Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I tend to always have some sort of chocolate on hand, a bag of truffles or just a good quality dark chocolate bar. The love of chocolate runs deep in my family, to an extent that leads me to believe in some kind of overpowering chocolate gene that thrives and grows stronger (survival-of-the-fittest style) with each generation (Audrey had determined before even trying a piece that chocolate was something for which to fight to the death). So when determining how I would fill the bag I made for my mother, it didn't take long to decide that chocolate in some form would be present.

Truffles are my favorite, so when I ran across this recipe with few ingredients and simple enough sounding instructions, I decided I had found a winner. And, for the most part, it was, just as long as I kept one thing in mind: I'm not a professional and it's ok for my food to behave as if it were prepared by such. These are the steps I took (I halved the recipe since I had only bought enough chocolate to halve it and I didn't need 50 truffles hanging around:

I slowly heated 1/2 cup heavy cream over medium heat (I actually began at low heat and worked my way up just to be safe) until the cream was boiling. I turned off the heat and added my "chopped chocolate". I skipped the chopping part by using 1/2 pound Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. After letting the chocolate and cream sit for 2 minutes, I was supposed to stir the mixture until it looked "smooth." Mine was never what I would call smooth, but I decided to move on to the next step, regardless. The next step was adding 1 Tablespoon butter, which did make mine look a little smoother, but still not as smooth as I would have imagined.

Once the butter was mixed in, the entire mixture got poured into the bowl of an electric mixer to rest until "set." I waited until the bowl was cool to the touch and the chocolate seemed thick with a little bit of a shiny buttery layer on top (as I waited, I fit my fit the paddle attachment to my electric mixer).

Next, I beat the chocolate mixture on medium-speed until it was fluffy and looked a little like icing. This process was supposed to take 2 minutes. I decided to beat mine an extra minute or so just to make sure it was the consistency I thought I was looking for (and, I knew I was skipping the next step, which required beating the mixture a while longer). At this point, you can add liqueur or another flavoring, if it strikes your fancy. Not knowing if my mom prefers her truffles spiked or cinnamon-flavored, I decided to keep things simple.

My chocolate mixture complete, I grabbed a pastry bag and filled it up. I didn't have a 1/2" plain tube tip, so I didn't use a tip. I simply left the bag tipless. I did use the pieces that typically secure a tip in place, just to give the bag a sturdier feel. (I will warn you, using a pastry bag without a tip makes it difficult to keep the chocolate mixture in between truffles).

Cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, the mixture was meant to be piped out into 1/2" balls. I never mastered the truffle "ball." Mine had the shape of Hershey Kisses, only with a jiggly appearance, like the little wiggling blobs found in the dungeons of The Legend of Zelda, which were supposed to be scary, but just made me hungry. I have never met a shape of chocolate I didn't like, so I decided to be happy with the blobs just as they were. The jiggly blobs found a place in my refrigerator to chill completely.

While the blobs chilled, I worked on tempering some chocolate. I used leftovers from a 2.5 pound Ghrirardelli Candy Making and Dipping Bar I bought at SAMS for some other candy-making adventures. I finely chopped a good hunk of the bar.

I put the chopped chocolate into my makeshift double boiler (a saucepan with a little water in the bottom and a bowl set snugly on top). As the water boils in the bottom, the chocolate melts in the top. Once the chocolate hit 110 degrees, I took it off the heat and stirred in a little more unmelted chocolate. Then I got down to the business of assembling my truffles. The recipe tells, in detail, just how to set up your workstation to finish the truffles. I set up my workstation, just so. I followed their directions, just so. I ended up with a huge mess: a chocolate-doused hand, too much chocolate running off the truffles, and a cocoa coating that made me cough from the powder going down my throat first when I tried to eat it. I regrouped. I resorted to the master candy-making tool of my childhood (a plastic fork with the middle two prongs broken off). I used this fork to dip my truffles, one-by-one. The excess chocolate falls off the truffle through the hole created by the missing fork prongs (a little bit of genius passed on from my parents). I set these freshly-dipped truffle blobs back onto the parchment paper to set up, just a bit. Then, while the chocolate was still a teeny bit damp, I used a tiny mesh strainer to shake just a little bit of cocoa over the tops.

I couldn't work fast enough to keep the blobs from going a little soft before getting around to all of them. Once they became soft to touch, I popped them back into the refrigerator to chill again. When my tempered chocolate hardened while I still had loads of truffles to coat, I popped it into the microwave and heated it until it was smooth again. The recipe says the finished truffles don't have to be refrigerated, but I decided to refrigerate mine, anyway, and kept them in a cooler en route to Mom's, since it's a bit of a drive on a warm day. And, while they didn't look quite gourmet, my mom didn't have any complaints, neither did the rest of the truffle tasters.

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