Homemade chocolate truffles – meltingly good
Just in time to wish you a Happy St Nicholas day. My Polish Aunt and Uncle would appear every 6th December bearing sweets for us children; in fact even while I was temping at jewellers one Christmas during my late teens, my Aunt appeared holding a bag and uttered the familiar phrase “A strange man stopped me in the street and said give this to Sally,” – the strange man being, of course, St Nicholas (or Santa Claus). So today has to be about something sweet.
I was given a box of shop bought truffles the other day. Fair enough they were from a supermarket not a specialist chocolate shop but one bite into the waxy, sweet, cloying ball of confectionery was enough and I threw the whole lot in the bin. Such a shame as really good chocolate truffles are divine, and this is from someone who doesn’t worship at the altar of chocolate very often.
The party season is just kicking in and unless you’ve bought costly, scented candles in bulk, you may be scrabbling round in the next few weeks to find the perfect little something for the hosts along with the obligatory bottle of plonk. Fresh cream, butter, chocolate and alcohol combined with love and care into moreish morsels. Who could resist that? You’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Cradled in tissue paper, housed in a pretty box, they make luxurious gifts. Also good dotted about the Christmas dinner table prior to the entrance of the pudding (for pudding haters or just to go with coffee).
A word of warning though: Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES be tempted to make them (or anything in fact) with cooking chocolate. You might as well make them with lard they’ll taste so bad and you’ll never gain entry to a party ever again.
Homemade chocolate truffles - two ways of lacing them, with options
- 1 vanilla pod
- 300ml fresh, extra thick double cream (or the heaviest thickest cream you can buy)
- 300g dark (plain) chocolate minimum 58% cocoa solids*
- 300g good quality milk chocolate*
- 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 2-3 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
- 25g cocoa powder or cacao
- Pour the fresh cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthways, scrape the seeds into the pan with the tip of a sharp knife, then add the whole pod too. Bring just to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.
- Break 200g of the dark chocolate into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate. I find this easiest by microwaving on medium power for 4 minutes. Alternatively sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water making sure the base does not touch the surface of the water. As soon as the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and beat in 25g of the butter with a wooden spoon until smooth. Repeat with 300g of milk chocolate (check after 3 minutes in the microwave) and the remaining butter.
- Remove the vanilla pod from the cream (you can rinse, dry and add this to caster sugar for homemade vanilla sugar). Measure half the cream into each bowl of chocolate mixture and stir in thoroughly. Add brandy to the dark chocolate mix and Frangelico to the milk chocolate.
- Pour each bowl into a separate shallow tray lined with greaseproof paper or baking parchment (a square cake tin is ideal). Leave to chill in the fridge overnight. Alternatively you can pour each mixture into freezer proof containers and freeze for a month or two.
- Put the cocoa or cacao powder in a shallow dish. If you are in a warm climate, like Dubai, whack your air conditioning up high. Shape the dark chocolate mixture into balls and roll in the cocoa. Chop or grate the remaining dark chocolate into small fragments. Shape the milk chocolate mixture as before and roll in the grated chocolate. Place them on greaseproof lined trays and chill for about 8 hours (or overnight). If you are in a cold climate, remove from the fridge for an hour before serving so they soften slightly. If giving as a gift in Dubai, I would put the finished truffles in the freezer and transport in a cool box to the recipient.
Variation: Replace the brandy with Disarrono and roll the truffles in ground almonds. You could also leave out the alcohol and add a few drops of real almond essence (don’t overdo it).
*Good quality chocolate is expensive but don’t be tempted to skimp. Read the labels for the cocoa solid content (the higher the figure the better it is). Go for 85% Lindt (or more) if you like a really rich, dark taste. Good quality supermarket own brands can be cost effective – I use Carrefour or Waitrose when needing a lot of chocolate. Lindt is not very much more in price and far superior – especially for the milk chocolate. And I repeat – cooking chocolate is an aberration and never to be used….never, ever.
For more sweet inspiration to give as gifts or serve up as Christmas treats try Neapolitan Marzipan Chocolates (on Fab Food 4 All), Chocolate Hazelnut and Raspberry fondants (Franglais Kitchen), Cardamom-flavoured Cranberry Christmas cookies (Fuss Free Cooking) and White Christmas fudge (The Hedonista). Chef and Steward has a great idea for an edible present here too.
Is there a festive ritual from your childhood that you remember?