Every year around Valentine’s Day Jeff comes home with a Scotchmallow from the See’s Candy pop-up store that sets up in his office. Despite the fact that we both know it’s not my favorite candy, it’s still the perfect thing every time he brings it out of his bag for me. I mean, the man knows what’s what: Valentine’s Day is about chocolate.
Ok, there are lots of things that could define Valentine’s Day: nauseatingly cute cards, flowers, awkward dinner dates. But what most “celebrations” include – and I use that term loosely, to include both single-person Valentine’s hate-fests and uncomfortably PDA-laced Valentine’s dates – is chocolate. It’s a gift or it’s dessert or it’s something to snack on while watching movies or hanging out with friends. There are piles of it on sale at every grocery and convenient store.
Most times of the year I’m not really a chocolate lover. The things I can’t say no to are more often fruit-flavored and chewy. But I can’t resist a chocolate truffle. It doesn’t matter where they come from – specialty chocolate shops, mall stands, my hometown candy store – I rarely make it far out the door before devouring them. But at over a dollar for each mouthful, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Surprisingly, truffles are not very difficult to make so long as you aren’t too fussy about getting perfect spheres (I’m not) and you have something to do while they set up in the fridge (I did). Truthfully, I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing to know.
This year, not so sadly, there is no Scotchmallow. The store didn’t have any and Jeff is smart enough to know that no other See’s candy is quite as good. But that’s alright; we’ll have truffles instead, which let’s be honest, is a much better deal. Bittersweet and rich and just slightly boozy. As he said when we tried these, “There go my plans of buying chocolate this Valentine’s Day.” Smart man.
Bourbon Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from the Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook
Makes 12-24 truffles, depending on the size (12 make insanely decadent golf ball size truffles, 24 will make dainty two bite morsels)
We’re big fans of bourbon around here, just check out the modest booze recipes list in the index. So no one will be surprised to see that I spiked my truffles with our house favorite- Bulleit. But if you are not similiarly enchanted by bourbon you could substitute the same amount of a different liqueur (framboise? kahlua?) or a fruit puree (strawberry? passionfruit?) in your truffles. Or leave it out entirely and make lusciously pure chocolate truffles. Excuse me now, I think I need a private moment with my truffles.
8 oz dark or milk chocolate, finely chopped (what do you like best? Oh good choice, use that) plus an extra 8 oz for enrobing the truffles, also finely chopped (16 oz total)*
1/4 tsp kosher salt*
1 tbs bourbon (or another flavoring)
4 oz (1/2 cup) heavy cream
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Up to 1/4 cup oil (pick something neutral like canola or grapeseed)
To make the ganache center:
In a medium sized bowl, add 8 ounces of chocolate, the salt, and the flavoring. Set that aside while you heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. It should take about 8 minutes for the cream to come to just under a boil – when it’s ready the liquid will be steamy and there should be little bubbles just around the edges.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then stir the mixture for several minutes to fully combine all the ingredients and make a smooth and even chocolate soup-like mix. Don’t be afraid to over mix a bit to make sure there are no streaks or solids left. Let the bowl cool to room temperature (cover it when it’s too warm and you’ll get condensation on the top) and then cover and refrigerate the ganache for at least 2 hours or up to a two days.
To roll out the truffles:
When the ganache has fully set up and you’re ready to roll it out, pour the cocoa powder out onto a plate for rolling the formed truffles in – this makes them a bit easier to handle when you cover them in chocolate. Lay out a tray large enough to hold the truffles but small enough to fit in your fridge and line it with parchment paper. Using a small disher or two teaspoons, scoop out a small amount of ganache (I used heaped tablespoons to get large truffles; heaped teaspoons would produce something more bite size) and roll it in cocoa powder. Then roll the truffle in your hands to make it some semblance of round. Set it on the parchment lined tray and repeat the process until all the truffles are formed. Put them back in the fridge while you melt the chocolate to cover them in. You could stop at this point and have them rolled in cocoa but I prefer the chocolate shell on the outside.
In a large bowl you can either microwave the chocolate to melt it*** or melt it in a heatproof boil set over boiling water, double-boiler style. If you melt it on the stove make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water. In either case, be careful not to overheat the chocolate or it will lose too much liquid and seize (i.e. stop being so melty and lovely). If at any point during the melting or dipping process the chocolate becomes more frosting-like than melty-like or seizes up completely, add some of the oil, about a tablespoon at a time, and stir to mix it into the chocolate. Continue to do this until it’s smooth and melty again, then continue dipping.
Dip each truffle in the melted chocolate and roll it around using two forks. Transfer the truffle from fork to fork and wipe the fork holding the truffle on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate each time you move it to a new fork. Pass it back and forth two or three times and then transfer the truffle back to the parchment paper. Continue until all the truffles have been dipped. Then put the pan back in the fridge for at least 2 hours for the chocolate coating to harden. Store any uneaten truffles in the fridge in a tightly closed container. They’ll keep for up to a week although good luck making them last that long.
* This is really the time to use the best quality chocolate you can afford. And no matter what brand you use, buy a bar and chop it up rather than using chocolate chips. The chips have stabilizers in them to help them hold their shape when they melt which a) makes them harder to stir in and b) will make any ganache you make with them feel a little grainy rather than velvety smooth.
** Salt isn’t just for making things salty. A small amount will also mask bitter flavors which is what we’re doing here. That tiny amount of salt will cover some of the bitter notes of really dark chocolate and leave you with a fruity and rich flavor. Don’t leave it out.
*** To melt chocolate in a microwave: microwave for 1 minute and then remove it and stir. Then microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate is completely melted and liquidy.