Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pistachio-Black Currant Truffles

We have a new obsession. It's one thing to be obsessed with chocolate--you know, eating it and buying it. That's perfectly normal. Making chocolates--specifically making truffles--on the other hand, is a totally different beast.

Thanks to a book I bought a few months ago, Mike and I are in hardcore truffle-making mode. A simple, delicious truffle isn't necessarily a feat of culinary prowess, but we don't want to make simple truffles. We want silky smooth, exotically flavored ganache centers enrobed in thin, tempered chocolate shells. It's the tempering that has us slightly crazed.

Tempering chocolate (without any fancy equipment) means melting it, then lowering its temperature, then raising the temperature by just a few degrees to put it in a state of temper. When your chocolate arrives at this happy place, it will set quickly and remain solid at room temperature, have a smooth glossy appearance and a pleasing snap when you bite into it. You can dip truffles in untempered chocolate and keep them refrigerated, but they will start to melt almost instantly in your hand.

As Andrew Garrison Shotts explains in his very good book, Making Artisan Chocolates, different brands and types of chocolate come into temper at different temperatures. It's hardly an exact science, so the poor schmucks at home, like us, just have to keep experimenting, practicing and testing until we develop a sort of chocolate-tempering sixth sense. This sixth sense will be ours...oh yes, it will be ours.

We actually had stunning success with our first batch of truffles, half classic bittersweet and half with a chipotle-flavored bittersweet ganache. The funny thing is that we were sure our chocolate was NOT tempered, yet it set beautifully when we finally dipped the truffles. See the kind of craziness that we're dealing with here?

This past weekend, we got fancy and made these pistachio-coated truffles with bittersweet ganache centers flavored with Creme de Cassis, or blackcurrant liqueur. We think (we're not totally sure, mind you) that the white chocolate shells are tempered. They set quickly and have a bit of snap; maybe they are semi-tempered, if there is such a thing. However, we dipped some pretzels in the leftover white chocolate, and the coating of these pretzels is most definitely not tempered--it's quite melty to the touch. My theory is that the cold ganache centers brought the white chocolate into temper on contact. Who knows?

This weekend, we're going to test our tempering technique at least three times with the same kind of chocolate until we figure this out on a more definitive level. I have to admit, it's kind of fun. I love truffles with cool flavors like chiles, tea and curry, and they present a challenge to me as a cook. Really fine artisan chocolate is so expensive and often must be purchased online, so making my own is practical too.

I'm not giving you a recipe for these truffles because there's a lot more involved than I can explain in a blog post. If you want to make artisan chocolates of your own, I do recommend Shott's book--it explains the techniques from start to finish, offers a lot of creative recipes and encourages the reader to play around using Garrison's recipes as a starting point. If the whole tempering thing has zero appeal to you, you can still make great truffles. There's a recipe in today's Boston Globe (you may have to register online) for cardamom truffles that calls for the flavored ganache centers to be simply rolled in cocoa powder. And it's written by none other than Bea who writes one of your favorite blogs and mine, La Tartine Gourmande. Below, I've also included some links to other bloggers' posts on truffle making.

If you already dabble in chocolate-making, I want your help! What other books have you found useful in learning to make chocolate and perfecting your technique? I'd definitely like to do some more research. I'd love your tips too.

And finally, though this may come as a shock after that long rant about tempering, I wanted to post about these truffles in honor of another favorite blogger, Peabody of "Culinary Concoctions By Peabody." This queen of cookies and champion of cheesecakes is hosting a virtual housewarming party in honor of her beautiful new home. I'm "coming" to the party, and I'm bringing these truffles! I'm sure there will be no shortage of desserts, but I chose these truffles so you can set them aside until after the "guests" are gone and you're too exhausted to bake...as if you'd ever be too exhausted to do that! Congratulations on your house!

