Christmas time is here! This means my kitchen is a well-oiled machine… in the department of chaos. Right now I have so many projects going with too many lists on scattered scraps of paper, and I am frequently checking my calendar to see where I am at in the grand scheme of things. Jars I have saved throughout the year have taken over the counter tops, awaiting their final calling as packaging for delicious treats. Raffia, ribbons, and little sacks are spilling out all over the place, and what do I want to do? Make truffles. After all, Christmas is a time for decadence, home-made gifts, and reminding loved ones that you care. What better expression than a truffle? Infused with something exotic, hand-rolled, and then decorated to shine like jewels in a little confection box, these are the ultimate home-made gift. In my next life, I will run a chocolaterie.*sigh* (And you can be sure that this will be the first of several truffle posts.)
So, hang on. Before you close this post out thinking, “No way am I going to make my own truffles… She’s nuts.” Bear with me.
Truffles, my friend, are quite easy after all and they don’t get any better than when they are home-made. And if you want to surprise a chocolate lover with a special gift — this is it. Just be sure you have a bit of time on your hands. My personal preference is the midnight hours. I can get in my truffle-zone and focus, and chances of little people needing things while my hands are covered in ganache (oh yes, and I do mean that) are less.
The basic recipe for these truffles is from The Last Course by Claudia Flemming (whom I may happen to envy). This is yet another book my dear friend Nicky gave me a few years ago that is one of my all-time favorites. The beauty of the recipe is that you can vary the flavor with whatever you are in the mood for. Flemming’s truffles are infused with Earl Grey tea leaves which is a sensory experience all its own and are very hard to top. But I love chocolate and peppermint together and it’s so festive this time of year, so I had to make those. And then there is something so wonderful about a Mexican-style truffle infused with a bit of citrus zest and Ceylon cinnamon. So wintry and exotic. This will be my assortment for Truffle Box 2010.
So, get out that heavy cream and dark chocolate, roll up your sleeves, and let’s go… Time’s awasting!
Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles
by Claudia Flemming
Yield: 2 dozen truffles
Notes from Stephanie:
- I cannot emphasize enough with this recipe how important it is to have “good quality” ingredients. I really mean it. You are taking basic ingredients and manipulating them into another form of itself, so you want everything to be the best you can find. If you can find organic and Fair Trade, even better.
- For the extra-bittersweet chocolate, you can even make your own by blending 100% cacao chocolate bar with something like 62% for the darkness that best pleases you.
- I am less-than-patient, so I have been known to use the freezer for firming my ganache. If you do this, don’t forget about it! Check it every 20 minutes or so.
- I like my truffles to be a bit smaller than usual. I think you can enjoy them more as they are so rich, and therefore- this recipe makes nearly double of what it promises.
- 1 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 1/4 c. Earl Grey tea leaves (loose, not in bags)
- 5 oz. extra-bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I prefer 72% up to 80% cacao)
- 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use 62% cacao)
- 1 c. unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream and tea leaves to simmer. Turn off the heat and let the mixture infuse for 2 minutes.
- Place the finely chopped extra-bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Strain the hot cream over the chocolate, discarding the leaves. Let the mixture rest for 1 minute, then wisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cover the chocolate and chill until mixture is set, about 4 hours.
- Using a teaspoon or a melon-baller, scoop out the truffles. Roll them in your hands to make rounded balls. Refrigerate the truffles for 15 minutes to firm them.
- To make the coating, in the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl suspended over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, melt two thirds of the bittersweet chocolate. Remove the boiler from over the water and add the remaining chocolate. Stir continuously until the chocolate is melted and smooth and feels room temperature.
- Place the cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Drop the truffles one by one into the melted chocolate, turning them with a fork to coat them. Lift the truffles out of the chocolate and drop them into the cocoa powder. Roll the truffles in the cocoa until they are completely coated. Note: I garnished them with two tea leaves and then place the freshly rolled truffles on a plate or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. They can be made up to 5 days in advance.
Peppermint Truffle variation by Stephanie Kunstle
- Follow above recipe and instructions, but omit tea leaves and stir in 3 tsp. peppermint extract (I use an organic version which makes them so flavorful!) after you have poured the hot cream over the finely chopped extra-bittersweet chocolate. The oil in the extract makes this ganache a bit softer, so roll quickly and give them a few minutes in the freezer before dipping in the tempered chocolate. You may skip the roll in the cocoa powder if you wish- I like the contrast of the dark chocolate with a bit of crushed candy cane on top.
Mexican Truffle variation by Stephanie Kunstle
- Again, omit tea leaves and add 1 and 1/2 tsp. of tangerine zest (half as much if you are using an orange because the flavor will be much stronger), and 1/2 stick of Ceylon cinnamon to the heavy cream before bringing to a simmer. This will infuse a citrus flavor with subtle cinnamon notes. If you want more zip, add a bit of the Ceylon cinnamon finely ground, but be careful not to overdo it! Strain the cream before pouring it over the finely chopped bitter-sweet chocolate and discard zest and cinnamon stick.
- After rolling each truffle in cocoa, decorate with some fun sparkly sugar by gently pressing a pinch on top of the truffle.