Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 14: Truffles

Okay, so it's Valentine's Day. There must be chocolate. Great chocolate. Decadent, rich, addictive chocolate.

My mother has made truffles before but it always seemed like a lot of work to me. But oh man, the results are really something. What the hell, I figure. I'm going to give it a try.

There are evidently some fairly complicated rules when it comes to making truffles, which is surprising to me, because it's chocolate and liquor and cream, so how could it be complicated? Well, it's chemistry, which I was never that great at or that interested in, but I'm definitely interested in chocolate, so I'm willing. This recipe gives a thorough but not overly-egghead explanation of the highly mysterious reactions between the cream and the chocolate and heat and cold and fat, which is why I chose it.

This is a variation on JacqueTorres' recipe, which is fancy. He dips his chocolate in chocolate, which is, you know, really cool, but I think it's unnecessary.

This makes 180 truffles. Don't eat them all yourself. Share them with someone who will appreciate them. You could also send some to me.

Chocolate Truffles

For the ganache:
Generous 2 cups heavy cream
21 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Generous 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Stoli Razberi vodka (optional)

To garnish the truffles:
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
About 2 cups (8 ounces; 230 grams) toasted nuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Heat the heavy cream in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Make sure that you have chopped the chocolate as finely as possible to allow it to melt quickly and easily. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size mixing bowl. Make a ganache by pouring about half of the hot cream over the chocolate and letting it sit for 30 seconds to melt the chocolate. Then slowly whisk until smooth and homogenous. Do not add all of the hot cream to the cold chocolate at once; the shock of the temperature extremes would cause the fat in the chocolate to separate. As the chocolate melts, you will see some elasticity if there is no fat separation. This means the chocolate still has an emulsion; the fat molecules are still holding together. If the ganache separates, it loses its elasticity, collapses, and becomes very liquid.

Add the remaining cream gradually and mix until all of the hot cream is incorporated and the ganache is smooth and homogenous.

If the ganache separates, it is very easy to fix. Simply add a small amount of cold cream and whisk well. This will bring the ganache back together. The ganache should be thick, shiny, and smooth. Add the desired flavoring and mix until fully incorporated. Pour the ganache onto a plastic wrap-covered baking sheet and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Cover the ganache with plastic wrap and allow it to cool for at least 4 hours at room temperature. As it cools, it will thicken and set.When the ganache has cooled to the consistency of toothpaste, scrape it into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Do not stir the ganache when you do this. Incorporating air by stirring will cause the ganache to harden. Pipe 1-inch-diameter mounds spaced 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. To pipe the mounds, hold the pastry bag at a slight angle and allow the tip to touch the parchment as you begin to pipe. Once you have formed the mound, stop squeezing and lift the tip straight up, leaving a small tail on the top of each mound. You can also use a spoon and drop small mounds of ganache onto the baking sheet. Let the truffles harden at room temperature for a couple of hours (or in the refrigerator for 15 minutes), until they are hard enough to roll with your hands.

When I roll the truffles, I usually wear surgical gloves. The gloves are not mandatory but if you do not use them, be sure your hands are very clean. To roll the mound into a ball, place a truffle between both palms, squeeze slightly, and roll between your hands. The truffles will look nicer if they are as round as possible. When all the truffles are rolled into balls, they are ready to be coated.

Roll the dipped truffle in the desired garnish. Place the truffles on a clean parchment paper-covered baking sheet and allow them to set, about 5 minutes.The truffles will keep for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, when stored in an airtight container.

Note: If you decide to roll the truffles by hand, it is important to make sure your hands are cold. A good trick is to dip your hands in ice water for a few seconds and then dry them. Do this immediately before rolling the truffles. If your hands are too warm and the truffles begin to melt while you are rolling them, redip your hands in the ice water, dry them, and proceed.

No comments: