My first foray into making truffles was for a Valentine’s gift for a former boyfriend many years ago. Using a recipe I found in Bon Appetit for a truffle that included espresso powder and Kahlua, I made a fairly decent batch—they weren’t the prettiest candies in the world, but they tasted good. A few weeks later one of my roommates was hastily married to her boyfriend so that she wouldn’t get kicked out of the country without a green card, post-September 11. (No worries, it was not a green card wedding a la Andie MacDowell and Gerard Depardieu–they were already engaged, the wedding just got pushed forward because her visa was running out and they feared she was going to get kicked out of the country and not be able to come back.) I repeated the truffle recipe for as a gift for her and her new husband – they were such a hit I was told I should make them professionally. Maybe I should have jumped on that before the current chocolate making craze started–der!
Since then I’ve made various kinds of truffles—a couple years ago I went through a holiday time inspired truffle-making binge. My annual “holiday treats made for the co-workers as an excuse to be creative” turned into a five-month endeavor. For some reason that year I was feeling particularly inspired. Maybe it was because I didn’t like my job. Maybe it was because I needed a creative outlet. Maybe it was due to both. All I know is that the day I woke up with the intention of making my yearly treats, I literally had not visions of sugar plums dancing in my head but visions of truffles dancing in my head. Dozens of different kinds of truffles with what might seem like crazy flavor combinations—rose water, lemongrass, pinot noir, curry, Guinness. No plain old chile and chocolate or nuts and chocolate or chocolate and Chambord combos for this girl! The ideas were spicy, boozy, off the beaten path, unexpected–sorta like moi!
Along the way on the truffle binge I found a really basic ganache recipe that has become my go-to base for any kind of truffle I make. I’m not sure where I found it (likely somewhere like epicurious), but it’s super easy and also does away with the hassle of using a double boiler, which I, for some reason, think is sort of a pain in the butt. Maybe because I don’t actually own a real double boiler like my mom had and I always have to use the “bowl over a boiling pan of water” method, which lets a lot of steam out and ends up putting your stirring hand in danger of a nasty burn—and who needs that? I also tend to use these heavy French glass mixing bowls that I got at Crate and Barrel years ago for all of my baking/mixing needs, which also makes double boiling difficult. They are heav-y! Not like a stainless steel bowl, which I learned from a chocolate class I took with truffle pioneer Alice Medrich, tend to be better for truffle making. (Oh, well…)
Anyway, the below is simple and easy and you only need chocolate, cream, butter and vanilla for the base. I don’t like getting too fancy with my chocolates, either. I prefer sticking with the ganache base and not coating truffles with some fancy, pretty, tempered covering. It’s supposed to look like a truffle! Which means it’s supposed to be rustic and resemble a dirty, stem-less, semi-mushy mushroom head!
A word about chocolate, too. Get the good stuff. No Nestle morsels, people! I often use Scharffen Berger or Guittard. Valrhona or Callebaut are also excellent bets. (Those first espresso and Kahlua truffles I made were made with Callebaut.) And I usually think the darker the better. I tend to use a bar or discs with at least 67 percent cacao—either that or something in the 70s. That also sometimes depends more on what flavor I’m adding – if I want the flavor of the chocolate and the add-in to be on the brighter side, I’ll go a bit leaner on cacao. I use Scharffen Berger 62 for my whiskey truffles, for example, because I feel like whiskey needs a brighter flavored chocolate that won’t mask the booze. I’ll use the darker for a red wine, port or more berry-flavored type of liqueur.
Without further ado…
Basic Chocolate Ganache Truffles
9-11 oz. good chocolate, cut into melt-able sized pieces
1 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Step 1: Place chocolate and butter in medium-sized mixing bowl.
1) Place chocolate and butter into a medium-sized glass or stainless steel bowl.
Step 2: Warm cream.
2) Warm cream to a low boil over medium-heat. Do not over boil or allow cream to burn.
Step 3: Pour cream over chocolate and butter.
Step 3: Stir until everything is melted.
3) Pour warm cream over chocolate mixture and stir until all chocolate is melted.
4) Stir in vanilla.
5) Chill for at least two hours, until ganache is thick, but still pliable enough to roll into balls.
Steps 6/7: Scoop, roll and coat!
6) Using a 1-in. diameter cookie dough scoop, scoop out chocolate and hand roll into balls.
7) Roll in cocoa to coat.
8) Keep chilled in freezer or refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.
If you want to add booze or other flavors to the recipe, add those at the same time as the vanilla—I happened to add a port wine/balsamic vinegar reduction to the batch pictured (1 cup port, 2-3 tbsp. balsamic reduced to ¼ cup). I suggest about 2-3 oz. when adding booze. You can also roll the truffles in things other than cocoa, like coconut or cacao nibs or powdered sugar. The problem with the powdered stuff is it starts to get a bit gummy in the fridge after a day or two, so sometimes you’ll need to recoat if these aren’t served right away.
I’ll let you come up with some fun flavors on your own—I can’t give away all my flavor combos—they’re top secret! 😉
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