Lest you thought I’d leave my musings of Valentine’s Day to just pasta fagioli, I too have a romantic heart. And a love. A great love. A burning, passionate, undying love that I’ve carried pretty much since I left the womb. It’s chocolate. I always come back to my first love, in times of joy, in times of heartbreak, in times when it’s, well, there. I know I’m not alone in this love, but that’s ok. I’m willing to have an open relationship.
Making your own chocolate truffles isn’t as crazy or arduous as you may have thought, especially considering the price some shops charge for them. The basic recipe or template is simple ganache – just cream, chocolate, a little butter and you are pretty much good to go. But, when you start to play around a little, well there’s no telling what magical seductive powers you can bring to them…especially if you make them with a partner 😉
Makes a dozen or so truffles, depending upon how generous you are
- 6 oz. chocolate – I like a 5oz. bittersweet to 1 oz. milk mix, but you can use all semisweet, bittersweet or milk depending on your preferences. Using a block or bar is better than chips for this.
- 1/3-cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp butter
- Tiny pinch of salt
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Making the Ganache
Chop the chocolate and melt* either in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between, or over a double boiler.
(*Some truffle recipes call for pouring the hot cream over the chopped chocolate to melt. Since this is a small batch, I find sometimes it doesn’t do the trick and you wind up with pieces of chocolate in the final ganache. It still tastes fine, but defeats the purpose of the smooth, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth character of truffles.)
2. Forming the Truffles:
The set up:
- A shallow bowl for the cocoa powder
- A scooper of some sort (I like to use the smaller end of a melon baller)
- A mug of hot tap water to dip scooper between truffles
- A large plate or pan lined with cling wrap or wax paper to put the finished truffles on and store the fridge.
Dip the scoop into the hot water first, then scoop out a ball of ganache. Place the lump of chocolate in your hands (very clean hands) and roll around to a ball. These don’t have to be perfect. After all, truffles are called that because they look like the mushroomy ones.
Drop the formed truffle into the bowl of cocoa. Form another 3 or 4 and drop into cocoa. Carefully shake the bowl back and forth (or you could roll these guys around using a fork or your hands) so each truffle is coated. Place on the pan. Repeat with the remainder of the ganache. Once all your little babies are formed and blanketed in cocoa, cover the pan and place in the fridge to firm up again.
Truffles taste best if they aren’t cold, so let them warm up a little before serving. Calories: basic recipe is approximately 105 calories per truffle if you make a dozen. Calories will vary depending upon yield and variations.
3. The Variations
This is when the imagination can run wild, as long as you keep it subtle. This isn’t a Dagwood sandwich; it’s a tasty one-bite morsel. Too many add-ins or ons and you lose the star of the show, the chocolate.
Here’s some of the things I found make for an interesting bite. I’ve separated them into three categories: Flavoring the cream, flavoring the ganache, and coatings & sprinklings.
Flavoring the cream:
The basic technique is to bring the cream up to heat with something in it that will steep and infuse its flavor. Once the cream is hot, turn off heat, cover and let sit for 15-30 minutes, depending on the strength of flavor you like. Then you strain the infused cream into the melted chocolate and go from there. A few of my favorites are:
- 1 tsp ground espresso or coffee
- 1 tsp earl gray tea
- 2 crushed cinnamon sticks
- 1 crushed cinnamon stick, two crushed cardamom pods, 2 crushed whole cloves (Chai truffles)
- Orange peel (making sure it’s just the peel and not the white pith)
Flavoring the ganache:
These you would add into the melted ganache when you add the cream.
- 2 TBSP Tawny Port and ¼ cup dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
- 2 TBSP Cointreau
- ¼ tsp ground ancho chili pepper (or your favorite chili pepper)
Coatings & Sprinklings:
First you dip in 4 oz. of melted chocolate (semi, bitter or milk), then sprinkle or roll away in:
- Chopped salted pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts
- Toasted shredded coconut
- Chopped candied orange peel
- Flaky sea salt like Maldon or fleur de sel
I found the best way to dip is to drop the truffle in the melted chocolate, roll around with a fork, then lift out and gently tap the fork on the rim of the bowl so excess chocolate drips off between the tines. Place dipped truffles on a clean wrap covered plate or pan. You can now sprinkle any of the toppings above or others you come up with on the wet chocolate. If you are using the flaky sea salt, a flake or two is all you need.
If you want to roll instead of sprinkle, let the truffles sit for about 5 minutes and then roll in the chopped nuts or coconut. Place truffles back in fridge, covered, until the chocolate has set.
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