Sam Bouton of Truffles et al is our local chocolate truffle maker. With February being the month of red roses, chocolates (and of course cheese!) we are delighted to have Sam's Valentine's gifts in store and to chat with her about local ingredients, fabulous flavour combinations and her plans for the year ahead.
How did you get into making truffles and sweet treats?
I started making simple rolled truffles in France where I lived for over twenty years. On returning to England I decided to turn my hobby into a business so experimented with different techniques and ingredients, took courses, read books and attended business workshops. In 2016 "Truffles et al" was born!
Obviously high quality ingredients are extremely important in creating the indulgent taste and texture of your truffles, where do you source your ingredients?
I use high quality Callebaut Belgian chocolate. Founded in 1911 by Octaaf Callebaut, it is one of the oldest cocoa roasteries and chocolateries in Belgium. The cream comes from Marybelle Dairy in Walpole. The very helpful team there supply me with a slightly richer cream - around 50% as opposed to 48%. This gives a rich flavour especially with coffee truffles. I add a small amount of French unsalted butter, a nod to where it all started, and fruits are as local and as seasonal as I can find. The raspberries in prosecco for example came from my garden! I don't use preservatives, acids, chemicals or sweeteners so the flavours have to speak for themselves. The chocolate has to carry the flavour and not overwhelm it and vice versa.
You have some exquisite flavour combinations in your range. How do you create them?
Well ..... a lot of experimentation goes on, not always successful but funnily enough, always edible! For example, the first batch of prune and Armagnac truffles I made for Christmas nearly blew my head off and I couldn't taste the fruit at all, but once I'd got the balance right it proved to be extremely popular. I like the old fashioned flavours, stem ginger is always well received and orange Cointreau is wonderfully enhanced with the addition of fresh orange juice and zest. I really enjoy the white coffee truffles: tempered white chocolate with cream and Colombian filter coffee dripped into the ganache, coated in dark chocolate. Heaven!
What exciting plans do you have for 2018?
I'm always looking at new things and I'm going to try making some moulded chocolates this year. Also, I keen to develop some new flavours for summer, strawberries and cream and maybe mint. Plus, I'm told I must embrace social media more. Hmmm!
And when you are not stirring liquid chocolate, what do you like to do here in Suffolk?
I like to walk my dogs in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. They love chasing around the tracks in Tunstall Forest and playing on the beach. I'm lucky to have my own horse and ride with a friend round the sand tracks and lanes of Knodishall and Friston. I can't wait for better weather and getting the chance to ride out to Thorpeness.
I'm actively involved with our monthly market in Kelsale and also with the local book group. I missed the pub when I lived abroad. There's nothing like the sound, smell and atmosphere of a country pub. I love the Crown at Great Glemham and have got to know some great people there. I've not lived here long and I'm not from this area but Suffolk feels very much like home. I don't think I want to live anywhere else.