Monday, February 15th, 2010
I had not intended on making 240 truffles last week – If these were gourmet mall chocolates selling for two fifty apiece, we are talking about six hundred dollars worth of truffles! Fortunately, even these of the ritzy homemade variety, were only pennies on the retail dollar.
S., my ever persuasive friend, who talked me into participating in Smithfield’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate Lover’s event where individuals and businesses prepare chocolate specialties for sampling to raise money for the American Cancer Society. As it turns out, I actually placed in the amateur category with the lavender truffles (I feel like I’m in grade school all over again receiving BIG shiny gold stars)!
I had never considered making homemade truffles before this past holiday season when I read about this incredible intensely chocolate, truffle recipe. Normally, I would leave this type of confection making to the professionals, but I had just ordered a large quantity of Valrhona chocolate and cocoa, and I couldn’t resist the idea of what special, petite, and spectacular gifts these would make for friends and family.
This time around, I decided to play with the recipe a bit. After all, I was making four batches. FOUR. Yes, four batches of 60 truffles each. If that doesn’t inspire me to experiment, I’m not sure what would!
After reading about one of rachel eats favorite cardamom scented chocolates, I decided to lace a bit of this lovely aromatic spice, often used in Indian and Thai cuisine, into one batch. In a second batch, knowing that lavender and chocolate make an intoxicating combination, I settled on infusing it with beautiful, floral crushed lavender buds. The last two batches I completed as traditional triple dark chocolate, adding pinches of sea salt, and a bit of extra chocolate to the ganache and coating to suit my taste, and to make it easier to form the truffles.
Have you ever had cardamom and chocolate together? Lavender and chocolate? If not, it is recommended that you try them. If so, then you know what I am talking about. Some things are simply meant to go together – like spaghetti and meatballs, like pancakes and maple syrup, like dark chocolate and me, like cardamom and chocolate, and lavender and chocolate.
Since truffles are no more than ganache (chocolate and cream and perhaps some flavoring) dipped in chocolate, and in this case, dunked a third time in cocoa, it is essential that your ingredients be of the creme de la creme variety. After all, even using the finest chocolate, cocoa, spices, and cream available on the market, you will still be able to make home made truffles at a tiny fraction of the professional retail price. And I will not gloss over the process, it’s not that’s it’s difficult, but it does require some patience, and it makes a beautiful mess, so, if you are to go to such efforts, it is worth purchasing, even ordering, very special chocolate. My recommendations are below with links for where I have ordered successfully online. However, do not be afraid to try the recipe with a dark Ghirardelli or Green & Black chocolate available in many grocery stores. With all the adaptations, I am quite certain Robert Linxe would no longer claim this as a version of his recipe, however, these are some spectacular truffles and I appreciate both Deb and Linxe’s inspiration – not to mention the fact that the original recipe is fantastic.
14 ounces of the best bittersweet chocolate you can afford and access, shaved, in small pieces, or finely chopped (55-60% cocoa content, I used Valrhona “Les Perles” 55%, ordered from here as well as some 60% Ghirardelli when I ran out of Valrhona)
2/3 cup organic heavy cream (I believe organic tastes better, and makes a better truffle, I used Horizon)
Cocoa powder for dusting (Valrhona is recommended and this is what I thought I had pulled out of my pantry, but as it turns out, I used Pernigotti, also very nice, ordered from here)
couple of pinches of fine sea salt (I used fleur de sel)
generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (for cardamom truffles only)
2 teaspoons of whole lavender buds, crushed fine using a mini chopper (for lavender truffles only)
Measure out 9 ounces of the chocolate and place in a medium heat resistant bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt, and if you are going to flavor the truffles, add either the lavender or cardamom in with the bowl of chocolate. Bring the cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan (apparently Linxe boils his cream three times, believing this increases the shelf life of the ganache – your choice on this step) and then pour hot cream over the 9 ounces of chocolate and flavorings. Stir gently and patiently until cream and chocolate come together into a silky soft ganache. Allow the ganache to either sit at room temperature to thicken (at least an hour) or place in the fridge for about 30 minutes (my impatient method).
Now you have two choices. I’ve tried both, both were messy, but I am a bit messy, so this should not be a good measure for your experience. You may either place ganache several spoonfuls at a time into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8 inch tip and pipe out pretty mounded, rosette shaped truffles (method I used over Christmas), or you may use a mellon baller, or other spoon to scoop out rounded mounds and then roll them between your hands to smooth out (method I used this time). Both work. Pick your desired method and use all of the ganache to create about 3/4-1 inch mounds/balls.
When ganache balls are fully set, add just a pinch of sea salt to the last 5 ounces of chocolate and slowly melt over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments, checking and stirring each time. At this point, you have a choice to use latex gloves, smearing a bit of melted chocolate on your gloved hand, and then gently rolling each truffle one at a time in a smear of chocolate, and directly placing in a bowl of cocoa for coating. You may do this. It works. I did it at Christmas. This is the key to having a thin crispy shell. This time around, however, I made sure my melted chocolate was not too hot, and I dunked about three truffles at a time in the bowl of chocolate, using my hands to be sure they were evenly coated, shaking off excess chocolate, and then placing on parchment (or wax) paper to harden before coating in cocoa. This method produces a thicker chocolate coating with a bit of puddled chocolate around each truffle. I found that the cocoa coating is quite dense when the truffle is dunked directly following the wet chocolate dipping, so this time I allowed the outer chocolate to almost harden before dunking in a bowl of cocoa powder and using a fork (or cocoa dusted fingers!) to roll them around and fish them out.
You are done! Place completely cool truffles in an air tight container in the fridge to set up for several hours, and store in the fridge until ready to eat. I prefer the truffles at room temperature, but they may be eaten cold. If you make these and experiment with different flavors, please let me know!