I have been a fortunate foodie and writer this year. I, one day, mentioned my love of the film CHOCOLAT and my vision for recreating recipes from specific scenes. At which point someone here in the office said, “you should talk to Bob about that.”
Bob turned out to be Robert Nelson Jacobs, the screenwriter behind the film and now the Foundation’s board president, who in the subsequent months graciously allowed us to knock on his door numerous times for materials, interviews and camaraderie over an Oscar nominated celebration of life and culinary indulgence.
The movie was instrumental in the shaping of my passions early in their development. I have since spent an equal amount of time in the writing and culinary worlds – two trades so different in their execution and daily routines, yet so spiritually and creatively similar it only follows that a script marrying the two would hold so much charm.
Jacobs’ masterfully crafted work invokes the full history of a food that, even from its earliest known use, was thought to have medicinal, magical and even divine properties. It was used as currency, fashionable drink and in ritual ceremonies including those of human sacrifice.
Vianne, the heroine of CHOCOLAT, introduces us to the titular confection – which, with its fascinating past and continued strong influence on our culture, acts as the catalyst for change and overall healing in the story.
Jacobs’ creative materials, which can now be seen by request in the Foundation archives, document his writing process, starting with extensive research and outlining. You can watch, through notes in Jacobs’ handwriting, as the script unfolds and the history of chocolate is integrated into the story and the characters’ lives (and found literally on the page, as in this note with a chocolate stain in the lower right-hand corner).
Take the Comte de Reynaud. Far from the stereotyped “bad guy”, the Comte is a humanized and flawed antagonist who, in Jacobs’ words, “inherited a burden, this obligation, this noblesse oblige, that he’s got to be responsible for this village and he’s kind of tyrannical about it. And has certain standards he feels must be upheld at all costs.”
Lent is one of the most prominent of these standards. Though the Comte’s resolve is undeniably strong, his body begins to physically weaken in response to the near starvation diet to which he subjects himself. In stark contrast to his abstinence is Vianne, her chocolaterie and in one specific comedic moment her attempt to sway him with truffles called the Nipples of Venus.
And so in the Comte’s honor, I’ve chosen the Nipples of Venus as the first in the series of CHOCOLAT-themed recipes I’ve recreated. The history of this particular truffle dates far back into French history and often includes a delicate chestnut filling. For my version I chose an early and simple recipe (chocolate only, though varying types and consistencies).
Although I’ve worked in a professional bakery, this was my first attempt at chocolate in truffle form. What I discovered is that working with chocolate in this way is therapeutic for its neediness. It asks for concentration and allows little time to check your Facebook page – which can be a life-giving gift. I thoroughly enjoyed a day tempering, shaping and eating this aptly named chocolate incarnation. And found a bit of respite myself in the indulgence of chocolate.
(A huge thank you goes out to Garlic, My Soul for the fantastic food photography).
Be sure to check out the second and third installments in the CHOCOLAT series on the blog.
6 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bars (70% or above)
1 3.5 ounce white chocolate bar
1 cup whole milk
1. Break your first 3 dark chocolate bars into small, manageable pieces.
2. Heat over a double boiler until it reaches approximately 115 degrees Fahrenheit or begins to melt, visibly.
3. Stir in ¾ cup milk, slowly. Mix until smooth.
4. Turn off burner and let cool until completely room temperature (up to 2 hours).
5. When cooled, using an electric mixer, beat chocolate until it forms stiff peaks.
6. Fill a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a 1 inch hole cut in the corner with your stiff-peaked chocolate confection.
7. On a tray lined with parchment paper, create chocolate kiss-shaped swirls.
8. Place in refrigerator.
9. In the same fashion as before, double boil and heat the second set of 3 dark chocolate bars.
10. Stir in remaining ¼ cup milk and mix until smooth.
11. Remove from burner and go get your kisses from the fridge.
12. With a spoon, set of tongs or just your fingers (whatever system works best for you) dip the kisses into the chocolate until full coated and replace on parchment paper.
13. Let stand until hardened. If you live in a hot climate, like, say Los Angeles, you may want to put them in the fridge again.
14. Double boiling for the last time, melt your white chocolate and stir until smooth.
15. Remove from burner and (again, in whatever method you find best) dip the very tip of the truffles into the white chocolate…to create the likeness of its namesake.