"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." Jackson Browne
The fastest way to a woman's heart is with chocolate. Actually, it works on me, too. And even though working with chocolate is tricky, nothing could be simpler to make than chocolate truffles. Just like the ones they serve at the fancy restaurants. Sooooo simple and sooooo seductive.
They're called truffles because they look somewhat like the rare and expensive fungus of the same name found in Italy and France. Rolling them in cocoa powder is supposed to resemble the dirt on the mushroom when it is dug up. Bit of a stretch if you ask me. But they are fairly easy to make so I don't care what they call them.
The first step is to read The Science of Chocolate which explains how to handle chocolate. The basic recipe starts with making a chocolate ganache, which sounds intimidating, but it is simply chocolate and cream. You can also use ganache as a cake icing, just use equal amounts of cream and chocolate and add about 10% unsalted butter. When it is warm pour it over the cake and let it run down the sides.
Of course you could just skip the whole thing and order some fabulous truffles from my favorite chocolatier, Jacques Torres at Jacques Torres Chocolat in New York City.
Yield. About 24 truffles
Prep. About 20 minutes to make the ganache, 3 hours to chill, and 20 minutes to roll and coat.
8 ounces of the best bittersweet or semisweet chocolate you can afford
4 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 tablespoon seedless black raspberry jam
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
About the chocolate. Before you begin you should learn a bit more about chocolate, how it is made, how it is labeled, and how to handle it, you should read my article on The Science of Chocolate.
About the jam. I use Dickinson's Seedless Black Raspberry Preserves. Rich and concentrated, it adds tremendous depth and complexity. Whatever you use, make sure it is seedless!
Other mix-ins. Make this recipe first. Once you have the hang of it you can play. I've never tried any of the following mix-ins, so you're on your own if you want to experiment, but I've seen recipes with orange marmalade, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, lemon zest, candied ginger, peanut butter, nutella, honey, reduced balsamic vinegar, cinnamon powder, cardamom powder, chipotle powder, vanilla extract, orange extract, peppermint oil, raspberry liqueur, grand marnier, coffee liqueur, hazelnut liqueur, amaretto liqueur, Bourbon, dark rum, brandy, condensed milk instead of cream, cream cheese, and even fresh goat cheese. If you must experiment, work in small batches. Failures can be expensive.
About the coating. Instead of the straight cocoa powder, I like to make a blend of cocoa powder and finely ground coffee beans. You can use just plain coffee, or substitute confectioners sugar, regular sugar, coconut shavings, finely ground coffee beans, colored sprinkles, colored sugar, crushed graham crackers, chopped hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, or peanuts. Or mix the cocoa with cinnamon powder, fennel powder, a pinch of salt, or even a touch of ancho or chipotle powder.
1) Chop or shave the chocolate into bits smaller than a pea. Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at least 2 cup capacity.
2) Heat the cream in a saucepan over a medium heat until it starts to make small bubbles in the center, but do not boil.
3) Add the hot cream to the chocolate and stir steadily with a fork or whisk until the chocolate has melted completely and there are no streaks. Just after adding the cream, add the raspberry jam. If it doesn't smooth out, microwave the mix on medium for about 20 seconds, then stir until smooth. If needed nuke it again. If you don't have a microwave, you can set the mixing bowl in a pan of hot tap water but do not boil the water. Or you could sit the bowl on top of a small saucepan with about an inch of water at a very low simmer. Be very careful to not get any water in the chocolate. That can lead to disaster. Stir steadily. That's your ganache. If you are adding mix-ins, add them after the hot cream. Or divide the ganache into several bowls and flavor each differently.
4) Refrigerate until firm throughout, at least 3 hours.
5) Scoop out about a teaspoon and roll in your very clean dry hands until it is roundish and bite size, about the size of a maraschino cherry. The chocolate will melt quickly, so have your lover lick your hands when you are done. Make all the balls before you start coating them and place them on a tray so they are not touching.
6) Put the cocoa in a shallow bowl. Roll each ball in the coating. Tap off excess so it doesn't get all over your shirt when you eat it. They will keep well in the fridge if covered. Probably won't be necessary. They go fast. Now clean up and get ready for the big thank you.