Nobody knows how to work with the sweet stuff better than Paul A. Young, London-based designer chocolatier. Young honed his craft in restaurants for years, working with world-renowned chef Marco Pierre White as well as UK fine food chains Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s.
Young recently headed to the US for a tour to promote his new cookbook, the sophisticated and visually compelling Adventures with Chocolate, so we sat down with him and talked shop. The holidays are a time for booze-spiked truffles (in case you hadn’t heard), which happen to be a specialty of his. Ready for pro-tips on making these DIY gifts? First, consult Young’s ale truffle recipe for the proper melting, rolling and coating techniques, then pour yourself a generous glass of your favorite booze and start tasting chocolate.
How do you decide which liquors work best with chocolate?
I’ve got some key things that really work. I love champagne and chocolate. You warm the champagne just enough so that the chocolate melts in, then whisk it together to create the creamy ganache for the center.
I adore whiskey, all different varieties, but you’ve got to pick the right one. So if you’ve got a really peaty whiskey, you need to pick a earthy chocolate with smokiness to it. Taste the alcohol first, a full measure, then start tasting chocolate against it to see which one works. I sometimes make my chocolate with cream, or just use water for a cleaner taste just like you do with whiskey. The other thing I like using is beer. Now I don’t like beer to drink at all, but add it into chocolate and it’s amazing.
If it doesn’t work, how do you know?
Taste, taste, taste — and you don’t have to use the best of everything first. Get confident using a cheaper variety of chocolate, then when you think “right, I’m ready to do this for real, for presents, for the holidays,” then buy the chocolate and the liquor that work and go on from there.
For me their are no rules with chocolate. I think people get stuck with rules and habits — break those habits. If you have a favorite cider or beer or red wine, warm it up and add chocolate to it.
You can make a truffle with red wine?
We have a mulled wine truffle that’s really fruity: red wine, whole spices — star anise, clove, cinnamon stick — and chocolate. It tastes like a glass of mulled wine but with that rich, deep edge to it. I use a lot of booze. The thing is to be quite bold with it, don’t just put a dash.
Tell me about gin and chocolate.
You can absolutely use gin, but you need to find one that is really aromatic. Don’t use the cheapest brand out there that just has that smell of alcohol. The recipe in my book uses Hendricks, which is made with cucumber and rose. Just take sugar, cucumber, gin, chocolate and essence of rose and blend it together in one hit. It makes a cake coating or a fondue dip that is very fragrant and very clean. Sloe gin is amazing with chocolate because it’s got that red fruit taste. It’s really great for winter because it’s warming.
I like to change things constantly to be able to deliver a completely different arrangement of chocolates every year.
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