Chocolate Truffles in Four

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Clockwise from top left: cinnamon, chili, and cayenee; raspberry; almond, covered with marzipan; cointreau (orange)

It’s been a while since I wrote, I know.  I’ve got a whole pile of photos from December 2008 that I meant to write about over the holidays, but, well, things were a little too hectic and it didn’t happen.  Then my semester started and I really didn’t happen.  But I’m back from spring break, I’ve got some time on my hands, and I’m ready to share!

I love truffles… LOVE truffles.  So much so I decided one year I was going to try and make chocolate truffles flavored with with liquor.  I was delighted to find the recipes were actually quite simple.  So I tootled down to the liquor store to peruse the selection of nips, thinking I’d pick two flavors.  Instead, I ended up returning home with 6 bottles (Amaretto, Frangelico, Grand Marnier, RumpleMinze, Chambord, and Bailey’s) because I couldn’t decide which to make!  That first year I made a triple batch of truffles.  Even I can’t eat that much chocolate!  Fortunately, I decided to take on this endeavor in December and suddenly I had a pile of Christmas presents for my co-workers.  The only problem was, the truffles didn’t stay solid at room temperature, must to my dismay.  One flavor didn’t even make it to truffles because it was so soft (note: skim milk is NOT an appropriate substitute to top off that 1/2 cup of heavy cream).  That one I just ate with a spoon.  In any case, I was determined to try again with better success next year, and researched online to become an amateur chocolatier.

December 2008 was my 4th year making truffles, and wow, I don’t mind patting myself on the back for a job well done!  I have experimented with chocolate, flavors (moving beyond liquors), and mastered a tempered chocolate coating.  So here are a few tips I have learned along the way:

1. Find good chocolate with a high percent cocoa.  This year I used Callebaut, a 60% Belgian Chocolate.  It worked like a dream.  The past three years I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips.  The key is that you need to adjust the cream to the percent of cocoa in the chocolate.  More cocoa makes the truffles harder so they will maintain their shape at room temperature.  Too much cream (which was often my problem with Ghirardelli), and you’ll we working out of your freezer to keep everything solid.  It’s worth while testing a small batch to check your ration of chocolate to cream.  Seriously, this is the crux of easy truffle making.  Take your time, let the truffle mix cool for many hours before you check how solid it is for rolling.  Get the ration right. 

2. Shred the chocolate very fine.  Normal size chocolate chips will not melt fast enough in hot cream.

shaved-chocolate

3. The choice of flavor alters the hardness of the truffle as well.  Use less cream if you’re going to flavor with a liquor, more if you’re going to favor with a power.

4. Be as precise with measurements as you can.  I bought a scale this year so I could weigh out my chocolate.   My roomies will probably laugh at me for this comment, as I still don’t know how much cinnamon and chili powder went into my batch of truffles this year, but they sure were a hit.

5. If you’re going to coat the truffles in chocolate, learn to temper chocolate.  This does require a thermometer.  For some reason I decide to torture myself this way every year.  Or maybe I do it just because I have a better surface for decorations.

6. If you’re sending truffles to your best friend who loves chocolate more than anything, and has no self restraint, you may want to send her husband his own box to hide away.  Or you could just tell him “tough-luck” for being too slow.

Now, to choose your flavors.  Liquors work very well.  I have also used Cointreau (one of my roomie’s favorites), blackberry liquor, and Kahlua. This year I also made a raspberry syrup by reducing frozen raspberries with some sugar and water, and then straining out the seeds with a fine mesh strainer (my favorites this year).  Extracts, such as almond, are very tasty, and there’s an array of options at the grocery store.  I also tried out dried spices, with cinnamon, chili powder, and a sprinkle of cayenne.  All of these flavors are added after the chocolate and cream are mixed together.  I have read about people who steep cardamom seeds or tea bags in their cream as it simmers.  I’m sure it’s tasty, and perhaps I’ll try it next year.

So here it is, the basic truffle recipe.  

