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Truffles!

(recipe by Kay Hartman, photos and commentary by Charlotte Blackmer)

I've been making these recipes for so long I haven't even felt the need to record it here so I can refer to it. I got the dipped truffle recipe from my friend Kay Hartman of Los Angeles via rec.food.cooking.

Kay's Truffles

The truffles are a multi-day process; not much work is required every day but things do need to chill. It sounds more elaborate than it really is since I have tried to explain all the tips and tricks.

It makes a lot (4-6 dozen, depending on your scooping technique) but you can easily halve the recipe to try. These freeze wonderfully in an airtight bag or container. I try to keep some around for parties. It's amazing how popular someone bringing homemade truffles can be.

Notes on ingredients and equipment:

I buy Belgian bittersweet chocolate in 500 gram (1.1 lb) bars so the chocolate quantities are given in grams. I buy either Callebaut or Trader Joe's "Pound Plus" (at $4 for 500g, this is a deal). They are scored for easy division.

Different liqueurs have different effects - some (e.g. Bailey's) will make the mixture softer than others and less should be used. I usually use Kahlua or Grand Marnier.

Any fruits should be pureed and seeded if necessary with a food mill or through a fine strainer. Nuts are tasty but should be processed (usually after toasting) fine. I like raspberry truffles and don't mind if the odd seed gets through but all-seeds would be annoying. (For one recipe you should use one 6 oz basket and puree it in the food processor for at least 90 seconds before straining.) You could also try a mix of fruits/nut paste with liqueur. Just try to keep the total volume about the same.

I also use flavoring extracts, as sold in baking specialist shops (and at very good groceries). They are very highly concentrated so one teaspoon per recipe is usually enough. One teaspoon (no more!) of Boyajian Lemon Oil makes *awesome* lemon truffles. (this is not the same as lemon extract sold in every baking aisle). I usually put a little more cream in the mix if I use extracts only.

I usually use Droste cocoa for rolling.

The only "specialty" equipment I use is a 1" cookie/gelato scoop from Williams-Sonoma (or, now that they've gone all lifestyle, King Arthur Flour)

Truffle Scoop

but you could use spoons to start. If you decide to do this regularly, though, the scoop is worth the price and can be used for cookies as well. Everything else I use is standard kitchen equipment. I use table forks to dip (haven't figured out the dipping fork yet - hah). I do not temper my chocolate, although since I do a lot of heating/cooling down/reheating, it might end up tempered. There are machines you can buy if you really get into this.

Recipe: Truffles

For ganache centers:

  • 375 g first quality bittersweet chocolate (3/4 of a 500 g bar)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • One-fourth to one-half cup liqueur, fruit puree, or combination
  • OR: 1 teaspoon candy flavoring

For dipping:

  • Powdered sugar for dipping utensil
  • 625 g first quality bittersweet chocolate (there will be leftovers)
  • Cocoa or finely chopped nuts for rolling truffles in (optional)
  • Garnish (optional)

How to make them:

Step 1: Prepare the ganache

("ganache" is a chocolate/cream mixture)

The basic idea is to chop the chocolate fine, scald the cream, and mix the two together into a smooth mass. Then add the liqueur and mix till it's smooth again. After this is done, it needs to be covered and refrigerated till solid (2 hours to overnight).

I usually do this by chopping the chocolate roughly and placing it in my quart Pyrex measuring cup, then microwaving it for 2-3 minutes until it's very melted. (Chocolate retains heat, so I microwave it for two minutes, stir vigorously, and adjust the remaining time from there.) Then I heat the cream until it starts to bubble on the sides (2-3 minutes) and whisk it into the melted chocolate until it is well-mixed (smooth and glossy). Then I add the liqueur and whisk it in until everything is smooth and glossy again. Cover and refrigerate until set (this will be a couple of hours at least).

People with food processors often chop the chocolate roughly with their knives, process the chocolate fine in the food processor, and feed the hot cream in through the tube to mix it together (then add the liqueur, of course). You could also use a double boiler. But my way is fewer dishes since the Pyrex goes in the fridge without requiring a bowl transfer.

Step 2: Scoop the centers

Once the ganache is solid, you can scoop it into small balls (recommend no more than 1"). People differ on their preferred tool. Some use spoons to shape it. Some use melon ballers. I use a 1" cookie/gelato scoop from Williams-Sonoma that has "spring loaded" action. I use powdered sugar between "scoops" (in a bowl) to keep the mixture from sticking.

Truffle Scoop

Place the formed truffle centers on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet with edges and freeze them. A friend recommends freezing them with a toothpick in the center of each if you are planning to dip them. The centers should be in the freezer overnight but a couple of days longer is better (they solidify).

Truffle centers

I get about 4 1/2 dozen centers with my 1" scoop. I also highly recommend wearing an apron while you're scooping. Chocolate will get all over everything, in ways that you probably don't want.

Step 3: Dipping

This is the fussiest part of the process.

Chop the rest of the chocolate and melt it. I use my trusty Pyrex and the microwave again. Wait for it to cool down to approximately body temperature - you can help the process by melting some and then adding some unmelted chopped chocolate and stirring to see if the "retained heat" melts the rest. Much hotter than body temperature will "melt" the centers when they are dipped. Prepare another cookie sheet by lining it with waxed paper and don your apron.

When the chocolate reaches the right temperature - get busy! "How to dip" varies among cooks and you will have to pick your favorite way. I use two forks to dip (fish it out with one, scrape the extra chocolate off. Some people pour over racks. There are specialty tools available in cooking stores for dipping. And if you've used toothpicks you can just dunk the candy in ("touch up" the holes left after you remove the toothpick with a tiny dab of chocolate).

If you are planning to put some sort of garnish on the truffles - for instance, I like putting small pieces of candied lemon on the lemon truffles - you will need to work fast since it does solidify quickly. You can always "paint" a dab on top and then attach the garnish.

The chocolate will cool down dramatically. When it gets too thick to work with effectively, put the undipped centers back in the freezer and the dipped chocolates in the fridge. Then reheat the chocolate and let it cool down to the right temperature, and dip the rest. I can usually get 2.5-3 dozen in before I have to reheat the chocolate.

Refrigerate the truffles until the coating is set (this doesn't take long). After that you can roll them in cocoa if you like and/or place them in airtight containers for freezing.

There will be dipping chocolate left over. Use it for something else.

Step 3.5 (Optional): Rolling the Truffles

Cocoa is the easiest for beginners. The neatest, least hassle way to do it is to place some truffles in a Ziploc baggie, add a tablespoon or so of cocoa, and then close the baggie and gently shake until they are covered. Repeat until all are coated. Be sure to wear an apron, as cocoa is even worse than melted chocolate for getting everywhere.