Caucus Canceled, Confections Missed

Recipe for home-version of public meeting

City council’s regular Sunday caucus was canceled yesterday. Sunday caucus is a gathering of councilmembers every Sunday before council’s regular Monday meeting, and provides a chance for the public to hear councilmembers’ thoughts on the upcoming agenda items. It also provides an additional opportunity for the public to share their thoughts with councilmembers in a setting less formal than a public hearing or public commentary slots at council meetings. The Chronicle typically attends caucus and reports them in the Meeting Watch section.

The cancellation of caucus might have been connected to the President’s Day holiday – when there’s a Monday holiday, council’s Monday meeting slides to Tuesday. However, no specific reason was cited for the cancellation this week.

Among the topics that might have been discussed amongst councilmembers and the public at caucus were (i) the South Fifth Avenue underground parking garage, and (ii) a contract for design work for a piece of public art to be installed on the site of the new police-courts facility. Council will consider a notice of intent to issue up to $55 million in bonds for the parking structure. The price for the design work for the Herbert Dreiseitl storm water art installation is $72,000, which is about 10% of the cost of the completed project.

But the content of caucus conversation is, of course, hard to predict. Had caucus convened, it’s possible that the assembled parties might have discussed nothing more than the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K Run/Walk street closing. Chronicle readers are invited to imagine the conversations that might have taken place based on the Feb. 17 agenda.

Less difficult to predict is whether Ward 1 representative Sabra Briere would have brought homemade chocolates and passed them around. First, she will reliably appear at caucus, and second, she will bring chocolates that she has hand-crafted, and offer them around to her council colleagues as well as the public.

Here at The Chronicle we imagine that some regular attendees of caucus may have been disappointed to miss a bi-weekly dose of chocolate. If a future caucus is canceled, we feel that it’s important for readers to be able to create a caucus experience in the comfort of their own homes. We thus provide the link to city council’s agenda page, plus one of Briere’s recipes:

Lemon Truffles from the kitchen of Sabra Briere (makes about 8 dozen)

Ganache (the filling)

  • 10 ounces really good quality dark chocolate (I used a mix of semi-sweet and bitter-sweet Caillebaut plus some semi-sweet Scharffen Berger)
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • grated rind of one (organic, undyed) lemon
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice

Chop the chocolate very finely, so it will melt quickly when the hot cream is poured over it. I use a heavy chef’s knife; others use a food processor. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.

Grate the lemon rind (just the zest, not the white pith) and add it to the whipping cream; heat the cream to simmering, then pour it through a fine strainer over the chocolate, removing all the rind. Let stand for about 2 minutes, then stir the chocolate until it’s all melted. Add the lemon juice.

Cool the mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour (overnight works best) before forming into balls. I use a teaspoon measure for my truffles.


Drop the balls onto foil or parchment paper that has been dusted with cocoa; form into tidier balls completely coated with cocoa; let set. Coat again with cocoa if necessary; truffles must be dry to the touch.

At this point, truffles can be rolled in grated dark chocolate or coated with tempered chocolate. I temper chocolate, which is time consuming and not perfect, but worth doing.

I use another 24 ounces of dark chocolate (semi-sweet & bitter-sweet), heat and cool it until it reaches tempered stage, and then dip each truffle.


  1. By Leah Gunn
    February 16, 2009 at 11:10 am | permalink

    Yummy! And I bet each chocolate is about 1000 calories. Thank you, Sabra.

  2. By Marvin Face
    February 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm | permalink

    ugh…Caillebaut and Scharffen Berger? Pass. Wake me when she gets serious.

  3. February 19, 2009 at 11:58 am | permalink

    My Council colleague, Christopher Taylor, alerted me to Mr. (?) Face’s unhappiness with my choice of chocolate. I have some lemon truffles left, and will bring them to the next Caucus. Anyone who is curious about the flavor is welcome, just to sample the candy.

    Of course, chocolate choices are subjective, and anyone who makes chocolate following this recipe is free to adapt it — although I do recommend really good quality couverture chocolate (, not chocolate bar chocolate that you purchase in the store. Most bar chocolate for eating has flavors and stabilizers added to it that make it difficult to use in candy making.

    In the US, couverture chocolate is difficult to find. Callebaut is one of the few that is readily available. Sharffen Berger is also good, and offers more complex, subtle notes. I purchase big (5 kilo) blocks of Callebaut chocolate at By The Pound. I went to the Callebaut factory in Calgary just to inhale.

  4. By Marvin Face
    February 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm | permalink

    What I mean Ms. (?) Briere, is that it is fine to use mass-marketed chocolate like Hersheys-owned Sharffen Berger or the mega corporation of Barry-Callebaut. Its readily available and most people will not be able to taste the difference anyway. I do not believe at all that couverture is difficult to find in the US. Difficult to find at Kroger? Yes.

    I’d rather use Guittard or even DeVries or Amano. Wafers are the only way to go, too.

  5. February 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm | permalink

    By The Pound is a good source for bulk cocoa too, just in case that matters to anyone.