Truffle Ganache: make approximated 30 truffles (1/2 inch diameter)

4 oz of 60% chocolate, finely shredded
1/4 c heavy cream (use less if flavoring with a liquid, or using a lower % cocoa chocolate)
1 T. corn syrup
1T. Butter (softened)

1. Heat the cream and corn syrup until simmering

2. Pour about half the cream over the chocolate and stir, adding as few bubbles as possible.  It looks pretty cool as you stir:

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3. When the mixture starts to smoothen, slowly add in the rest of the cream.  Taste it, make sure it’s sweet enough for you.

4. Stir in the butter.  The Callebaut chocolate was a little too bitter for me, so I ended up adding a little extra corn syrup, but the butter was the magic touch.  It just smoothed out the taste to smooth-silky perfect.

5. Stir in your flavoring, and again, taste and adjust as necessary.  Your end product should be smooth and glossy.

6. Allow the mixture to cool for 4 hours at room temperature.  Keep it away from direct heat.

Now, if you’re like me, and you don’t really pay attention to measurements (this is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do recipe), your ratio may be a little off.  I’ve come to have a pretty good idea how the ganache should look when it’s warm, after everything is all mixed together.  The bowl still feels warm in your hands, but you can very comfortable dip a finger in to taste some.  There’s a lot of heat in the mixture that needs to leave before you can form it into balls.  I would say dragging a spoon through it should leave a bit of a mark, but a little jiggling to the bowl will smoothing things out.  If the path of the spoon fills right in on it’s own, there’s too much cream. Also, you can probably form some soft peaks with the mixture at this point.  It’s much easier to correct the mixture at this stage by adding in a little more cream or a few more chocolate shavings.   Some times I’ve heated the bowl over a pan of steaming water, or for 5-10 seconds at a time in the microwave, just to add enough eat to melt the extra chocolate.

If things have cooled down, and the mixture is still too soft, you have a couple options.

1. Put it in the fridge or freezer for another 4 hours and work from there.  And tell the receivers of these chocolaty treats to keep them in the fridge.

2. You can reheat the whole thing and add more chocolate.  But a word of caution: heat slowly and be patient.  If you overheat the chocolate at this point, it will separate and you will be cursing the demise of your chocolaty confection.  If this happens, you may be able to save it if you immediately remove it from the heat, add a touch of fresh cream and stir vigorously!

Shaping the truffles:

There are a couple ways to go about this.  Some people will put the warm ganache into a pastry bag and pipe out little blobs onto parchment paper.  This year I found some half-sphere metal teaspoons and used the 1/2 teaspoon like an ice cream scoop.  The trick is to keep a mug of boiled water on hand to dip the spoon into.  The hot metal scoops the ganache beautifully.  I reheated and dried the measure with a paper towel every 3 truffles.

Once ball-like shapes are formed, put them in the fridge for an hour.  Roll each ball between your palms until round.  I highly suggest donning latex or some kind of plastic glove for this part.  It protects the truffles from the full heat of your hands.  At this point, your can roll the truffle in cocoa powder, or powdered sugar, or chopped nuts, or you can put them back in the fridge for coating in chocolate later. 

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Coating truffles with tempered chocolate:

I defer to other resources on tempering chocolate.  Baking 911 was a great resource.  Once my chocolate was tempered, I dropped in a ball, used a fork to cover it in chocolate, lifted it out, tapped it on the size to get off the extra chocolate, and dropped it on parchment to harden.  Once everything was done, I piped melted white chocolate in different designs on top.

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Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 9:45 am  Comments (10)  

Brewed Chocolate

Caffeine has been a pretty important part of my first year in medical school. With so much information to learn, the better I could pay attention in lecture, the less time I had to spend reviewing material outside of class. Every morning I whipped up a cocoa-ccino at the coffee cart, stocked by student services with Swiss-Miss hot cocoa mix and sub-par coffee. I don’t like coffee to begin with. I do everything I can to cover over the bitter taste, and the coffee-cart coffee requires a lot of Swiss-Miss, delivering a bunch of calories that I could just do without.

