Any celebration is incomplete without chocolate. I know very few people who dislike chocolate and am glad for those few cos it gives us chocolate lovers more to enjoy :) In India, Cadbury's fruit & nut was my absolute favorite chocolate bar and still continues to be. Kitkat, Crunch etc were picked up once in while but Cadbury's was always the most sought after. When I shop at the Indian stores here, they very sneakily have the little bars right next to the register and its tough to ignore the call of chocolate :)
My aunt (mom's sister) once gave us homemade chocolate as a gift and it felt like pure magic to me. Chocolate. at home ?! It couldn't get any better, she'd stir in raisins and cashews at the very end before spreading it out on a greased plate replicating our beloved fruit & nut combo. For years after that the recipe was requested over and over again when we visited her place. My mom learned it from her so she could appease our cravings at home. Even to this day chocolate holds a special place for me and brings the same joy and warmth that it used too and that's magic of chocolate.
When I saw the recipe for chocolate truffles on one of the cooking shows a few years back I was surprised it was that easy! I couldn't believe I was paying 20-30$ for 6/10 pieces at the store when I could just as well make many more at home! Tricked yet again! I've been making them during Christmas for the last 3 years and it never fails to surprise & delight those I gift it too. Every year I experiment with different dried fruit to coat the truffle's. Last year my entire counter top and utensils were covered in chocolate because I tried my hand at tempering chocolate for the outer coating. The end result was good but I chose to keep my sanity this year and focused on the other things. When the chocolate is good you don't need to mess around with it.
With more and more people baking at home and preferring made-from-scratch homemade goodies, good quality chocolate it not hard to find. Specially this time of the year most specialty food stores sell them in bulk and I take advantage of that. All you need are two key ingredients - chocolate and heavy cream, so the quality of the end result depends heavily on the kind of chocolate you use. I prefer using bulk baking chocolate rather than chocolate chips. Chocolate chips also contain stabilizers and are not recommended for truffles in most recipes. I bought semi-sweet Callebaut blocks, Valhrona milk & dark chocolate chips and cocoa powder from Whole Foods this time. I like that they sell them in smaller quantities making them more affordable. I tend to use about 80% semi-sweet and 20% milk chocolate to balance out the sweetness in these truffles.
When chopping chocolate a serrated bread knife is your best friend. The sawing action of the serrated knife does a great job in creating smaller chunks with less elbow grease. Having the chunks more or less uniform and in a small size ensures that they melt evenly when hot cream is added to them. Heat cream over stove top just until you start seeing little bubbles appear around the edges.
Using a strainer to catch any skin formed, pour cream over chocolate pieces and let stand for a few minutes allowing the heat to disperse and begin melting the chocolate. Gently stir with a spatula incorporating as little air as possible as this allows for a smoother, richer ganache.
Initially as you fold in the cream it might look like you are headed for a disaster but keep at it and soon you will be rewarded with a glossy, shimmering decadent ganache. At this point you can use the ganache to (a) fill little pastry tartlets, (b) dunk shortbread cookies and allow to set or spoon over a cake (c) whip it up with a hand-held mixer to make a wonderfully rich & airy chocolate frosting or (d) cover in plastic wrap and chill to make truffles later. Decisions, Decisions!
Don't let your OCD scrape out every bit of chocolate from the spatula into the bowl. After all this hard-work you've earned yourself the right to lick it clean!
As the chocolate ganache cools off in the refrigerator to harden we've got lots of chopping to do. I used chopped toasted - pecans, almonds, pistachios & walnuts. For dried fruit we have - chopped cherries, cranberries and for the surprise element mixed pineapple and crystallized ginger. And lets not forget the classic - cocoa powder.
Take a scoop of ganache, roll it between your palms to shape it and it also softens the exterior a bit making it easy for the coatings to stick. Dunk them in the nuts or fruits and cover them with evenly all around, then lightly roll them between your palms to press in the nuts.
Chocolate TrufflesYield - approx 50, 1" ballsPrep Time - 1hrIngredients:
- 1 lb - Chocolate, (0.8lb semi-sweet, 0.2lb milk chocolate)
- 1 cup - Heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp - Instant Espresso powder
- tiny pinch of salt
- Optional flavorings - 2 Tbsp of flavored liqueur (Orange/Almond/Hazelnut/Raspberry); 1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder, Cayenne;
Toppings/Coatings - quantity depends on size of truffles & total no.of toppings used. You could start off with 1/2 cup and add more as needed.
- Nuts - Toasted, chopped Pistachios, Pecans, Almonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts
- Dried Fruit - Cranberries, Cherries, Pineapple, crystallized Ginger
- unsweetened Cocoa powder, powdered Sugar,
Notes: Last year I 'stuffed' the ganache with some of the drained, soaking fruit I had from the fruit cake, so you can definitely go that route and hide a treat inside the chocolate. Chocolate - I used Callebaut semi-sweet and Valrhona milk chocolate for these Storing - You can make the ganache and stash it in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap for a few days and scoop out truffles when needed. I've also refrigerated finished truffles in an airtight container and they keep well upto a week. They never usually last longer than that and so I do not know how long they can be stored :)
- Break down the chocolate into smaller chunks by chopping it and place in a large bowl. Heat cream on medium heat until it begins to bubble around the edges.
- Gently pour the hot cream over chocolate using a mesh strainer to catch any skin that forms on the cream. Add espresso powder and let the mixture stand for a few minutes.
- Using a silicone spatula gently fold in the cream incorporating as little air as possible into the now melting chocolate. Now is the time to add flavorings as well.
- Once you arrive at the glossy ganache stage, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and move it to the refrigerator to cool for as long as it takes to harden ~ 1-2 hrs.
- When ready, I use a small scoop (Size 100 - 3/8oz) or a teaspoon to get uniform truffles and shape them by gently pressing & rolling between your palms forming a ball. Roll them in our choice of toppings and roll again between your palms to help the nuts/fruit adhere to the chocolate. Arrange them on a non-stick baking sheet or wax-paper lined tray and allow to cool for 1-2hrs.
- Bring them to room temperature before serving.
|Homemade Truffles sampler bag|
When you serve it to friends & family I can assure you that it'll be followed by a moment of silence. They will want to focus on the magic unfolding in their mouth as the rich chocolate melts away. These are a chocolate lovers delight! The nuts and fruits offer a variation of texture and a counter balance to all the richness. But I guess I don't have to try to put the brilliance of these truffles in words, you need to try it for yourself. This is another fabulous gift that shows you care about the person receiving it.