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