Friday, January 27, 2012

Mocha Chocolate Truffles

Sometimes I can't focus on one thing at a time for the life of me.

I'm eating breakfast as I write this post.

I'll think about making dinner while editing recipes for my cookbook.

I type an e-mail while listening to Jon telling me funny stories about animals and potato chips. (I barely take in most of it. SHAME).

So I am going to take all the time in the world right now to tell you all about chocolate ganache.
Just chocolate ganache.

Purely chocolate and cream.

It's simple enough, but uses a few tricks to keep it as smooth as a silk blouse.
Chocolate Truffles are so special because normally they're something you'd buy. But, what if I told you that this irresistible recipe only requires 4 ingredients? You probably have more cell phones than that.

I bet you have some bittersweet chocolate in your pantry. If not,call me - I'll lend you some. Or, perhaps after Valentines' Day you'll have plenty.

Bittersweet chocolate has a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, which refers to the ground up cocoa nibs that grow from the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao). Cocoa solids are essentially unsweetened chocolate - that is, cocoa mass and cocoa butter. The difference (maximum 30%) is sugar.

All you need to make truffles is ganache, which is probably my favourite word in the culinary dictionary. Go on and say it. Ga-nache. Sounds like the name of some fancy LA designer. But, without the drama, 5-inch heels and 12-person entourage. It's way better than that.

Ganache is an oil-in-water emulsion of cream and chocolate. It can be made from anywhere between a 1:1 ratio of cream to chocolate to a 1:2 ratio. The latter ratio will produce a firmer texture, and the extent of firmness depends on the cocoa content of the chocolate you use.

The cream lowers the melting point of the chocolate so that it is downright luscious and smooth at room temperature. It's better than your Grandma's bread pudding, better than your Mama's holiday trifle, and so far beyond Dad's mac and cheese. This stuff is way legitimate. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford, or one that is your favourite. I like Lindt, but use what you like. Just make sure it's pure. Read the ingredient list - if you see butter fat/oil or hydrogenated anything oil, drop it. It's so so SO not worth it.

Truffles should be creamy and leave teeth marks when you bite into them - they should not crumble. If you've ever had ganache turn gritty, grainy or separate on you, then I feel your pain. Let me fix it.

Chocolate is finicky. It requires gentle heating and cooling. It's all because cocoa butter can arrange itself into six different crystal forms. SIX! It has multiple personalities and we only like one of them - that's number five. (like Johnny Five. Remember Short Circuit? More input!)

Finely chopping the chocolate allows for even melting.

Letting the mixture stand for 3-5 minutes allows the hot cream to slowly and gently melt the chocolate. It also allows the mixture to cool down before stirring. This helps to form a homogeneous, smooth ganache as it lets the chocolate and cream come to the same temperature so that it can emulsify more easily.

Over-mixing can cause a rapid decrease in temperature, which may result in a coarse texture. Gentle stirring is all it takes to reduce the fat to tiny droplets suspended within the water phase, helping the mixture come together and form a smooth emulsion. Too much agitation can introduce air bubbles and break the emulsion, leaving you with an oil film on the surface once it cools and hardens.

It's not so bad right? It's easy. It's fun. It's pretty. It's a bit scientific. Just like my book. And there are plenty of drool-worthy chocolate recipes included. Can we hug?

Mocha Chocolate Truffles
Makes about 4 dozen truffles

8 oz bittersweet chocolate
6 oz (3/4 cup) heavy 35% whipping cream
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl.
2. Combine cream and coffee in a small saucepan over medium-low heat just until it barely comes to a boil so that small bubbles begin to form around the edges and at the surface of the cream.
3. Remove from heat and immediately pour it over chopped chocolate.
4. Let mixture stand without stirring for about 5 minutes.
5. Gently stir mixture in a circular motion using a rubber spatula, starting from the center and working your way out to the sides, until it is smooth and glossy.
6. Pour mixture into a shallow glass baking dish and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
7. Refrigerate until firm.
8. Scoop teaspoons of ganache, roll them into a ball in your hands and then roll them around in cocoa powder. Store in the fridge but serve at room temperature.

Good luck eating just one!

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