Just like any other college student, culinary students have final exams–both written and practical–that keep them very busy at this time of the year. Between that and holiday baking, I’ve been struggling to make time to write about a delicious treat that I learned about in class and then replicated at home: traditional chocolate truffles! These truffles involve making a soft ganache with chocolate and cream, hand-rolling the ganache into perfectly round balls, and then dipping the ganache into tempered chocolate.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can customize it either by infusing a flavor into the cream (such as cinnamon stick/cardamom/allspice, lavender, or even Earl Grey tea) or by replacing some of the cream with another liquid, such as liqueur. Given the copious amounts of alcohol that people tend to gift us this time of the year, I thought I would toss some Kahlúa in the mix. The ganache smelled pretty strongly of liqueur, but I will admit that the flavor wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, and I may have to add more next time!
To be honest, chocolate is very messy and a real pain to work with. There is no outsmarting chocolate and the complicated science behind it. However, getting it right brings a lot of satisfaction, and I have to say that no dessert tastes as wonderful as slightly warm, perfectly smooth chocolate.
I got pretty good results by tabling the ganache on my regular ol’ non-marble countertops, and I think you should try it at home, too.
Throw in some mini muffin liners, and these make a great treat to fill in the gaps in your cookie tins and really impress your friends this holiday season. You can even melt some contrasting chocolate and pipe decorations on top of your truffles for a quick but eye-catching presentation. Enjoy!
Kahlúa Truffles, adapted from the CIA’s recipe for classic truffles
A word on tempering chocolate: this is the process of aligning the fat crystals in chocolate so that they produce the smooth mouthfeel and snap that are characteristic of high-quality chocolate. This process basically involves completely melting the chocolate by raising it to approximately 120º F and then slowly cooling it in the presence of tempered chocolate to encourage the melted chocolate to develop specific fat crystals as it cools to 87º-89º F. The chocolate for the ganache does not need to be in temper, but the chocolate that you melt to coat the truffles must be tempered. If you’re concerned about your tempering abilities, go ahead and give it a shot, but cover the finished truffles in a little bit of cocoa powder, toasted nuts, or anything else that hides the outer layer of chocolate. Also keep in mind that chocolate’s worst enemy is water! Make an effort to keep any water away from your chocolate, as it will cause the chocolate to seize and become too thick to work with.
Finally, as for flavors: if you want to infuse the cream, bring the cream and corn syrup just to a boil; add the desired flavoring (i.e. a vanilla bean and seeds); cover and steep for 15 minutes; strain the solids and start the recipe on step 1. Find your favorite combination and give it a shot!
6 fl oz of heavy cream
2 fl oz of Kahlúa or the liqueur of your choice
1 oz of light corn syrup
1 lb of dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 oz of butter, soft
Melted dark chocolate as needed (about 12-16 oz)
1. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Bring the cream, liqueur, and corn syrup just to a boil.
3. Pour the hot cream over the 1 lb of chocolate and allow to sit, without stirring, for 5-6 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the mixture until it is fully blended and smooth. If needed, you can heat the ganache over a water bath to melt all of the chocolate. Add the butter and stir until melted and smooth. Allow the ganache to set until it reaches approximately room temperature; then, pour all of the ganache onto a clean surface (preferably marble, although laminate countertops worked fine for me) and agitate it with a metal spatula until the ganache reaches piping consistency.*
4. Fill a pastry bag with a #4 round tip (you could probably just snip the end off a piping bag in a pinch) and pipe the truffles, as close to round as possible and of whatever size you desire, onto a parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Allow to set until firm.
5. Wearing gloves, roll the truffles by hand until they are perfectly round. Place them on a clean parchment paper-lined sheet tray and allow to set till firm–you will know it is ready for the next step when it loses its shine and feels firm to the touch.
6. Temper the chocolate according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spread a small amount of the tempered chocolate in the palm of your hand and gently roll each truffle in the chocolate to coat. Place the coated truffles on a clean parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Allow to set completely; repeat with a second coat of tempered chocolate.
*It can be difficult to know when the ganache is ready to be piped into truffles; it should start to lose just a bit of its shine and will start to feel thick and fudgy. Be careful as the ganache begins to thicken: it is possible to overwork the ganache and make it too thick to pipe. I really think it just takes practice to get a feel for working with chocolate!