Holiday celebrations so often include great meals, wonderful friendly gatherings...and fabulous desserts! When looking for something really special, "sticker shock" is bound to happen at some point. You know those high-priced candy shops where you can actually buy a single piece of chocolate for ten dollars? Or the fancy kiosk at your favorite shopping mall offering similarly high-priced treats? Well, though there definitely IS a special skill honed by chocolatiers, YOU CAN make wonderful chocolates yourself to share with friends and loved ones. With St. Patrick's Day and Easter BOTH approaching fast, you can be ready with original chocolates from your own kitchen.
Chocolate truffles are a soft, somewhat fluffy chocolate usually rolled into balls and coated with a variety of ingredients. Powdered sugar, sweetened cocoa powder, candy sprinkles, or chopped nuts are just a few possible coatings. On the inside, a truffle may be simply chocolate or may hold a chewy caramel surprise in the center, a favorite nut or piece of dried fruit. The possibilities are endless, so let's get started on your first batch!
First, the ingredients. The chocolate you choose depends mostly on your own preference. Some enjoy extra dark semi-sweet chocolate, while others prefer a lighter milk chocolate. Other varieties exist in between the two, and you may use which ever version suits your taste the best. I like to use a semi-sweet bakers chocolate, so that the truffle itself is nice and rich but not too sugary sweet, and then let a coating add a touch of extra sweetness...just a touch. Here is the fun part! You can use chocolate from the baking aisle of your local supermarket, a special dark high cocoa chocolate bar from a specialty shop, or even plain chocolate chips. And yes, you can use white chocolate if you prefer, or mix white and dark chocolate to form your own special blend.
Your entire ingredient list for one batch is quite simple:
12 ounces chocolate
1/3 cup whole milk or ½ and ½
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Variations that you could choose to add at this point might include:
- a dash of almond extract, especially if you plan to use a chopped nut coating
- a dash of peppermint extract for the mint chocolate lovers in your life
- 2 Tablespoons of instant coffee granules to develop a lovely chocolate mocha flavor.
- For St. Patrick's Day, consider using green sugar sprinkles, perhaps mixed with white powdered sugar for a pretty finish
- Easter ushers in bright pastels, so once again be creative with your use of colorful coatings. Also consider making a batch of particularly small pieces to use in children's baskets. A center of crunchy peanut butter is often a favorite with young ones!
The process is very simple. To begin, set a bowl into your refrigerator to chill. This is what you will cool your hot chocolate mixture in shortly.
You will use a double boiler, but if you don't have one that's ok! Just pull out one saucepan that is large enough for a smaller saucepan to nest inside it and you will do just fine. Bring to boil about 1 1/2 cups of water, place your smaller pan on top of the water, and add your milk, butter, and flavor extract(s). Stir that around a bit until the butter is nearly melted, then add your chocolate. If you are using a block or bar of chocolate, break it into smaller pieces before adding. Now just stir that chocolate around over the hot water and let it slowly melt.
When the chocolate has completely melted, use a wire whisk to give it a good brisk stir. There is no need for an electric mixer, this quick whisking just ensures that everything is perfectly mixed together. Now, using a rubber spatula so you won't leave any of that gooey chocolate behind in the pan, scrape it all out into the chilled bowl, cover with a clean towel and place in the refrigerator to completely cool. As the chocolate cools, it will begin to firm up and achieve its finished texture, so don't be tempted to try to work with it until it is completely cold all the way through.
While the chocolate chills, you can prepare your coating(s). Feel free to use several!
When the chocolate is completely cooled, scoop it out in teaspoon-sized portions (this does not have to be exact) and roll quickly between your hands to form into a ball. It works well to roll several balls before rolling them in their coating, as you may not want to get the different coatings IN the chocolate. This is where you can add another little prize, by rolling the chocolate ball around a square of caramel or a nut...we especially enjoy a macadamia nut in the center, with finely chopped macadamia nuts as a coating.
Once coated, arrange your beautiful chocolates on a plate or tray to share with someone special...or indulge yourself! They do not require refrigeration, but during particularly hot weather you may want to store them in a cool spot to avoid softening.
Voila! So now you can use your imagination and experiment with fillings, coatings, and different types of chocolate, and amaze everyone you know with your ability to produce gorgeous, decadent chocolate truffles. Enjoy them this holiday season!