.
The strawberry balsamic truffle remains one of our most popular confections in the store and will always be one of my (many) favorites since it was the first chocolate puzzle I solved. And unlike some of our other fresh fruit creations, you don’t have to wait for this one to be in season!