Tuesday, June 13, 2006

truffles, the ultimate chocolate experience

I loves me some truffles. They are about as good as chocolate gets. Since my truffle operation is closed down for the summer months, I thought it might be fun to go through the step by step process. I'm working off the top of my head here, having never really done this before, but I promise if you bear with me you will have the ultimate chocolate experience.

First though, some background on the materials. You want the best chocolate you can find (I'm not even talking about milk chocolate or that white shit I'm talking semi or bittersweet). My current favorite base chocolate to use is from Trader Joe's, their 70% cocoa mass pound plus bars. It rocks. If you can't find that, or have another, better favorite go with it. Ghiradhelli is quite good, although for the finest expression of the chocolate maker's art you should expect to be dealing with an import from the Belgians or the Swiss. On the butter, if you can find a euro style butter get it. It's worth the expense. Something like a truffle is not only about taste, it's about feel, you want it to feel right in the mouth, along with melting instantly. For the cream, a manufacturing cream is the ticket. 40% butterfat babies! Don't be shy. Go with it. Call a dairy outlet, pester the guys at your local market, be relentless and find the stuff. You'll thank me when it's over, I promise.

Now to the process. Take two and a half pounds of the chocolate and bust it up good. If you use the pound plus bars the sections squares will do nicely. Then, over a medium flame heat 1 quart cream and a stick and a half of unsalted butter. This is important. Don't boil the cream. Take it right to the edge of boiling. But don't boil. Little tiny foaming stuff is alright if you stop it there, but no matter what, don't boil the cream. The reason for this is to achieve a much creamier and less fudgy consistency in the ganache (that's french for what we are making right now). So, you have your cream on the edge of a boil, the butter is melted, dump it over the busted up chocolate and wait two minutes. Then using what ever you prefer (I use a big ass whisk because I'm working with a batch at least 4 times this size) stir, gently. Stir until it is glossy and smooth. You want all the chocolate melted into the cream and butter, and you want a nice tight liason.

Pour the warm ganache into a disposable roasting pan lined with plastic wrap (I like press and seal best). Now it's time to choose your flavoring. Frozen raspberries are nice, if you chop them up fine while they're frozen use about 1/2 cup. Just stir it into the ganache. To flavor with a liqueuer use 1/3 cup. My favorites are Calvados (I know it's a brandy not a liqueur but the apple flavor jumps right out of the chocolate), Starbuck's Coffee Liqueur (beats the hell out of Kahlua or Tia Maria and they ain't bad), Frangelico, Chambord (heaven), Amaretto,, are all proven winners. You can use fresh or frozen fruit but the liqueurs bring the most flavor through. I had my chemist friend Jim explain it to me but it was making my head hurt to listen and I quit.

Cover closely (any ganache exposed to air will skin up and that's gross). Refrigerate overnight.
The next day roll the ganache into balls. I roll mine to come out with about 8 finished truffles to the pound. Cover the balls closely again and if you're going to dip right away put them into the freezer to set them firmly. Otherwise, chill them for at least 3 hours.

Now you have some choices. The first and most cruicial is dip or not? Dipping, using fine chocolate requires that you master the art and magic of tempering chocolate. It has to do with aligning the fats and ending up with a tight shiny shell without a lot of ugly light brown blooming. To temper without a tempering machine you have two options. You can use the microwave by putting chunked chocolate in for 10 seconds at a time, taking it out and stirring until it is almost smooth, then adding a big chunk of tempered chocolate. This way you can dip 4 or 5 truffles at a crack before you have to start all over again. If you have an instant read thermometer and a good heating pad (make friends with somebody who has a bad back) you can slowly melt the chocolate without ever letting it get above 92 degrees. Again, you can then dip 4 or 5 truffles before you have to add more chocolate and bring it back up to 92. To decorate your truffles use what ever you want. I use colored compound stuff (I will never call it chocolate) from cake decorating places, dyed sugars, chopped nuts, what ever pleases you tickles me plum to death. Cool down slowly. I make my truffles on the large end of the scale. Hell, I'm making them and if I want them to come out around 8 to the pound then good for me.
I protect them by putting them into paper 2oz souffle cups. I then refrigerate them until about 2 hours before I plan to serve them.

If you are a lazy git and don't want to bother with the hassles of temper and dipping you can do this. In the mircowave melt the chocolate in 20 second high end runs. Stirring between sessions until it is smooth and glossy. Then dip or roll the ganache balls in the melted chocolate, tap off or shake the excess away and wait about a minute. Once the chocolate starts to firm up again but before it hardens roll the truffle in cocoa, finely chopped nuts, powdered sugar and stuff like that. They'll never know what a slacker you really are when you serve them this way.

Another thing to remember about ganache. It is a mother sauce. There are many other recipes that utilize it. Once made ganache will keep refrigerated for a week. frozen for a month. If you put a couple tablespoons of ganache into hot milk and drink it you will want to beat the crap out of the next person who offers you cocoa from a powder. Try it. Truffles can change your life. Another reason to not go to Iraq is they have to do evil things to chocolate to get it to the troops. Screw that heresy. Bring them home today. Feed them the real stuff.

Update: I forgot to mention that this recipe makes around 4 dozen finished truffles. That they are slightly different size and shape is all part of the hand made charm.


Blogger litbrit said...

I think I just gained five pounds reading this post.


9:32 AM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Sister said...

Welcome to the blogopshere!

And OMG--I'm so making those! :-)

9:43 AM  
Blogger SB Gypsy said...

choc... chocolate! yes! these will be made in my kitchen this weekend! Hubby will worship me as a goddess! My skin will be soft and creamy (claims of a chocolate producer) I will gain weight that will take many hours of hard work to shed.

thank you thank you!

7:59 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i stand at the ready for all counsel and support in your endeavors. chocolate is tricky, fickle stuff, but it's so damned good!

9:26 AM  

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