Years ago I made chocolate caramel truffles with fleur de sel for sofa girl: she loved them so much she asked for the recipe months later. Then she read it and asked me if I was insane. Well, proper chocolate truffle making is a bit time-consuming, takes practice and, above all, leaves the kitchen in a Lucy Ball state of chaos. Churning out hundreds of truffles a day in the professional kitchen was a picnic when an army of dishwashers was ready and willing to clean all the chocolatey bowls and mop up the spills. I hardly ever make them at home because I can’t see past the mess.
Proper truffles consist of a ganache – most often flavored – which is then dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in cocoa powder, nuts, sugar or nothing at all. The chocolate shell hardens to create that hard yielding to soft bite that characterizes a truffle. But that chocolate dipping step lengthens the process considerably and is what usually creates the mess. And puts people off.
But you can cheat and work only with the ganache and get away with it. It will take half an hour of active time, plus some cooling in the fridge. It’s all rather painless and the end result impresses guests or lovers alike. Cooks with an aversion to baking needn’t fret: this is definitely for you.
Begin with picking a flavor. I added a touch of whisky to my ganache but you can go for rum, Chambord, a few drops of mint, hazelnut, or any other extract or even a fruit puree. The taste will be subtle as there is so much liquid you can add without the ganache not being able to harden. The key to good truffles is good chocolate: invest is something with a high cacao content.
- Start by placing 8 oz (226 g) of chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl with 3/4 C (175 ml) of cream. Place it over a pan of boiling water and let melt, whisking occasionally.
- Once melted, take the bowl off the heat and add a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla extract (or other extract of choice) and a spoon of your favorite liquor. Whisk until smooth and shiny.
- Pour into a baking dish , cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, at least an hour.
- Set up your counter: pour some unsweetened cocoa powder in a small bowl and, next to it, a baking pan with a film of your favorite nuts coarsely ground. Using a small scoop, a melon baller or a spoon, scoop some of the ganache, roll it into your hands if you are not using a scoop and drop it into the cocoa powder. Shake the bowl to cover the truffle, and then set the truffle on the nuts.
- Repeat until you have exhausted all your ganache. You should have about 20 pieces. It helps to wear gloves or dip your palms in cocoa powder.
- Refrigerate and eat when you are ready. Truffles are best eaten at room temperature.
- PS They make an awesome, and welcome, hostess’ gift.