I’m a week into my second year I’ve avoided the coffee cart so far. Perhaps I find neuroanatomy more stimulating that the orientation and statistics we had at the beginning of first year. It takes a lot of brain power to focus on every word that Dr. J says as he runs though his neuroanatomy lectures at hyper-drive. Or maybe I just caught up on sleep over summer break.

This summer I also took the time to delve into the food-blogging world, which has afforded me food photography lessons, a post on Tastespotting, and a jar of Brewed Chocolates won from Food Interviews. I am most excited about the Brewed Chocolate, a concentration of whole, raw brewed cocoa beans with a bit of sugar cane added, just add hot water. I inquired in a comment and was assured this Brewed Chocolate didn’t have the same bitterness of coffee and black tea. I couldn’t wait to try it.

My roommate and I tried it for the first time this morning. Because I heard it could be a stimulant or make you drowsy, I decided I would not try it on a school day lest I fall asleep in one of Dr. J’s lectures and end up behind for the rest of the course.

The first thing I did when the jar arrived was pop open the lid and smell it. It has a lovely subtle chocolate aroma. Nothing too bold like a new chocolate bar, but rather a lingering chocolate essence. A beautiful soft brown color, it rolls around in the jar like warm honey, not too viscous, but with some weight behind it. My favorite part of making the cups of brewed chocolate this morning was drizzling it into the hot water. It flowed in looking like molasses and held its shape as squiggly spaghetti in the bottom of the cup for just a moment before melding together into a little puddle of darkness. Much of the brewed chocolate clung to the spoon so I had a little taste. Chocolaty, but, much like the smell, better resembled the lingering taste of a fine dark chocolate on your palate than the first few munches on a whole chunk of the stuff.

I stirred it up and took a sip. I was expecting something bold like coffee (perhaps because I had just licked a bit off my finger) and felt a bit startled when it was nothing of the sort. My roommate commented it reminded her of tea. I took a few more sips with tea in mind and felt much less startled. It’s got a watery taste like many herbal teas with the chocolate flavor coming at the finish of each sip. The smidgen of sugar added the prefect sweetness.

As to how I felt half an hour after finishing my cup: not very different. My roommate didn’t notice much difference either. Perhaps a teaspoon of this chocolaty concentrate isn’t enough to have much effect. At least I didn’t fall asleep, so brewed chocolate is approved for morning lectures. And I plan to drink plenty of it as the months grow colder to warm me up in the morning. Thanks so much to Stef and Rob for the free taster. I’ll be back for more!

Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm  Comments (4)  
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Blog 1

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog because I miss writing. The reason I finally got around to it… there are two actually:

1) I found this new amazing site my roommates and I call Food Porn which has pictures of delicious food with links to recipes. As a lover of food in many ways, I melt at the site of these beautiful dishes. I wanted to post my own favorite recipes and new creations to the site. Many of the users linked their photos to a food blog, so it seemed necessary to start a blog of my own.

2) I’m studying for med school finals and took a procrastination break to peruse the above site and noticed many users posted their recipes on this blog server. So, in the mood to procrastinate a little more, I signed up.

Now, after a few hours of less-than-productive work, I’m taking another study break for my first blog.

I miss writing because I haven’t had time since the creative non-fiction class I took at Brown University senior year. I take that back. I haven’t written since I finished my applications to medical school, but that hardly counts. I can say that after a summer spent writing and rewriting about my hobbies, my aspirations as a future doctor, and what I can add to the (insert Medical School here) community, I became pretty efficient at pounding out a few paragraphs to promote myself.  No more of that until I apply to residency.

Over the past year I’ve longed for a media to muddle through my thoughts when medical school has been getting me down or express a new epiphany about the field as I learn what it’s like to be a doctor.  This blog is to reflect on my years in medical school and tell some stories about the experience, including anatomy lab jokes, disorganized course directors, and the wonderful advice from a professor to help us pull our heads out of our books every now and then.

This blog is also to write about the food adventures I plan to take this summer when I’m back at a 9-5 job with evenings as free as can be!  Photos and recipes included.

And this blog is to write about Swing: dancing, teaching, and DJing, because that’s where my sanity lies in my busy and stressful medical school life.

Published in: on May 17, 2008 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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