Truffle Bonanza from other Bloggers:

Hazelnut Nougat Truffles from What's For Lunch Honey?
Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Fudge Hearts from The Passionate Cook
The Black-On-Black Truffle from Veronica's Test Kitchen
Coffee Buttercream and Dulce de Leche Truffles from Tartelette
Liqueur Truffles from Jumbo Empanadas
Cinnamon, Salted Caramel, Ginger and Vanilla Truffles (that's 4 different flavors!) from Foodbeam
Wasabi Ginger Truffles from Dessert First
Bailey's Cream Truffles from Cook Sister
White Chocolate Truffles Infused with Pear Skins, Wildflower Honey and Nutmeg from Culinary Concoctions By Peabody

18 comments:

Lydia said...

Beautiful truffles! I'm afraid to start making them, because I'm sure I couldn't stop eating them...

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I have seen so many scrumptious desserts featuring pistachios lately, and this one is simply fabulous!

Peabody said...

Oh I love black current...and in truffles...swoon! Thanks so much for coming to the party and bringing these lovely treats.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Julie,
I have made several chocolate Easter eggs and you are so right about the correct tempering. Once you master the technique, though, it's a walk on the park.
Your truffles look luxurious and would make wonderful Christmas gifts!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I'm inspired by your tempering experiments. Good job! The ones you posted look amazing! I made truffles (very simple ones) a while back using David Lebovitz's Big Book of Chocolate. That has some very good chocolate information and a simple tempering technique.

Cakespy said...

WOW. These look killer! Gorgeous eye candy too in photo form.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Oops, It's the Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz.

Cookie Madness said...

Julie, those are gorgeous! I don't know much about tempering chocolate, though. I wish I did, but I like having people make chocolates FOR me rather than make them myself (unlike cookies).

Gattina said...

your pistachio and black currant is my most favorite combo! I enjoy so much reading your experiment, so much insight there!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I think there will be a huge crowd around these at the housewarming!
Those are beautiful Julie.

Nan said...

Those look so delicious! I'd love to do some chocolate-making of my own, but I'm afraid the results would be disastrous for my waist!

Gretchen Noelle said...

These look fabulous! And oh-so-dangerous! I have never tried making truffles but the combos your are talking about are making my mouth water! Chiles, curry...Wow!

Emiline said...

Wow! These sound fabulous! I love the combination of cassis and pistachios. I have some cassis right now. I didn't know what to do with it except kir royals.

Julie said...

Thanks everyone for your comments! I'm glad other people found the pistachio-cassis combo so appealing. I agree with susan, pistachios are everywhere right now--it's definitely the lovely Christmas green. Patricia, it's nice to know you've gotten to a good place with your tempering technique! Nan and Gretchen, I love making truffles because they tend to be lower in calories and more satisfying than a cookie or cake. Plus good dark chocolate has health benefits too! Peabody, I'm glad you like your housewarming present!
Julie

janelle said...

oooooh: they look so yummy! Shows what I don't know: I have been making peppermint bark (with white chocolate) for days now, and harden them in the fridge. It is such a science, mine must surely be untempered...

Loved all the links to the other yummy cookies!

JW said...

Hi, as a fellow chocolate lover and amateur chocolatier, I know where you're coming from!

My favorite chocolatemaking book is probably "Chocolate Obsession" from one of San Francisco's best chocolatiers. Also, check out the section on chocolate in "On Food and Cooking". I have certainly not mastered the art of tempering, but my strategy is to just keep the temperature very low and throw in half of the chocolate as medium-sized chunks after the first half is just melted. Also, a thermometer whisk can come in very handy for stirring and measuring temperature simultaneously.

I put together a guide on chocolate for a tasting I organized this spring which you might also find interesting:
http://web.mit.edu/jialanw/www/bostonchocolateguide07.pdf

Mansi Desai said...

pistachios and chocolate are like my favorite combo! I LOOOVE these truffles! thanks for all the useful links!:)

Hillary said...

What a great dessert! I hope you had a good Valentine's Day - these look delicious.