Can you believe it’s been a whole month since I hosted the Petit Fours edition of Sugar High Friday? Nope, me neither… But a glance at my calendar tells me that this is indeed the case, and a peek at lovely host Johanna‘s blog will tell you that the theme for this month’s sugary extravaganza is chocolate truffles!
I don’t eat a ton of chocolate, but if I am going to eat it, there’s a good chance it’s going to be in the form of expensive truffles rather than Mars bars! Truffles are though to have originated in the late 1800s, shortly after Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter developed milk chocolate. Traditionally, truffles are defined as chocolate ganache (chocolate and cream melted together and cooled to a paste) rolled into balls and then rolled in cocoa powder or nuts but in reality, the only limit to what you can classify as a truffle is your imagination (and the availability of the ingredients and equipment!). I have always taken the view that if God intended us to make our own truffles, he would not have allowed the chocolate counter at Fortnum & Mason to exist. So I was understandably at somewhat of a disadvantage when Johanna suggested this theme! But help was at hand in the form of a MyChocolate chocolate truffle-making workshop, and a couple of weeks ago that’s where Johanna and I (and a couple of friends!) found ourselves on a Sunday afternoon.
I will tell you all about the workshop itself in a later post – for now, let’s focus on the truffles. I had very good intentions of making another batch at home before today’s deadline, but when it got to the end of November I realised that a) we were still eating the truffles from the workshop and had no need of MORE truffles in the house; b) I was going to struggle to find the right ingredients and equipment (even in Richmond, Johanna could not find couverture – so I didn’t rate my chances of stumbling across it in E16!!); and c)truffle-making is a time consuming and fiddly business, and I simply did not have the time this week 🙁 So as a compromise, I will give you the recipes for the pictured truffles that we made at the MyChocolate workshop, with some suggested alterations from me, as well a few truffle-making tips. Enjoy!
First, a couple of tips. Truffle-making is one of those exploits where you have to get organised ahead of time. You will need to assemble some essential kit before you start, like a food thermometer (not a sugar thermometer – you will need to measure temperatures around the 37C mark and sugar thermometers do not measure such low temperatures), some sort of dipping instruments like the wire spirals or fine-pronged forks on long handles we used at the workshop, and a few (preferably) metal mixing bowls that can be placed over the heat for a few minutes. If you are using buttercream as a filling, you will also need an icing piping bag. You should also get some couverture which is chocolate with extra cocoa butter added to give it a more liquid consistency when melted, and is ideal for coating truffle fillings. However, if this is tricky to get, good quality plain chocolate (e.g. Green & Black’s or Valrhona) will also do. Unless you are using chocolate buttons, you should grate your chocolate before melting it, and it should preferably be melted in a bain marie (bowl set over, but not touching, boiling water); at a push, in the microwave stirring frequently; but never in a pan over direct heat as it will easily burn.
Another skill which is essential to master is that of tempering the chocolate. Tempering is a process of heating and cooling chocolate to form stable crystals. The stable crystals then ensure that the chocolate will be firm at room temperature, harden relatively quickly, be shiny and have a hard, crunchy texture. Chocolate’s normal melting point is at about 37C (or human body temperature). To temper chocolate, you have to heat it to a temperature of 45C and then gradually reduce the temperature. To do this, you need about 300g of room temperature grated chocolate to every 1000g of melted chocolate. Stir in the grated chocolate (or chocolate buttons) a handful at a time and make sure each handful is completely melted before adding more. Measure the temperature frequently. As the temperature approaches 32C (for dark chocolate – but 31C for milk and 29C for white), add grated chocolate in smaller increments and make sure all the grated chocolate is melted. When the abovementioned temperature has been reached, you are ready to dip your truffles!
Obviously you will by this stage already have made your truffle centres – flavoured buttercream, caramel, candied nuts, fruit jellies… you name it. Make sure you also have ready a few saucers of stuff to dip your truffles in after they are coated in chocolate – chocolate flakes of a contrasting colour, chopped nuts of any description, cocoa powder, coloured sugar, cinnamon sugar – whatever takes your fancy. And then, dip away, be creative and enjoy yourself. Because remember – even if you screw up and make The Ugliest Truffle In The World, it will still taste great 😉
The recipes below are for the truffle fillings. You will, in addition, need a bowl of couverture for dipping. I suggest using 500g of dark chocolate, tempered as described above.
100g caster sugar
350g whipping cream (preferably long-life as this will give your truffles more of a shelf life)
pinch of salt
250g butter at room temperature
75ml Amarula Cream liqueur (or Bailey’s)
Heat the cream, sugar and salt to scalding point in a small saucepan but do not allow to boil. When the sugar has dissolved, allow to cool to 25C (room temperature). Stir in the Amarula Cream when the mixture has cooled. Using an electric hand whisk, beat the butter until it turns into a soft, smooth mass. Add the cream mixture while beating continuously. (Note – the mixture may curdle because of the difference in temperature of the butter and cream. If this happens, place the bowl over a saucepan of hot water and continue to beat.) Once you have a smooth, creamy mixture, fill an icing piping bag and pipe into truffle shapes on a tray covered in greaseproof paper. Leave in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm up. Dip each truffle into tempered chocolate and lay them in a saucer of cocoa powder (you can also sift cocoa powder over them) until set. Make sure they are a) sufficiently set before you attempt to transfer them to a storage container (unless you like permanent fingerprints in your truffles!); and b) make sure the base of the truffle does not stick to the cocoa saucer (as opposed to the cocoa powder!) as it sets – this happened to one of mine and I crushed it trying to pull it off the plate. Try to eat them as fresh as possible, or store in a sealed container in the fridge.
225g caster sugar
150g whipping cream with a pinch of salt added
265g chopped dark chocolate
fleur de sel
Place the whipping cream and salt in a small pan over low heat so that it is boiling by the time the caramel is ready. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Place the sugar and water in a large stainless steel saucepan over a high heat. The water will evaoprate first, allowing the sugar to heat up gradually and caramelise. Stir briskly all the time to prevent clumping. (A clever tip from MyChocolate was to stir with chopsticks as there was less chance of clumps forming than on spoon). Keep stirring, ensuring there ar no lumps of undissolved crystals, until the sugar has turned into a transparent gold colour. Turn off the heat and gradually pour the hot cream into the caramel. Safety tip: the caramel may splatter when the cream is added – which can be a problem considering that the caramel has reached 180C! So please do take care when doing this and add the cream in small increments. Once you have a smooth caramel cream sauce and the mixture has stopped boiling, add the melted chocolate and stir until fully melted and combined with the caramel sauce. Pour the mixture into a shallow heat-proof dish or baking tray lined with baking paper. Leave to cool at room temperature for 2 hours before cutting into your desired shapes. Gently press a few flakes of fleur de sel into the top of each caramel before dipping into tempered chocolate and leave to set on greaseproof paper. Alternatively, you can sprinkle a few flakes on top of the chocolate after it has been dipped but while it is still melted enough to bond firmly with the flakes. Store in an airtight container.
So there you have it – two ideas for making your own chocolate truffles. I have to say that despite the fiddliness, it was a lot of fun to do and less complicated than I thought. And gave me an excuse to take some great food porny pictures 😉
Thanks Johanna for a great theme!