Easy Chocolate Truffles

Think about this — how much would you pay for a dozen REALLY good truffles?  Could you imagine being able to make them yourself and have them taste just about as good as they do from your favorite chocolatier?  Well, I want you to know that it’s not only possible, but surprisingly easy.  Probably the hardest part is locating a purveyor of high quality chocolate.  You need to find a dark chocolate with a content of cocoa solids that is at least 60% or higher.  I usually buy chocolate disks that are meant for cooking / baking with either 72% or 85% content of cocoa solids.  If you don’t have a store specializing in chocolate near you, you should be able to find pure chocolate bars that list the cocoa content in a well-stocked supermarket.

Now to make the truffles…  The recipe below is very basic — easy and no frills.  It’s simply a ganache, which essentially is a mixture of chocolate and cream.  Ganaches are used in desserts for frostings and fillings, as well as for truffles.  The proportion of the ingredients when making a ganache will differ, depending on how it’s to be consumed.  Below is what I consider to be ideal for truffle-making.

Ingredients:

12 ounces dark chocolate with cocoa solid content 60% or higher

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

cocoa powder for coating

Directions:

Chop the chocolate into small pieces, if necessary.  Place the chocolate in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Combine the cream and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over low-to-medium heat.  As soon as the cream mixture starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate.  Without stirring, let it sit for one full minute, allowing the cream to melt the chocolate.  After one minute, stir the cream and chocolate together until it is completely smooth.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  After the ganache is cool, you can make your truffles.  Using a small melon baller or a spoon, scoop about 1 tablespoon of ganache for each truffle.  Lightly roll it into a ball with your hands and place on a plate, tray, or sheet of your choice.  You should have about two dozen truffles.  Chill the truffles for another five minutes, if necessary, so that they do not become too messy.  Next, place 2-3 spoonfuls of pure cocoa powder in a small bowl and roll each truffle in it to coat.  Now the truffles are ready for immediate consumption!  Or, if your will power is abounding, store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or the freezer.

As I have already stated, this is a VERY simple and basic recipe for truffles, but there are many other options that can add a little flare to your chocolate.  You can flavor the ganache with rum, brandy, or your favorite flavored liqueur by heating it with the cream.  Or your can steep warmed cream with zested orange rind for about 10 minutes before bringing it to a full boil.  Remove the rind through a fine wire mesh strainer before pouring the cream over the chocolate.

Instead of dusting the truffles with cocoa powder, try finely chopped hazelnuts, coconut, or even a sprinkling of fine sea salt.  There is also the option of coating each truffle with melted and tempered chocolate, which will give it a glossy look and a delicious snap when bitten.  The art of tempering, however, requires very careful attention to the temperature at which the chocolate is melted, so this is not recommended if you’re looking for something easy.

So if you want to make something impressive and delicious, try this for your next movie night, dinner party, or romantic soirée, and enjoy!

Brownies….with (or without) Coconut

Let me preface this recipe by telling you that it is in no way healthy for you. However, it has been known to lift my spirits, particularly around “that time of the month.” A friend of mine tweaked this basic brownie recipe when she went through culinary school, and honestly, it’s one of the best darn brownies–the thin crust on top and the gooey center–I have ever eaten…..seriously. Not to mention that if you’re stuck with only a few hours before some unexpected dinner guests are to arrive, this dessert is a good option, as the ingredients do not need to be at room temperature prior to baking. If you have the ingredients stocked in your pantry, you’ll be good to go in about 30 minutes flat.

I’m not sure what possessed me to add coconut to the batter last night, but I may just never go back to the original brownie recipe- ever. The coconut takes this brownie to a whole new level! In my opinion, the coconut mellows out the brownie, which can be overwhelming with chocolate for some people. Of course, you also can omit the chopped chocolate pieces in this recipe if you’re trying to be “good”, but there’s something about that liquid chocolate that melts into your mouth when you take a bite, that I can’t live without. So I say, keep em’ in!

Since Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, and you might need a decadent dessert recipe, these brownies would do nicely. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could cut the brownies into heart shapes once they’re cooled.

1/2 c. + 2 Tbl. flour

1/2 c. + 2 Tbl. dried cocoa

1/2 c. dried, unsweetened coconut  

1/4 tsp. salt

3 lg. eggs

1 1/4 c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter

3/4 c. chopped chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly butter a 9″ square baking pan; set aside. Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl with a whisk;  meanwhile, on low heat, bring the butter to a low simmer. Add eggs, sugar, and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl. Once the butter is hot and bubbling, pour it into the bowl with the egg mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients; mix thoroughly. Stir in the chopped chocolate; pour into baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, depending on your oven. The brownies should be slightly cracked and bubbled on top; cooked, but still slightly gooey in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.