Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's truffle season

When the weather turns cold and rainy, truffle season starts in my kitchen. I'm never on top of things enough to get photos before they go off to friends and co-workers, but this time I had a few left over from a marathon truffle session this weekend.

Making truffles must be hard and tricky, right? I mean, they do cost a small fortune at boutique chocolatiers.

Surprisingly, no. I made my first truffles after reading a Mark Bittman column in the New York Times. He's the Minimalist, making everything easier while still quite delicious. His recipe is so ridiculously easy, requires only three ingredients, and can be thrown together in minutes (aside from some chilling time). The only part that requires my undivided attention is the heating of the cream (this is not a good time to check the laundry, make phone calls or check your email). Once the ganache cools and you're scooping it out, you can watch TV, talk to your spouse or daydream about ways to infuse the cream next time.

The recipe starts with the most ethereal of mixtures, the ganache. A ganache is an emulsion of chocolate and cream. Since the chocolate is the star of the truffle, I suggest using the best chocolate you can afford without raiding the kids' college funds. I use Valrhona Extra Bitter (61%). I used to use Trader Joe's cocoa powder, but I prefer Valrhona for its dark bitterness, perfect to counter the ganache. These are perfectly fine with lower cost cocoa.

The recipe (from the New York Times):

7/8 cup heavy cream

8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Unsweetened cocoa powder as needed.

1. Heat cream in a pot until it steams. Put chocolate in a bowl, pour hot cream on top, and stir until chocolate is melted and incorporated into cream.

2. Chill until solid all the way through, 1 to 2 hours. Using a chilled melon baller (I use a disher) or latex gloves to prevent the ganache from melting or sticking to your hands, scoop out about a tablespoonful and quickly roll it into a ball. Repeat, lining truffles on a plate or a baking sheet.

3. If truffles become too soft to handle, place them in refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes. Roll them in cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar or a mixture of sugar and ground cinnamon. Serve immediately or store, wrapped in plastic, in refrigerator for up to four days. (Note: I like to roll them in cocoa right before serving, if possible, because after a day or two in the refrigerator, the cocoa gets wet spots).

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups ganache, or 24 truffles.

Potential flavors? Endless. This weekend, we experimented with adding Ancho chili powder to the cream, and we made another batch with a liberal dose (I'd say about 3/4 cup) of Nutella. See, I was crushed that I had missed World Nutella Day, so I wanted to include it in my truffle making. We just mixed it into the ganache before chilling. I've been wanting to make chai truffles, cinnamon, espresso, smoked paprika, Meyer lemon, you name it.

Please try this. It's a wonderful gift for that special someone, especially when that someone is you!


AmyRuth said...

You are so right.....chocolate is the Star of the Show. Don't you love knowing the inside secrets to making truffles. Enjoy the OOoooohs and AAAaaaahs. They are the most fun. Thank you for sharing your secrets. Sure wishing I was sitting on a stool in your kitchen. Yummo
Amy Ruth

Gabe's Girl said...

I love chocolate and I love truffles. I am going to try this recipe soon.

Megan said...

Gale Gand makes her truffles with sour cream instead of regular cream. The result is outstanding!! I haven't made truffles in awhile - but they are easy and great!

Liz said...

Mmm, I can't think of many things better than freshly made truffles. Perfect for Valentine's Day!