Food Scoop: Truffles

On my first romantic Valentine’s Day, I received a necklace with a heart and a box of chocolates. It was very clichéd and entrenched in traditional gender roles. Still, I have to confess that I did love the chocolates. I loved the truffles so much, in fact, that I learned how to make them, and this year they are my Valentine’s treat to myself.

The creamy ganache insides of chocolate truffles are divine. They are also simple, involving only a few ingredients. Chocolate chips, cream and butter are the basis of this fantastic dessert. Full of fats, yes, but also absolutely decadent in flavor. This is not a Valentine’s pity party. This is a full-bodied, luscious chocolate experience.

I’ve gotten fancy with truffles before. With a lot of patience and a chocolate mold, I made ganache-filled chocolate dinosaurs as a gift. Because there were so many nooks and crannies in the mold, I ruined two out of three attempts. While I happily ate the fragmented chocolates, this was ultimately a very frustrating exercise. Bigger, simpler molds were easier, but painting molds with chocolate before filling them with truffle meant that the chocolate walls I tried to create were often unstable.
Thinner in some places, too thick in others, they still had a lot of problems. With the tinniest amount of filler and an even tinier amount of raspberry jam, it was still scrumptious even as they fell apart in my fingers.

The other way I’ve attempted to make truffles was to cool the truffle filling, roll it into balls and dip it into melted chocolate. Less decorative than the chocolate molds, this was more successful in containing the truffle filling. It was, however, equally intensive. I tried melting different types of chocolate in a double boiler, but was never completely satisfied. The biggest problem was that the filling inevitably melted just a little bit, so eventually the dipping chocolate would no longer harden.

Both processes were time consuming and incredibly messy. I’m talking about chocolate in my hair, all over my hands, and ruining my shirt messy. Messy to the point that chocolate was no longer delicious, and it was probably a waste to eat the failures because I wasn’t enjoying them. The amount of time it took to create the mess was also frustrating. It’s difficult to justify spending so much time on truffles that don’t look very pretty.

In the end, because I keep finding myself coming back to this recipe, I’ve decided to keep it as simple as possible. It’s quick and incredibly luscious in both flavor and texture. Really, the ganache part of the truffle doesn’t need to be fancy. It works as a filling, if you have the patience. What I do with it—besides stealing spoonfuls of it straight from the pan—is eat it over vanilla ice cream.
There’s something wonderful about how the ice cream freezes the chocolate, and the flavors of chocolate and vanilla combine. So I know how I will be spending this Valentine’s Day—enjoying a large amount of chocolate.

Chocolate Truffles

For the ganache:

1 cup cream

10 ounce or 1 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

3 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoon brandy or whiskey

For the shell:

1 package chocolate meant for chocolate molds

OR cocoa powder

OR chopped nuts such as pecans or walnuts

Note: The quality of the chocolate will affect the flavor. I prefer 60-80 percent cacao dark chocolate
myself, but these can be made with other chocolates. I am also partial to Ghirardelli, although there are many other fine chocolates out there. The only way to figure out which one suits you is to try them.

Heat the cream in a small pan until boiling. Remove it from the heat and immediately add the butter and chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Add the liqueur. When the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, let it cool. At this point, I always like to dish it over ice cream.

If you don’t want to bother with making truffles, you can stop here. Enjoy a delicious, smooth chocolate-y concoction in spoonfuls, with jam, or on ice cream. Enjoy it hot or cold. It will be wonderful.

If you do want the whole shebang, begin by making sure the mixture is cool enough. Roll ganache into balls about an inch in diameter. Once again, make sure they are cool. Your hands will melt the ganache and it will get messy.

Once you have a lot of ganache balls, you can continue by rolling them in cocoa powder or chopped nuts. This is probably the easiest method. If you prefer to dip the ganache balls in chocolate, heat the melting chocolate double-boiler style. I like to use a small, heat-proof bowl, which I place in an inch of boiling water. If you heat the chocolate in that bowl, it will prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom of a pan.

Be quick about dipping the ganache. If you aren’t, it will melt and then the melting chocolate loses
its ability to create a shell. The best method that I have found involves spearing the ganache and dipping. This is not to say that it is the best method available. I merely have not had a lot of success with things like spoons.

Set on wax paper to cool. I like to keep these in the refrigerator as that ensures a hardened coat of chocolate. Enjoy.

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