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Rooting for Chocolate Truffles in a Bridgehampton Garden

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Making truffles at Bridge Gardens on Sunday, 2/9/14

By Stephen J. Kotz

With all due respect to America’s largest chocolate maker, a bowlful of Hershey’s Kisses placed on the table, however elegantly, after a special dinner with close friends probably isn’t going to make much of a splash.

But a plate, bearing a small, artfully arranged selection of homemade chocolate truffles, covered with a light dusting of cocoa powder or confectioner’s sugar, can go a long way toward helping one earn credibility as a talented chef.

Best of all, they are relatively easy to make, as the select few who signed up for a workshop to be led by garden manager Rick Bogusch at the Peconic Land Trust’s Bridge Gardens this Saturday, will find out.

Mr. Bogusch, a landscape architect by profession, but a cook by avocation, typically focuses on garden-to-table dishes when he offers a workshop. But, with a nod to the snow covered grounds outside the center’s kitchen, he points out with a laugh that mid-February is not the best of times to try to forage for garden delectables.

For this workshop, Mr. Bogusch, who allowed a reporter to sit in as he prepared a test batch ahead of time, was working from a recipe he had downloaded from the America’s Test Kitchens website, although he tends to use a stove, while the recipe calls for using a microwave. He was eager to try out the new recipe, he said, because it promised “to remove the dryness and graininess that you sometimes get with homemade truffles.”

Bittersweet chocolate and cream. There’s really not much more to it than that, other than a little corn syrup, a bit of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and some cocoa and confectioner’s sugar. Even so, Mr. Bogusch said, “I usually keep it much more simple.”

Mr. Bogusch said he prefers to use either Ghirardelli or Callebaut bittersweet chocolate, as he slowly melted two cups of the main ingredient in a double oven on his stovetop. He was quick to point out, as he checked on the heavy cream that he was warming on the stove, that since chocolate comes from the cacao tree, a workshop on chocolate truffles qualifies as one offering a “a plant-based dish,” although it seems unlikely that any of the participants would cry foul if it didn’t.

The cacao tree is a tropical plant native to the Americas, although most cocoa now comes from Africa, Mr. Bogusch said. The Latin name for the cacao tree is theobroma, which translates to “food of the gods,” he said. The name refers to the belief of South and Central American Indians that the tree had divine origins. In fact, he said, the Aztec emperor Montezuma served the Spanish conquistador Cortez a chocolate drink upon first meeting him because he mistakenly took him for a god.

Mr. Bogusch stirred corn syrup (it helps introduce a silkiness to the truffle, according to the recipe) and added vanilla extract to the warm cream before pouring the mixture over the melted chocolate and slowly stirring in the butter and pouring the mixture into a pan and allowing it to set. A bit of spice or liquor can also be added to the mixture, to give the truffle a special flavor, although this test run focused on simplicity.

It turns out that the Spanish liked the Aztecs’ chocolate almost as much as they liked their gold. They brought it back to Europe, where it soon caught on in all manner of drinks and foods. Chocolate was already well established as a favorite sweet when a Frenchman, N. Petruccelli, in 1895 made the first chocolate truffle, so named, because of its remarkable similarity to the prized fungus.

Although chocolate truffles soon became a hit across Europe, they took their sweet time, so to speak, crossing the Atlantic. Alice Medrich, who tasted them on a trip to France and began selling her own version from her store in Berkley, California, in 1973, is credited with first bringing them to this country.

While today, we like to think of chocolate, and especially something as rich as truffles as a decadent treat, as Mr. Bogusch rolled the ganache into balls and coated them with cocoa, he pointed out that chocolate, the bittersweet variety, at least, has medicinal qualities and has even been shown to help lower blood pressure.

Not that anyone is going to be that concerned.

The Chocolate Truffle Workshop will be held at Bridge Gardens on Mitchells Lane in Bridgehampton on Saturday, February 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, or to make a reservation email events@peconiclandtrust.org or call 283-3195.

Chocolate Truffles (courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients

Ganache:

2 cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

For the Coating:

1 cup Dutch processed cocoa

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  1. For the ganache: Lightly coat 8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Make parchment sling by folding two long sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as baking pan. Lay sheets of parchment in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over the edges of pan. Push parchment into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing flush to pan.
  2. Microwave chocolate in medium bowl at 50-percent power, stirring occasionally, until mostly melted and few small chocolate pieces remain, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside. Microwave cream in measuring cup until warm to touch, about 30 seconds. Stir corn syrup, vanilla, and salt into cream and  pour mixture over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 3 minutes, and then stir with wooden spoon to combine. Stir in butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated.
  3. Using rubber spatula, transfer ganache to prepared pan and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover pan and transfer to refrigerator; chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. For the coating: Sift cocoa and sugar through fine mesh strainer into large bowl. Sift again into large cake pan and set aside.
  5. Gripping overhanging parchment, lift ganache from pan. Cut ganache into 64 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows). (If ganache cracks during slicing, let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes and then proceed.) Dust hands lightly with cocoa mixture to prevent ganache from sticking and roll each square into ball. Transfer balls to cake pan with cocoa mixture and roll to evenly coat. Lightly shake truffles in hand over pan to remove excess coating. Transfer coated truffles to airtight container and repeat until all ganache squares are rolled and coated. Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking from the Outdoors

