I’m in the mood to think about things other than work, so here’s a recipe for chocolate truffles that anyone with reasonable culinary skills can make. For this I consulted my friend and colleague Marianne Reiner who’s an incredible cook and also French (double truffle cred), and a friend who went to cooking school in France (lots of truffle cred as well!), so these will definitely not disappoint you.
The challenge: lots of classic French truffle recipes will rapidly melt at room temperature. So, if you’re going to eat them right out of the chocolatier’s cold case, great. But if you want to give them as gifts, they could be a mushy mess by the time the person gets them home. This method is a little heavier on the chocolate and lighter on the cream than some classic recipes, so the truffles will survive at room temperature for a little while.
Ingredients: 1 pound of good bittersweet chocolate (bars or chips will work; aim for about 60% cocoa), 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, about 1/2 cup good cocoa powder, and any flavorings you want to use. Liqueur (i.e. a couple of tablespoons of framboise, poire, Kahlua) is a popular flavoring. I find liqueur a little overpowering but I like to give the chocolate some complexity, so I added a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of instant espresso powder.
Vegan tip: inspired by a recipe I found on the Vegetarian Times website, I made a small batch of vegan truffles for a friend who’s dairy-free. For a one-person batch, use 6 ounces dairy-free bittersweet chocolate chips, 1/4 cup canola oil (or other similarly flavorless vegetable oil) and 1/3 cup water. Heat the chocolate, oil and water in a double boiler or over very low heat on a simmer burner until the chocolate is fully melted, then continue with the method below, at the step where you scrape the mixture into a shallow glass pan. Mine are still cooling, but so far they look totally comparable to the dairy version.
The method: Prepare 1 pound of chocolate. If you’re using chocolate bars, chop them finely and place them in a mixing bowl. If you’re lazy (like me) and using chocolate chips, just dump them into a mixing bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup heavy cream to a boil, whisking constantly to avoid burning.
Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate, but do not stir it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate, and let it stand for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, stir the chocolate/cream mixture until smooth, and add any flavorings you want (liqueur, salt, spices, instant espresso powder, etc.)
Scrape the mixture into a shallow glass baking pan and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
After the mixture has cooled to room temperature, place the pan in the fridge until the mixture is the consistency of stiff cake frosting, about 30 minutes. In the meantime, pour about 1/2 cup good cocoa powder into a small soup bowl. Remove the glass pan from the fridge, and, using a tablespoon, scoop out balls of the chocolate mixture. Roll each ball in your hand until relatively round (remember, these are supposed to look like natural forest truffles, so they don’t have to be perfect) and then place it in the bowl of cocoa powder.
Use a spoon to roll each truffle in the cocoa powder until fully coated. Then arrange the truffles on a parchment-covered baking sheet and refrigerate them for a couple of hours until they are really firm.
These should keep in an airtight container for about a week, but why would you want to wait that long? Either serve them right away, or package them as gifts. I got these “mini lunchboxes” at a local craft store and packaged the truffles for people at my co-working office.