Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, December 6, 2011; Chocolate Truffles

No Dog or Pig Needed

Yes the chocolate truffle is named after the truffle fungus and they are often priced nearly as high as their namesake but you don't need a well trained animal to sniff them out.  The deliciously rich and smooth confection was created in France in the late 1800's and gained wider popularity when a version was introduced in Britain in the early 1900's. The British version is still being made from the original recipe and is still sold today. The American version of the confection which resembles the pointed half of an egg was developed by San Francisco chocolatier Joseph Schmidt in the 1980's. The are now three types of chocolate truffles, European, Swiss and American. 

The price of commercially produced chocolate truffles is most likely because of the quality of the ingredients used or the exclusivity of the manufacturer. It is not because of any great difficulty in making them. The simplest version and the one I am going to give you today is the Swiss version. It is basically a hard ganache containing chocolate and heavy cream. The ratio of chocolate to cream is approximately 2:1. The cream is just brought to a boil and then poured over the chopped chocolate and allowed to sit for about a minute to soften the chocolate. It is then whisked to a creamy consistency and allowed to cool until firm. The ganache is then scooped out in equal portions and formed into balls. The balls can be dipped in tempered chocolate, cocoa powder or finely chopped nuts. That is the basic recipe.

Now if you want something more special you can add to the ganache mixture. Maybe you want to add and additional flavor like mint. or raspberry? All you need to do is add a little extract to the ganache mixture while whisking the chocolate and cream. You can also stir chopped nuts or candies into the mixture to give it more texture. To cover the truffles you can use tempered chocolate if you are comfortable tempering chocolate. You can also buy a higher quality coating chocolate, but I prefer the tempered chocolate as the coating chocolate has wax in it. Truffles can be rolled directly in cocoa or nuts or they can be dipped in melted chocolate and then in the cocoa or nuts to give them a nice snap when you bite into them.

Chocolate truffles make a perfect holiday gift. They are delicious and beautiful and are easily packaged in pretty holiday wrapping.  Don't be daunted by these wonderful treats. Have some fun and experiment with them. Here is a simple recipe for them:

1 lb. dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream, scalded
cocoa powder

Pour scalded cream over chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Stir until smooth and chill. Form into balls and roll in cocoa powder.

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