Today, I’m talking truffles. Actually, I’ll be talking truffles in multiple posts, because it’s February. Today, specifically, I’m focusing on ganache and a basic chocolate filling for truffles.
So, I love truffles. I have a weakness for truffles. I seek out chocolate stores in every city I choose to travel. You might even call me a truffle snob, although I’m not quite so bad as to turn down free chocolate. Usually.
But why am I picky about my chocolate? I believe I’ve ranted here about un-chocolatey brownies (get that junk out of here), and you know I’m about good ingredients making good food. Truffles are no different, of course.
Chocolate tastes best when it’s sourced and processed well. Chocolate tastes better a) when it’s real chocolate (as in, made with cocoa solids and not just flavoring), b) when it’s mostly chocolate (although I’m not opposed to milk chocolate sometimes. Most of the time, yes), and c) when it’s sourced responsibly. As in, it’s farmed on diversified lands and actually pays the farmers a fair wage. Fair wages should make your food taste better. If they don’t, go home and rethink your life.
You, too, should be a chocolate snob: do your research when you buy your chocolate, and consider, regardless, the carbon costs of shipping and manufacturing chocolate to you when you do so. Yes, that means, in many cases, spending more money on your chocolate, and perhaps buying less of it in doing so.
Now that I’m done being preachy, let us all be reminded that I still buy and eat chocolate. Obviously, I made truffles. And they’re delicious. And I’m not going to stop eating chocolate, as far as I know – you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead, hippie fingers. And I’m going to talk more today about how to make your chocolate ganache work for you, science-wise.
Chocolate Chips vs. Baking Chocolate
Let’s go back to that quality of chocolate. Let’s talk chocolate chips versus baking chocolate, or just plain ol’ bar chocolate. Chocolate chips are pretty fabulous, not only because they’re chocolate, but because they hold their basic shape in baked goods, like cookies and cakes. Have you ever wondered why you might use chips instead of chunks of baking chocolate? (By the way, you can totally use chocolate chunks in cookies. If you haven’t, go do that right now. I’ll wait.)
The answer, my friends, is delicious fat. Or, rather, just fat. Chocolate chips tend to have less cocoa butter (or fat in general) than baker’s chocolate so that they retain their shape better when baked. This is fine and dandy when using them in baked goods, but if you’ve ever tried to simply melt chocolate chips (especially the cheaper ones), the result tends to be a bit thicker and harder to work with than melting bars of chocolate. The extra fat, as you might guess, makes for a smoother melt.
Why would I mention this for truffles? Because I don’t want you to be like younger, beautiful, more ignorant me, that time when she tried to make truffle ganache with cheap chocolate chips, and got a goopy mess that never set, despite even freezing the batch. (This may also have been due to a copious amount of strong liqueur in the batch, but never mind that.) Look at your labels and your fat percentages, or just make sure you’re buying bar chocolate for melting, or you’re gonna have a bad time.
I’m also going to recommend dark or bittersweet chocolate (up to 60%) for making truffles. Why? Because chocolate deserves to be tasted in true, slightly bitter form. (Don’t go higher than 60%, though, or you might get a chalky, bitter ganache. Bleck.) Yes, you can make milk chocolate truffles. I’ve never made them, so I can’t account for your success. Let me know how they turn out if you do.
Do I have more advice? Sure. Do I just want to get to the recipe for now and give you that advice as it comes? Yes. Without further ado, basic truffles!
Basic Chocolate Truffles
You will need:
- 10 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate (up to 60% cocoa)
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 1-2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional, but helps the ganache retain its shape)
- flavorings: brandy, liqueur (like Chambord, Frangelico, or Godiva), bourbon, coffee, etc. (optional)
- coatings: cocoa powder, coconut flakes, finely chopped nuts, espresso powder, powdered freeze-dried fruit whatever else you feel like rolling chocolate in
- Stovetop Method 1: In a double boiler, heat water in the bottom pot until just simmering. In the top pot, add the chocolate, cream, and 2 tbsp butter, and stir constantly with a whisk until melted, combined, and smooth. Add butter as necessary to make a smooth mixture. (Do not allow any extra water or condensation to touch the chocolate mixture – this may cause the chocolate to seize up, or become weird and chunky. However, the extra fat from the cream and butter should prevent this from happening.) If the mixture separates or doesn’t seem to want to stay together, add the corn syrup, a tablespoon at a time.
- Stovetop Method 2: This method has less of a chance of chocolate seizing, since there’s no boiling water involved. Place chocolate and 2 tbsp butter in a large glass bowl (or any heatproof bowl). Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat until steaming, but not boiling. Pour hot cream into chocolate, and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the corn syrup, and mix until smooth. Use the extra tablespoon of butter if necessary.
- Gently mix 2-3 tablespoons of flavorings – I’m partial to Frangelico, Grand Marnier, and just straight up Godiva liqueur for extra chocolate flavor, but you can also use a teaspoon or two of espresso powder or 2-3 tablespoons of cooled strong coffee, bourbon, whatever. If, once again, your ganache seizes up (it doesn’t want to stay together, or it gets chunky), add butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is smooth.
- Refrigerate the ganache until firm but not hard (you want it to be scoopable), about 1-2 hours.
- Prepare any coating (I’m going to default to cocoa here) for your truffles in a small bowl or multiple bowls, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove the ganache from the fridge and scoop ganache, about a tablespoon at a time (a cookie scoop is your friend here), and roll the ganache gently in your hands to form a ball. Yes, this might get messy – keep a towel nearby to wipe your hands every once in a while. If you have a cookie scoop, you can also just drop balls of ganache directly into your bowl of cocoa. Roll the truffle around in the cocoa until fully coated, then transfer to the prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining ganache.
- Store truffles, separated, in an airtight container. These keep their shape best in the fridge, but are best served at room temperature, so take them out about 30 minutes before you plan to serve them. Or eat them cold. They’re still good cold.
You may be wondering to yourself, the picture above shows chocolate-covered truffles! And yes, of course you can cover your ganache with melted (ideally tempered) chocolate. Here are some tips and tricks to help you do so without tearing your hair out (which is not so tasty with melted chocolate):
- Keep your chocolate melted. You can actually use a heating pad under the bowl to keep low, even heat for doing this, but you can also use the double-boiler method and keep a pot of barely-simmering water ready to re-melt chocolate. Also, the microwave, although I’ve had my chocolate seize up from trying to reheat it with ganache added.
- Use a deep bowl for dipping. No shallow bowls here, unless you want to have to slide truffles against the sides to get the danged chocolate coating. No thanks.
- Dipping Method 1: Place the ganache ball on a fork (don’t skewer it), and dip into the melted chocolate. Tap the fork against the side of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate, and place coated truffle onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Dipping Method 2: Dip a large ice cream scoop into the melted chocolate, then roll the truffle around until coated. (I’ve had limited success with this method, but it at least keeps the cold truffle out of the warm chocolate.)
- Dipping Method 3: Place truffle onto a fork, and spoon melted chocolate onto truffle until coated.
Try different methods and see what works best for you. If you have another successful truffle-coating method, leave it in the comments – I’d love to hear what works for you!