Cardamom and Ginger Truffles from Chocolat Uzma Sharif

Daniel Hautzinger
Chocolate Ganache Truffles from Chocolat Uzma Sharif. Photo: Courtesy Chocolat Uzma
Chocolat Uzma Sharif's Chocolate Truffles. Photo: Courtesy Chocolat Uzma Sharif

Uzma Sharif always loved the ingredients her mother kept stocked in her pantry: whole spices like cumin, coriander, and cardamom; spicy peppers; mango. "We always have pomegranates in our house during winter," she says. So when she began making and selling chocolates under the brand Chocolat Uzma Sharif, she incorporated those flavors into her creations. "I thought, 'Wow, what a great way to work with chocolate and try to infuse my culture into the chocolates and make it sort of like a comfort food.' I really enjoy putting together these two types of cultures, the French training with South Asian ingredients. The end result is something that I'm really proud of." 

That approach informs the below recipe for cardamom and ginger truffles, which takes a classic chocolate ganache truffle and subtly spikes it with spices. Sometimes the South Asian ingredients take center stage at Chocolat Uzma Sharif, as in milk chocolate with honey and cumin, and sometimes they are more subtle, as in her Himalayan Turtles, which use Himalayan salt instead of sea salt. "People understand salted caramel," she says, "but the Himalayan salt gives a very distinct flavor."

Sharif's interest in dessert runs deep: her grandfather ran several bakeries in Pakistan, and his eight children, including her mother, are all "phenomenal cooks," she says. "I want to say it's in our blood." But in part because of that lineage, Sharif, a first-generation American, didn't want to become a cook when she was young. "And then all of a sudden I decided, 'Wow, I'm actually kind of good!'"

Off she headed to culinary school in Colorado before returning to Chicago to help raise her baby brother. She enrolled in the French Pastry School here and eventually found herself drawn to chocolate. "I like chocolate as a medium for art," she explains. "I like the packaging and the creativity. It's definitely a skill: it's a lot more scientific and involves more patience than baking or cooking. You can't make something in one day, and it requires a lot of structured discipline."

Sharif started her business in 2012, planning to sell her chocolates wholesale to stores. But she ran into that old Chicago difficulty of "We don't want nobody that nobody sent," discovering that buyers would tell her they loved her product before saying, "'I'm sorry, our boss went to college with so-and-so's daughter and we have to use them,'" in Sharif's words. So she decided to open up her own shop in Pilsen, where she had moved in 2005 after growing up on the North Side. "It's been a rough ride," she says. "But now, in the past few years, we've kind of solidified our reputation." You can now find her chocolates spotlighted at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Michigan Avenue in addition to her Pilsen shop, and she tries to introduce new creations every month.

But she continues to try to retain her business values, sourcing ingredients as much as possible from women-owned farms and working with the charitable organization Apna Ghar, which works to end gender violence and provide support in immigrant communities. "I come from a single mother," Sharif says, "and I grew up surrounded by single mothers. We didn't have anything like Apna Ghar to help support these moms when we were kids, so we all kind of grew up in each other's houses. I feel that there's so much we can do when we have a business, with partnering with charities and getting the message out about what our philosophy and values are." 

Cardamom and Ginger Truffles

Ganache is a glaze, icing, sauce, or filling for pastries made from chocolate and cream. It is made by heating cream, then pouring It over chopped chocolate. The mixture is stirred or blended until smooth, with liqueurs or extracts added at the end if desired. It can be eaten on its own in the form of truffles, rolled in your favorite topping, such as cocoa powder, confectionery sugar, chopped nuts, crushed candy canes, or sprinkles.

In this case, ginger and cardamom is added to the cream to infuse the ganache with warm spice. The ganache is then shaped into balls and rolled in cocoa powder for a rich, subtle delectation perfect for the cold weather of Valentine's Day.

Makes: 18-22 truffles

Ingredients

4 oz (113 g) heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon powdered cardamom
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
Pinch Himalayan salt
7 oz (198 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (58-65% cacao), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, mix the heavy whipping cream, cardamom, ginger, and salt and slowly bring to a simmer.

2. Once the cream simmers, turn off heat, add in the room temperature butter, and let melt for about 10 seconds.

3. Pour the hot cream mixture over the room temperature chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Wait 5-6 seconds until chocolate is melted, then slowly stir to combine the mixture, mixing from the center out towards the sides of the bowl.

4. Once chocolate is glossy and all the cream is mixed stop stirring (if you stir too much it will cool the ganache too quickly and cause it to separate). Final mixture must be smooth. If it has chunks, microwave on low for 5 seconds to melt the chunks out.

5. Pour the warm ganache into a shallow dish (8x8) or bowl (9”) and let rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

6. Once the chocolate has set, take out of the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before you begin to work with it. Ganache should be soft to the touch but not liquid.

7. Using a melon baller or tablespoon, scoop out the ganache, forming each one into a rounded shape using your hands. (It does not have to be a perfect sphere.)

8. Once all the truffles have been formed, roll each in cocoa powder. Serve at room temperature.