Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Truffles

I was hoping to get this put up earlier so that others may be able to take the recipe for a spin, but since (a) we only made them last night, and (b) they're supposed to be a surprise for today and (c) my wife actually reads this blog, I wasn't able to get the image out until now:

Oh yes, four varieties of chocolate truffles (clockwise from top-right):
  • Cointreau truffle with hazelnuts
  • Butterscotch truffle with cocoa
  • Creme de menthe truffle with pistachios
  • Apricot brandy truffle with toasted coconut
So how did we do this?

First, start here (yes, I link to him a lot--that's what happens to people who let their stuff be available for free online). 

Once you're done with that (or if you can't access the video), go to the recipe here

Then we need to make a few changes. 

The first thing I did was to double the scale--the reason for this is that you can then lasso a friend into helping you do a lot of grunt work in the kitchen with the promise of a pile of completed truffles. Once you're doing more, it becomes economical (in time, space, and money) to mix things up a little bit in ways that you probably wouldn't have done otherwise. 

For example, if I were doing this just myself, I would have kept things really simple: stick to the absolute text of the recipe, improvise nothing, and go home with a great big mountain of identical truffles. But I wasn't by myself, and I wasn't making a single batch. 

I was able to take advantage of the larger volume and split the recipe up after the butter, chocolate, corn syrup and cream had combined. This was also around the time that I realized we were out of regular brandy, but had a nice variety of other alcohols on hand--that's right: Cointreau, creme de menthe, butterscotch liqueur and apricot brandy (the last two of which had the added advantage of being the sole components in my wife's favorite drink). Using the kitchen scale (and a little back-of-the-envelope math, since I hadn't measured all the ingredients ahead of time), I was able to portion out the ganache into quarters and mix them with the different alcohols. I then poured them out into two 2-cup Gladware containers (8 in total) and set them in the fridge to set. 

After game night, I called the aforementioned friend over, who brought with him the assorted toppings. The only downside was that they needed a little bit of work to really get up to full power:

Though unseen, his shadow looms large over the process. No, seriously--you can see his shadow on the ground. 
Indeed, those are Turkish pistachios all the way from Turkey. It turns out the old saying is right: If you want a pistachio, find a Turk*. Peeling and then chopping all that we needed was pretty time-consuming, but that's what friends are for (literally, remember?). 

The hazelnuts took a bit of work to chop down as well (though they were already chopped), but the real winner of the evening was the coconut. A bag of the plain, untoasted variety was all that was available, but a good 10-12 minutes in the toaster oven set to 300 gave us some perfectly toasted and crispy flakes. The toaster oven is a little uneven for certain things, but in the end I like the color and flavor variety that we got with the differing levels of toasting. And, of course, the cocoa powder just went straight on. 

I used a disher scoop rather than a melon baller for the truffles (you can see it above on the cookie sheet), which worked fine. Unfortunately, I was out of disposable gloves, which meant a lot of hand-washing (all the more fun that I've given up sugar for Lent--no licking of the fingers for me). 

The one disappointment was with the heating pad. Sharon has a pretty powerful model (at least, I've always thought so), but we were unable to get it to work. Either we had the wrong bowls, the wrong pad material, or the wrong something else, but the heat wasn't getting to the chocolate. We ended up using a double boiler on very low heat (I think more heat actually went up the sides of the tri-clad saucepan than through any water vapor, honestly), which seems to have worked well. I have only two recommendations: be sure to wipe the thermometer clean every time you put it in the chocolate (or just keep it in there--taking it out and letting it sit lets the chocolate cool on it, and getting it off later is a pain); and be sure to have a stronger heating pad or some other way to keep the chocolate warm(ish) once the initial melting is done. We had to put it back on some heat in order to make it workable again, and I'm pretty sure the second time around we went north of 94 degrees (though the truffles have turned out fine). 

But these are little things--in the end, most of the time in the kitchen was spent trying to figure out the best way to get a lot of things done, which should streamline everything the next time I do this. 

The best part? Even using some seriously top-quality chocolate and other ingredients, we each ended up with 24 truffles (I guess the scoop I used was a bit bigger than the melon baller AB had) for a lot less than we'd pay for a handful of Lindt's. 

All for love. Totally worth it. 

* Not an actual saying. 

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