Tradition tells us to leave Santa a tall glass of milk with a heaping plate of cookies. While there is nothing wrong with cookies I just have to wonder if maybe Santa is bored. I can’t help but think that he rolls his eyes while reluctantly reaching for yet another chocolate chip cookie leaving only a few crumbs so as not to appear ungrateful.
This year I recommend pulling Santa out of his cookie rut. Why not try leaving a plate of homemade chocolate truffles instead? I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to find a little something extra under the tree.
While you are making truffles for the big man go ahead and make extras because they make a wonderful little gift this time of year.
The key to a perfect homemade truffle is first and foremost to use good chocolate. The research phase for finding the perfect chocolate to transform into truffles can be grueling but I urge you to try as much chocolate as it takes to find the one that you love.
If money was no object I would most always choose 70% Guanaja Feves Valrhona. When I want a great truffle but don’t want to go into debt making them I stand by Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate and if I get them in chip form it saves me the step of chopping up the chocolate. Purists may disagree but these chocolates are the best and only defense I will ever need.
The next key to creating the perfect truffle is the ganache. Ganache is simply chocolate and cream but the taste is anything but simple. When made correctly you have an intensely flavored filling that harnesses all those rich bitter and lightly sweet flavors of the chocolate and turns it into a perfectly smooth mixture that can be used for anything from frosting to hot chocolate base.
I tend to have a ganache supply in the fridge at all times for those sudden chocolate urges. A tablespoon or two added to hot milk makes a delightful hot chocolate or mocha if espresso is also a factor. Add a touch of warm milk to the ganache and you have a decadent ice cream topping. Whip it up to make a rich frosting or cake filling.
You could take simply roll your balls of ganache into cocoa powder and be done with them but I really recommend the extra step of dipping them in melted chocolate. It gives a nice textural difference as there is a thin shell of firm chocolate to conquer before your teeth sink in to the comfort of an impossibly smooth interior. Plus if you skip that step you’d miss the opportunity to be covered in chocolate.
Happy candy making!
Dark Chocolate Truffles
8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
optional ingredients – 1 tablespoon liquor, mint leaves, vanilla extract or bean, orange zest, coffee beans, spice such as cinnamon and cayenne.
Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Watch closely as cream has a nasty habit of boiling over. If you are using fresh herbs, vanilla beans, spices or zest add them to the cream so they have a chance to steep.
Pour simmering cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute. Stir chocolate and cream together until perfectly smooth. Stir in the salt.
Let sit until cool. When the ganache is the consistency of a frosting you can pipe out the truffles on a parchment lined sheet tray. They should be about the size of Hershey kisses. Then refrigerate until firm. With your hands roll the tear drop shaped mounds into balls then proceed onto dipping.
Or simply chill the ganache then (chocolate and cream mixture) scoop teaspoon size mounds onto a parchment lined tray then roll into balls. Roll quickly as it tends to melt from the heat of your hands. Refrigerate until firm.
White Chocolate Peppermint Ganache
1 pound white chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbl butter, soft
1-2 drops Peppermint extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
In a small saucepan bring the cream to a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute. Stir until completely blended. Add the softened butter. Stir in salt and peppermint extract.
Proceed as you would with the dark chocolate ganache.
Finishing the Truffles
In a small bowl carefully melt 8 oz of dark chocolate. To melt chocolate in a microwave heat for 30 seconds then remove and stir. Do this until most of the chocolate is melted. The residiual heat will melt any leftover chocolate pieces and ensure that your chocolate is not to hot.
In another bowl place 1 cup of cocoa powder or whatever else you choose to roll the chocolates in (crushed up candy canes, chopped nuts, sprinkles, etc.)
Carefully dip the ganache balls in the melted chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off before rolling around in the cocoa powder.
Set on a parchment lined baking sheet to set up.
When completely cool dust off excess cocoa powder.
Truffles are best consumed the week they are made but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.