Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

What’s better than a hand-crafted food gift for your sweetheart? How about a handcrafted chocolate gift? Truffles are easy to make and impressive to give.

And even better to share.

The heart of a chocolate truffle is ganache, which sounds impressive until you find out that it’s just chocolate and cream.

Since truffles have so few ingredients, use a good-quality chocolate. If you use a bar chocolate, a serrated knife is best for cutting it into small pieces.

Chocolate Truffles
Makes approx. 40 truffles, 1/2 ounce each

For the filling:
8 oz. (by weight) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or bar chocolate, chopped fine
8 oz. heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the coating:
6 oz. (by weight) chocolate, chopped fine
(optional) chopped nuts, cookie crumbs or shredded coconut

Put 8 oz. of the chocolate into a heat resistant bowl.Heat the cream just to below a simmer, then take it off the heat. Add the cream to the waiting chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add vanilla, and stir until combined.

Let the chocolate and cream mixture come to room temperature, then cover it and put into the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

When the ganache is thoroughly chilled, it will resemble a very thick frosting. Use a melon baller or small scoop to make small balls of the chocolate and put them onto a cookie sheet, keeping them separated.If you don’t have a suitable scoop, portion out the ganache with a spoon and roll the ganache into balls with your hands. This can get messy if your hands are warm. Latex gloves or dipping your hands in cold water can help.

Put the ganache balls into the refrigerator to firm up again while you melt the chocolate for the coating.Put the 6 oz. of chocolate into a microwave safe bowl, and melt it, stopping every five to 10 seconds to stir the chocolate. You want it barely melted, not hot, so watch it carefully. You can also melt it in a bowl set on top of a bowl of simmering water.

When the coating chocolate has melted, take the ganache balls out of the refrigerator and use two forks to roll the balls, one at a time, into the chocolate, coating them completely.If the coating chocolate gets too thick, warm it again, gently. The warmer the chocolate, the thinner the coating will be, but if it’s too warm you run the risk that you’ll melt the truffles. If it’s too thick, it will be difficult to work with.

As you coat each one, put the truffles onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. If you want to roll some truffles in chopped nuts or other coatings, do so right after coating them, before the chocolate hardens.After the chocolate hardens, you can store your finished truffles at room temperature for several weeks in an airtight container, using waxed paper or parchment between layers.

Tip #1: The ratio of chocolate to cream determines how hard the finished ganache will be. If you prefer a harder ganache, use more chocolate or less cream.

Tip #2: Instead of vanilla, you can use other flavorings such as rum, raspberry, almond or mint. Instant espresso added to the warm cream will intensify the chocolate flavor.

Tip #3: For presentation, the truffles look nice in individual mini-muffin papers, or you can find foil candy cups at craft stores or other places where candymaking supplies are sold.