Maybe it’s my new year’s resolution to eat healthy that’s causing the deviance (ahem- that means, dessert is no longer a snack food), but lately I’m sort of just looking for an excuse to make truffles. I was biding my time until Valentine’s Day, but just recently, some friends asked if I would teach them how to properly make risotto and they would plan a dinner party around it. When I think of risotto, I think of the Sagre in Asti, Italy, that Dave and I enjoyed so many years ago, and the Barolo Risotto we were served with shaved Parmegiano scattered over the top. Just delicious. So, I recommended we take a Piemontese route for our menu, and a lovely evening was born! Not to get side-tracked here, but hey, it’s my blog…
Whenever you are confronted with the question of: “What should I make for a dinner party?” Just think of something you love, and then build the rest of the menu around that particular food genre or region. A seven layer bean dip, a few dolmades, followed by BBQ-ed chicken is a recipe for indigestion. Pun intended!
ANYWAY– so there I was, getting together my ingredients for the Barolo Risotto, and this little voice (with horns) kept whispering to me… You have hazelnuts in the pantry. Perfect for Piedmont. What are you gonna do about it? The answer was: Give in, and make a nice batch of truffles with toasted hazelnuts and the darkest chocolate ganache in town. It wasn’t for dessert. Oh no, for dessert our lovely host made the most beautiful Bonet custards. But for me, truffles are supposed to be the last hurrah. The thing that officially kills you after a splendid dinner, complete with luscious wines, and precious friends. They made for happy mouths, and my parents who were kind enough to babysit our two daughters were left behind with a small plateful of their own truffles, had nothing to show for them except a trace of Droste, Dutch process cocoa. I advise making these for gifts, otherwise, you will be forced to eat each and everyone of them yourself. And you would do it happily!
adapted from Claudia Flemming’s recipe for Earl Grey Truffles from The Last Course
- 1 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 2 oz. (a rounded 1/3 cup) toasted hazelnuts, chopped for a nice crunchy texture (not fine, but not big chunks)
- 5 oz. extra-bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Green & Black’s 85% cacao)
- 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use 62% cacao)
- 1 c. unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (my favorite is Droste)
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan in oven until skins split and nuts are pale golden, about 10 minutes. Wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins. Cool nuts completely. Chop.
- In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to simmer.Place the finely chopped extra-bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture rest for 1 minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts until well incorporated.
- Cover the chocolate-hazelnut mixture and chill until ganache is set, about 4 hours, or overnight is a sure thing.
- Using a teaspoon or a melon-baller, scoop out the truffles. Roll them quickly in your hands to make ovals/quenelles or balls (for these truffles, I prefer the more rustic quenelle shape). 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: place the freshly rolled truffles on a plate or baking sheet lined with parchment paper until chocolate shell is set. They can be made up to 5 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.