This time of year many kitchens turn into Christmas cookie workshops, strewn with scrap pieces of stenciled sugar cookie dough and an all over surface dusting of colored sugar crystals. As a chef, most people assume I partake in the baking extravaganza that occurs during the tight month of December. But I fully admit to the truth, which is that while I love iced cutout cookies, I have never had the patience for all of the rolling, cutting and laborious decorating that goes along with. Sure, I love to give gifts from the kitchen this time of year, too, but they have always been more of the chocolate variety.
For as long as I can remember I have made rolled chocolate truffles for Christmas. Initially it began because they were much easier to produce than sugar cookies, with the assembly line streamlined to three basic steps: making and chilling the ganache, rolling the truffles, and dipping each confection into tempered chocolate. Truffles lack a lot of the artistry and handiwork that goes into decorated sugar cookies, but they are no less impressive. What’s more, it is more unusual to receive homemade chocolates for the holidays than cookies so I have always felt a bit smug dropping off my boxes at the neighbors’.
Starting the end of November I begin stocking up on supplies: dark chocolate, butter, cream, and sugar. By the second week of December our home could easily be mistaken for a chocolate factory, with sheet pans of cocoa lined across the kitchen counter, blocks of chocolate measured out and chopped by the stove, and bright red boxes with ribbon stacked ready to be filled along the dining room table. While the nitty gritty of truffle making requires some hunkering down, and a bit of know-how on tempering chocolate, the beauty lies in the divided process which requires resting time between each of the three stages. Even if you wanted to do a marathon session of making 200 truffles all at once, you wouldn’t be able to because of requisite resting time often needed when working with chocolate. It’s like there is an automatic, built-in rest period, which I, for one, will take when I can get it this time of year.
When I am making truffles for sale on Molly’s Menu I often tackle a selection of different flavors and infuse white, milk and dark chocolate ganache with unique combinations for the holidays. But for gift giving I try and keep things as simple as possible.
Very few people argue with the pure flavor of chocolate, especially when there is a high quality variety involved. I prefer Belgian chocolate, and have found a recipe that turns it into the most decadent truffles truly appropriate for holiday splurging. My source is the cookbook by famed chocolatier Michael Recchiuti whose “two chocolate ganache” combines milk and dark chocolate with a vanilla steeped cream. The mixture is emulsified with soft butter to create a truly creamy mouth feel, and I dip the truffles into tempered chocolate to get a snap in texture with each biteful.
Two Chocolate Ganache
Recipe adapted from Chocolate Obsession by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage
Makes about 50 rolled truffles
5 oz heavy whipping cream
3½ oz granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 ¾ oz 41% milk chocolate, finely chopped
6 ¼ oz 70% chocolate, finely chopped
7 Tbsp very soft butter
8 oz tempered* dark chocolate
1 C cocoa powder for dusting
Heat the cream and vanilla bean in a small saucepan over moderate heat until it just reaches a simmer. Immediately turn the pot off and allow the vanilla to steep for about 5 minutes. Place the chopped chocolates into a medium bowl then pour the hot cream through a fine sieve onto the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to sit, without stirring, for about 5 minutes then use a whisk or immersion blender to stir the mixture until no lumps of chocolate remain. Next, blend in the soft butter until the ganache resembles a silky chocolate pudding in texture. Pour the ganache into an 8-inch square baking pan. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature then refrigerate it overnight. The next day remove the ganache from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 3 hours. Using two small spoons (about teaspoon size), form balls of the soft ganche and place each finished ball onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate the truffles in the fridge for at least two hours before proceeding.
To temper the dark chocolate, place 8 oz of finely chopped dark chocolate into a medium bowl and set it over a pot of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and place it into another bowl filled with a small depth of ice water. Be very careful that no water gets into the chocolate. Whisk the chocolate over the ice water for about 2 minutes then remove it and whisk on the counter surface for another3 minutes. Repeat this process until the chocolate reached 90 degrees. The chocolate is now tempered and ready for dipping the truffles.
Before dipping, have a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and dusted with cocoa powder. Using a fork, dip each truffle into the tempered chocolate just so that a thin coat covers the ganache. Tap the fork against the side of the bowl of chocolate to allow any access to drip off the chocolate before placing it on top of the cocoa. Before the truffle sets completely, roll it on the cocoa to cover. Repeat with all the remaining truffles.