This week, Chris and I decided to finally use the 5lb bar of chocolate his parents gave me last Christmas, so we made truffles. We followed the steps found in The Professional Chef . They turned out quite well, with only a few minor pitfalls on the way to chocolate goodness.
Before we get onto the recipe, a few quick words on equipment. This is an extremely equipment, time and space heavy process. I don’t recommend attempting it without at least two different sized double boilers, an instant read thermometer, disposable food-service grade gloves (vinyl or latex), several jelly roll trays, a roll of wax paper, and paper cups to put the finished truffles in. It also should be noted that this is an extremely messy process, so be prepared to find chocolate in unexpected places.
Now, on to the recipe. Since we had 5 pounds of milk chocolate available to us, we decided to just use that as the basis for ganache filling for the truffles. Ganache is simply a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream. Now, since I’m sometimes a bit slow, I forgot to adjust the bittersweet ganache recipe given in the Professional Chef to account for the difference in the milk chocolate. It turned out all right in the end, which brings me to an important point-this can be a very forgiving process. Chocolate and ganache can be melted back down with minimal fuss if something doesn’t quite work (so long as the chocolate hasn’t seized on you).
Milk Chocolate Ganache
1 pound of chocolate
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Note that this is approximate-your mileage may vary depending on the brand of chocolate you have. We used Hershey’s, as it’s what we had. It may take an extra tablespoon or so to smooth out the ganache, or it may take less. If the ganache is too soft, feel free to melt it down and add more chocolate-we certainly did. Just for completeness, here’s the dark chocolate ganache, if you prefer.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 pound of chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Bring cream to a boil, and pour it over the chunks of chocolate. Stir until melted. We did this over a double boiler as well, with the heat on medium-low. Once the ganache is smooth, this is the time to add additional flavors. Since we had a great deal of chocolate to work with, we did four different kinds of truffles, chocolate, coffee, hazelnut and raspberry. To provide these flavors, we used liqueurs. We used 1-2 tablespoons of the liqueur to every pound of chocolate-but really it was based on taste. Once this was incorporated into the mixture, we let the ganache cool on the counter until room temperature before moving to the fridge. Once it was hardened, after several hours, we formed the truffle core. This is where the gloves first come in. To do this, we used a plastic teaspoon, and scooped a bit of ganache out, the closer to round, the better. Then we rolled the ganache with the finger tips of one hand on the palm of the other (for example, since I’m right handed, I have the ganache on my left palm, and used my right hand to roll it). Once rounded, the ganache was placed on a wax-paper lined tray. Once all the centers were formed, the chocolates were put back in the fridge for a bit to firm up again. At this point, there are a couple of different options. You can take the easy road, and dust the truffles with coco or powdered sugar and call them done, or you can take the hard, and messy road and coat the truffles with chocolate. Go-getters that we are, we opted for the messy road. For a coating, since the truffles had milk chocolate in the center, we used bittersweet chocolate (for this, we got Ghirardelli chips). For each pound of ganache, we used probably about 10 oz of coating chocolate, but your mileage may vary as well. To melt and temper the chocolate, I used the seed method (again, also in the Professional Chef). I know there are other methods, and some people skip the tempering entirely, but I didn’t really want to tempt fate, so I tried to play by the rules. Using a double boiler over medium low heat, I melted most of the chocolate, reserving 1-2 oz. Once the instant-read thermometer hit 113 degrees (F), I took the top of the boiler off the heat, and dumped in the rest of the chocolate, stirring constantly. Be careful not to get any water into the chocolate too, otherwise it will seize. The residual heat melted the chocolate, and once the thermometer hit 90 degrees, it was time to start coating (I know that 88 is actually desired, but this worked out all right for me, so I’m not going to stress over it too much). This is also the point at which you really need a friend there to help out, because it’s going to get messy. If you’re right handed like me, you’re probably going to want to work left to right, so you’ll have your truffles on the left, chocolate in the middle, and new tray with clean wax paper on it on your right. Here is another point at which gloves are invaluable. To coat the truffles, I put a spoon full of chocolate in my left palm, and using a similar motion as I did when forming the truffles, I rolled the ganache in the chocolate until coated. Another note here-you’re going to be dripping chocolate, so be sure to start filling the new tray at the most distant point, and working toward you. This process will take awhile, so to keep the chocolate at the right temperature, there are a couple of options. Many people recommend heating pads, but since we couldn’t find one, we just set the top of the double boiler back in to the bottom, which still had some residual warmth left. Once everything has its first coat on, let them sit at room temperature until hard, then repeat, adding another layer of chocolate. I recommended three total layers of chocolate, it gives it a nice shell and wonderful crunch when you bite into it. As you put on the final layer, if you want to top any with chopped nuts, simply sprinkle them over the still wet truffle. If you want to decorate with other shades of melted chocolate (we used both white chocolate and a mixture of white and dark), simply drizzle or pipe the decorative chocolate over the finished and hardened truffle as desired.
The end result was (8lbs worth of) almost professional looking truffles, that tasted simply amazing. Although I never intend to make truffles in these quantities ever again, it’s definitely something that’s fun to do, and pretty seriously impressive.