Saturday, December 15, 2012

Homemade for the Holidays—Part 3, Chocolate Truffles

Sure, there are chocolate bon-bons—those chocolate candies with mystery ingredients inside. But hard-core chocolate aficionados prefer truffles. Chocolate inside, chocolate outside—all the more chocolate to enjoy. But don't settle for the standard-issue dessert truffles—go for the gusto by making your own—and then wrapping your delectable creations in food-safe tissue paper, placing in and an elegant box, and tying all with a festive ribbon. You have a perfect and elegant hostess gift or gift for a loved one that says, "Enjoy and be happy" with both heart and pleasure in the mix.

Homemade Truffles
Homemade truffles will not look as glamorous as ones you might find at a chocolatier, but they will be made with love—by you, and are therefore far more wonderful. Again, dress your creations up in elegant wrapping (Try Nashville Wraps online and Cost Plus World Market [to check store locations], and Michael's for wrappings for homemade food gifts) and deliver with pride.

Here's a quick and simple recipe—the results will astound both you and the object of your affections. Plus, there will be plenty left over to take to work and amaze everyone there. Enjoy! Recipe makes about five dozen 1" truffles.

1 pound bar of artisanal bittersweet baking chocolate. (Do not use chocolate chips—your truffles will not taste authentic. Search for gourmet bulk baking chocolate, like Ghirardelli or Callebout or Scharffenberger or Valrhona. Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy both have wonderful Belgian 72% cacao content bulk chocolate for $4 a pound--can't beat that!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons vanilla (You can also substitute liqueurs, such as Chambord, Limoncello, or my all-time favorite, Grand Marnier, but rest assured, your truffles will not taste alcoholy—the liquor blends in perfectly and acts just like vanilla, only with a twist. Your truffles will be safe for children to consume. Vanilla has as high an alcohol content as the equivalent amount of liqueurs, so your call. If using liqueur and you DO want to taste the alcohol, you can UP the content of liqueur to as much as 4 tablespoons--but no more than that or it will make your ganache flabby.)

Shredded unsweetened coconut or chopped, unsalted nuts to roll truffles in. I recommend pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts. Our family favorite is unsweetened coconut, which you can find at Indian stores or in gourmet or health food stores such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. If you can find only sweetened coconut, well, it will still be delicious, but unsweetened is more sophisticated. If you use nuts, make sure to get unsalted.)

Half-fill a pot with water. Place a bowl (or another pot) over the boiling water (thus creating a double-boiler, if you don't have one). Melt the chocolates in the upper bowl, stirring to mix the chocolate (taste, if desired). When the chocolate is melted, add in the butter, vanilla (or liqueur) and mix thoroughly. Add in a dollop of heavy cream, stirring it in well before adding another dollop. When the cream is well–mixed, remove the chocolate, cover the bowl, and refrigerate it for several hours or until the mixture is firm enough to hold its shape (you may need to refrigerate overnight).

Spread out a sheet of parchment paper on the counter (or plastic wrap). Scoop up about a tablespoon of the chocolate and roll into a 1" ball, rolling between your hands to make a nice rounded shape (like making meatballs). Roll the truffle in a plate with the coconut or chopped nuts to coat the outside evenly. Place the coated truffle on the parchment paper. Continue in this way until all the chocolate is gone (be sure to sneak a few for taste-testing and quality assurance).

Ganache in makeshift double boiler
These simple truffles get such rave reviews, I’ve actually been offered money for them (one dollar each!). Have also made $43 selling them at our school's bake sale using around $10 worth of ingredients. The secrets are using the high-cacao content artisinal chocolate. That and the subtle coconut and the fancy liqueur make these truffles a to-die-for gift.


Homemade for the Holidays Series

Part 1: Pistachio Bark

Part 2: Curry Powder (Garam Masala)

Part 3: Chocolate Truffles 

Part 4: Peppermint Bark