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I was feeling a little bit flat at the beginning of this month (dark, dreary days, weeks until payday and nothing particularly exciting going on), so when Waitrose offered to inject a bit of fizz into my life as part of their Champagne Thank You promotion I jumped at the chance.

This month, if you spend over £50 when doing your online shopping with Waitrose, they will send you a bottle of their award winning champagne as a thank you.

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Even though January starts on a dreary note, the end of the month is always quite special as I have my fiancé’s and my mum’s birthday to plan for. This year, I’ve also got my engagement to celebrate and a wedding to think about, so I decided to make the most of my champagne by experimenting with cooking dishes that use champagne as a recipe and then testing them on treating my loved ones, perhaps with a view to perhaps incorporating some of these things in my wedding celebrations.

I enlisted the help of a glamorous assistant (LD) who suggested I started my project with a tricky little dish he likes to call ‘A Glass Of Champagne’. This is much more in line with my previous ideas about cooking with champagne, or should I say, cooking alongside champagne, and got the project off to a great start!

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A difficult dish but worth it

I started with a champagne jelly, which despite the time it takes to set was actually ridiculously easy to prepare. After creating a sugar syrup (with hot water and 50g of sugar), I soaked four sheets of gelatine in a bowl that contained 500ml of champagne. After a couple of minutes, I removed the gelatine sheets, squeezed out the extra water and added them to the sugar syrup. My assistant took over the whisking duties, once the gelatine had completely dissolved I added the mix to the champagne and put the whole bowl in the fridge to firm up a bit.

While that was in the fridge, I started preparation on the ganache (for milk chocolate champagne truffles. I broke 100g of good quality milk chocolate (I used Waitrose own chocolate which has over 40% cocoa solids) into small pieces and set in a bowl, then I heated 90g of double cream together with a pinch of sea salt until it started to simmer and quickly poured the cream over the chocolate. I mixed the cream and chocolate mixture until all the lumps disappeared, while my assistant painstakingly measured out 30ml of champagne and added this in two stages to the chocolate mix (you need to stir in the champagne as soon as it hits the chocolate and starts to fizz).

I then waited for it to cool slightly and put the whole lot in the fridge, next to the jelly.

So far, so easy. I was a bit slower than I should have been because I hadn’t made either dish before and did a lot of double checking the steps, as well as quality control work by testing the champagne as I went along.

After an hour, I took the jelly out of the fridge and used a soup ladle to transfer it to six champagne saucers that I had bought specifically for making this dessert. This would also be the time to add some fruit (perhaps raspberries) but I had decided to stick to a plain jelly to serve alongside the rich truffles. I covered the glasses with cling film and put them back in the fridge to set … I have never used gelatine sheets before and was surprised at just how long it took the champagne jellies to set. I ended up leaving them overnight, but it was worth it!

Waitrose Champagne jelly

I also left the chocolate ganache to set overnight, I was a bit worried that it would harden up and be impossible to work with but when I took it out of the fridge the next morning it had the consistency of a firm chocolate mousse.

I put a couple of dessertspoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa powder in a bowl, and then took a teaspoonful of the ganache at a time, rolled it between my palms into a ball shape, and dipped it in the cocoa powder. This made 20 truffle centres, which I placed on a sheet of baking parchment, and popped back in the fridge for an hour to firm up again.

The final stage of the truffles was coating them in melted chocolate. I broke another 100g of chocolate into a glass bowl, and melted it by placing the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water for a few minutes. The recipe I was following said “now is the time to temper the chocolate if you want”, I’m not sure how to temper chocolate but found this great guide from the Guardian … I sort of adapted the “Method For People With Jobs, Children, Pets, Friends, or a train to catch” and removed the bowl from the heat before it was entirely melted – stirred it like a demon to get the chocolate smooth but cool, and then decided it was cool enough to coat my truffles when I was able to dip my fingers in the mixture without wincing in pain.

Coating the truffles was my favourite part of the entire process, it was gloriously messy work and I ended up completely coating my hands as well, so had to get my assistant to roll the finished truffles in icing sugar before placing them on a plate covered in baking parchment.

After washing off my chocolate manicure, I put the truffles back into the fridge for another hour. As I had some melted chocolate left over, I decided to do some chocolate dipped strawberries – super easy and incredibly delicious. Then I waited until it was time for dessert.

This is how it all looked

Waitrose Champagne Desserts

And the taste? Delicious – if I do say so myself!

The champagne jelly was my favourite, it was just like eating a solid glass of champagne – definitely not something to indulge in before you drive anywhere! It made me wonder what other drinks I could turn into dessert … I’m considering a martini jelly.

I’m going to try my hand at champagne risotto next – I think it could be a fantastic carb-loading treat for the day before a long race (or perhaps the celebration meal afterwards)

Thanks so much Waitrose, my champagne occasion was a success!

Waitrose Champagne Desserts 2

The offer runs until 31st January – what will you do with your bottle of champagne?
(If you are looking for some inspiration for champagne recipes, check out this collection on the Waitrose website )

Waitrose sent me a bottle of their Brut Champagne and £30 gift vouchers to buy my ingredients

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