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Rick Bogusch, Garden Manager at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, chops up fresh Rosemary along with Peppercorns, Cloves, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Coriander, Mustard, Fennel, Cardemom, Nutmeg and Ginger to make biscuits at Bridge Gardens on Monday, 2/25/13

Rick Bogusch, Garden Manager at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, chops up fresh Rosemary along with Peppercorns, Cloves, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Coriander, Mustard, Fennel, Cardemom, Nutmeg and Ginger to make biscuits at Bridge Gardens on Monday, 2/25/13

By Emily J. Weitz

Few places inspire a chef quite like an herb garden, with its pungent aromas promising to bring freshness to any dish. At Bridge Gardens, a Peconic Land Trust property in Bridgehampton, the kitchen is always in use, and the gardens brim with seasonal flavors. Rick Bogusch, the garden manager, has embraced that garden-to-table connection, and you can taste it.

This week, Bogusch will kick off a series of conversations with experts on a range of topics relating to the gardens. The first conversation will take place this Sunday, March 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Community House, with subsequent lectures given at Bridge Gardens. This Sunday’s discussion will focus on cooking with herbs, and Bogusch will share wisdom from both the gardens and the kitchen, as well as recipes and tips.

“One of our main areas of concentration in our programs is growing things in the garden and harvesting them and using them,” says Bogusch. “We want to be an outdoor classroom, a model of sustainability for the community.”

Garden-to-table cooking is a simple way that people can harness their own power and become more sustainable, Bogusch believes.

“By growing your own food, you’re reducing the distance that food travels from miles to yards,” he says. “That reduces your carbon footprint. And the more individuals that do that, the better.”

In his talk, Bogusch will focus on the two basic families of herbs that are grown at Bridge Gardens, which encompass a surprising diversity of species.

“We’ll talk about the mint family and the parsley family,” says Bogusch.

Examples of the mint family include mint, basil, thyme, lavender, and marjoram. In the parsley family are parsley, dill, cumin, caraway, and cilantro.

“Some of these herbs we grow in pots, and many are planted in the earth in our herb and vegetable gardens,” he says. “Many, like basil, are annuals, so in early spring we’ll put out two dozen basil plants of different varieties. We create a pleasing array.”

The herb garden at Bridge Gardens is mostly just for display and enjoyment, and the herbs they use for cooking are grown in the vegetable garden in rows.

“Walking into the herb garden,” says Bogusch, “you are overwhelmed by the sense of smell, the colors, and the textures. The herb garden is full of bees and other insects, so the sound is also powerful.”

Bogusch struggles to choose a favorite herb that he uses in his cooking.

“This time of year, I’m eating a lot of dried herbs, like sage and rosemary,” he says. “But in the summertime, in a Caprese salad, fresh basil is a key ingredient.”

He cooks lots of pesto with the wide variety of basil, and also uses herbs and spices that come from Asia for sauces, powders and dips. Some of these herbs are also touted for their medicinal value.

“Fennel tea is a digestive aid,” he says, “and parsley is a diarrhetic. These plants have been used since Egyptian times. Coriander seeds were found in King Tut’s tomb, and cultivated caraway seeds have been found from Neolithic times. They were the basis of modern medicine, and the search for herbs and spices is the reason we’re here. It’s how the New World was discovered.”

All of the conversations in the series will relate to reducing the carbon footprint, covering issues from storm water management to sustainable turf management to green living in and around the home. But this is arguably one of the most enjoyable ways to protect the planet, because it tastes so good.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Dip from the Garden

2 cups green, hulled pumpkin seeds

1 cup finely chopped red onion

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. chopped oregano

2 tsp. chopped cilantro

1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

3-4 tbs. lemon juice

½ cup chicken stock

Sea salt to taste

 

In a heavy skillet, heat the pumpkin seeds over medium heat until they begin to pop and brown, about 10 minutes. Stir so they don’t burn.

Cool and place in food processor, process to a fine meal. Pour the meal into a large bowl and add onion, garlic, oregano, cilantro, and peppers, stirring well.

Add lemon juice gradually, to taste, then add chicken stock, thinning dip to desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Serve with jicama chips.