There are truffles sniffed and rooted from the ground by pigs and dogs, ugly and costing more than we even want to think about.
But, fortunately for us, they’re not the only truffles around, and this is the perfect time of year to tackle truffle-making right in the privacy of your own kitchen. No pigs or dogs involved, unless your best-friend pooch is in the kitchen with you.
I’m talking, of course, about sweet candy truffles, with sensuous, silky, flavorful centers wrapped in chocolate, perhaps rolled in nuts or coconut. Peanut butter truffles, mint truffles, rum truffles, chocolate chocolate truffles, mocha truffles, raspberry truffles, hazelnut truffles; I could go on, but won’t. My mouth is watering even as I type this into my computer.
Every year, about two weeks before Christmas, John and I decide it’s truffle time. Out comes our hoard of specialty chocolate and the fat file of nothing but truffle recipes.
And almost every year, I write about truffles in this column, primarily to convince reluctant readers that making truffles at home is not that difficult, and is one of the most satisfying of kitchen endeavors. And when it comes to homemade Christmas gifts, a sweet box of your personalized truffles makes you a hero/ine in anyone’s book.
Yes, it might take you two sessions for some of the truffles, because the centers are made and then need to set up before dipping, but others can be done in only one.
There is one caveat I must mention, however, and that is regarding the chocolate. Please purchase the finest chocolate you can afford. There are several places on the south end of the island that carry high-quality chocolate, and it will be worth every penny. In the long run, your truffles will still be far less expensive than any box of purchased candy, and far more delectable.
These are called “truffles,” by the way, because they somewhat resemble those other, gnarly, outrageously expensive ones I mentioned in the beginning, but any resemblance ends there. So, here for your Christmas giving or feasting are some of my favorite truffle recipes.
No pigs or dogs required.
This first recipe is an easy way to get started with candy for gift giving; chocolate and mint are a natural, delicious combination, and this will give you about
80 to 100 pieces, depending upon how you cut them. These don’t look like dipped truffles, but they are nevertheless called “truffles.”
8 oz. quality semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 pkg. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 t. vanilla
½ to 1 t. peppermint extract (amount depending upon how “minty” you want them)
Melt semisweet chocolate in top of double boiler over hot (not boiling) water. When melted, spread evenly in a foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Refrigerate until set.
Melt chocolate chips in top of double boiler over hot water. When melted, remove from heat and allow to cool. In a blender or food processor, blend butter and sugar. Add eggs; blend well. Add melted chocolate chips, then add vanilla and peppermint extract. Spread this evenly over the hardened chocolate layer and refrigerate again, until firm (at least 1 hr.). Lift out truffle from pan with foil; remove foil and cut into small pieces. Keep refrigerated until using. Truffles will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap and/or foil, or kept in an airtight tin.
Another natural taste combination, chocolate, raspberry and hazelnut, turns these truffles into a very special treat. Make the centers one evening, do the rolling dipping the next day, and if you have another pair of hands available (kids love to do this), making these is easier, but you may lose a few in the process.
CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY HAZELNUT TRUFFLES
2½ cups hazelnuts
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, split
12 oz. white chocolate (which isn’t really chocolate at all, but that’s nevertheless what it’s called)
1 lb. quality dark (semisweet or bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup frozen raspberries, pureed and forced through a sieve
Toast hazelnuts in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 min., stirring occasionally. Remove skins by placing small batches of nuts in a kitchen towel and rubbing together. Chop nuts finely by hand or in a food processor.
Bring cream and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 min., then remove vanilla bean.
Bring cream back to a rolling boil, remove from heat and quickly add the white chocolate, whisking until chocolate has completely melted. Measure 3 T. of the pureed raspberry and whisk into the chocolate. Transfer mixture to a small bowl and refrigerate overnight, covering with plastic wrap when it has cooled.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a small melon scooper (about 1-inch across) to portion out small mounds onto one baking sheet, rolling each quickly and gently in your hands into a ball.
Place in freezer while melting the chocolate for dipping.
Melt the dark chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, along with the vegetable oil, stirring often with a wooden spoon and removing from heat when the chocolate is partially melted. Continue stirring until all chocolate is melted and mixture is very smooth. Set aside; stir occasionally until temp. on a candy thermometer reaches 90 degrees (ideal for dipping).
Dip raspberry centers one at a time in the chocolate (use fingers of one hand, or, I use my two-tined long kitchen fork), allowing excess to drip off. Drop into ground nuts and roll to coat; place on the other lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate until ready to use. (After truffles set up well, you can put them in an airtight tin and keep refrigerated until ready to eat or gift.)
Note: When rolling centers, keep in mind that they are not supposed to be perfect; don’t overwork the centers. If centers become too soft while working them, refreeze until they firm up again. If the dipping chocolate becomes too cool, place over hot water for a minute or two, stirring well before proceeding with dipping. Makes about 50 truffles.
And here’s one of the easiest truffle recipes I’ve come across, done in the food processor and finished in one quick session, plus it makes a lot of truffles. After they’ve been refrigerated and are firm, keep in an airtight tin or container until ready to use, but you may want to re-roll them in cocoa powder before serving/gifting.
TRUFFLES, QUICK AND EASY
½ lb. quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
½ cup whipping cream (or, if you’d like coffee flavored truffles, use ½ cup strong coffee)
2 T. butter
1 cup cocoa powder, for coating
Insert chopped blade in the food processor and chop the chocolate very fine (it helps if you break the chocolate into pieces first).
Heat the whipping cream or coffee to just below the boiling point. Immediately remove the processor cover and add the hot cream or coffee all at once. Cover and process until the mixture is full-blended and perfectly smooth.
Through the processor feeder tube, add the butter. Cover and process just a couple of seconds more, enough to blend it all into a creamy mixture. Put the processor bowl into the refrigerator for 10 or 15 min.
When the chocolate mixture is firm enough to be shaped, remove from refrigerator and form into small balls with a melon-ball scoop, placing balls on a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper. After you’ve made a half-dozen or so, roll them in the cocoa powder, put them on a plate or cookie sheet and put in refrigerator. Continue until all the truffle mixture is used, refrigerating as you complete each half dozen or so. If the truffle mixture gets too warm to hold its shape well, refrigerate it briefly until firm again. Makes 5-6 dozen truffles.
Please let me know if you want more truffle recipes; I’ll do them in next week’s column.
Drop me a line at email@example.com.