I decided to stay in town for the long weekend because I wanted (had) to work on my thesis (it’s taking over my life!). So while it seemed like the whole world was outside enjoying the lovely spring weather, I was indoors all day, sitting at my desk, staring at this computer screen.
Earlier this afternoon, I felt particularly overwhelmed, and needed a little something to cheer myself up and keep me going on the chapter I was working on. So I went over to my pantry and picked out some snacks. I set out some dark chocolate covered biscuits and chocolate cream filled wafers on a plate and was about to walk away, when it occurred to me that I needed to add something more healthy to the mix. So I decided to make some chocolate covered strawberries!
The process is so simple that I don’t think it even makes sense to post a recipe. But, if you’ve never made chocolate covered strawberries, here are some simple tips.
Start off by melting some dark chocolate; you can use a microwave, just make sure to use a low heat setting, so as not to burn the chocolate.
If you’d like to sprinkle some nuts on the strawberries, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and toast some brazil nuts or hazelnuts on a baking tray for about 5-7 minutes, until they are fragrant. Once cooled, place the nuts in a tea towel and rub them against each other through the towel, in order to remove their skins. Then, crush the nuts with a mortar and pestle and set the crushed nuts aside.
In the meantime, wash the berries and dry them with a paper towel. Then, dip the berries in chocolate. I decided to leave the leaves on the strawberries as it’s easier to work with them that way, and I also think it’s easier to pick them up by the leaves when you want to eat them 🙂
You can use your hands to coat the strawberries in chocolate, like this:
If you don’t want to use your hands, or you’d like to take the leaves off, you can also use a fondue fork.
After you’ve dipped each berry in the chocolate, place it on a plate covered in wax paper or parchment paper.
If you’ve decided to add nuts to the mix, coat the chocolate covered strawberries in the crushed nuts. Let the berries be for a while, until the chocolate hardens, and then serve them. And there you have it, a simple and quick snack or dessert that’s very healthy!
When I closed my eyes and took a sip out of this cup, I sighed, actually sighed, aloud. You know how cakes and chocolates are advertised as ‘decadent’? Well THIS was more than that; worse than that even; and better than that; it was positively depraved. The rich, thick, smooth, creamy, soft, chocolatey concoction was pure wickedness; it was indulgence, irresponsibility, a sense of loosing oneself and a wanton disregard for common sense and moderation, all swirled together into one little cup.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, I paired it with a little chocolate truffle!
And yet, I was somehow not satisfied (this proves my argument that the hot chocolate really was evil and powerful (I mean we all know that I am a goddess of self-control and moderation (reflected as much in my eating habits as my use of language and parentheses), generally speaking, so it had to be some sort of dark magic that the chocolate wielded))! And so I sneaked over to my freezer, pulled out one of my frozen chocolate chip cookie dough portions and popped it into the oven. Eight minutes later, I added this to my little afternoon snack:
Yes, yes, there is a pie-sliced bit of cookie missing; but it is a long and arduous journey from my kitchen to my dining table, filled with many perils.
The long and short of it was that I spent the next 10 minutes ooohing and aahing and moaning, and being general inappropriate, while I sipped the chocolate and ate the cookie. But then again, wouldn’t you do the same before a spectacle such as this?
At the end of it however, I was happy, relaxed and more energetic all at once, and ready to go back to work on my thesis here i am gleefully typing away about it.
If you’d like to try this at home, here’s what you need:
60-75 g of dark chocolate (ideally 60% cocoa content)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar
A pinch of ground nutmeg
A pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
A stick of cinnamon
A chocolate truffle (go here for a collection of my chocolate truffle recipes)
Start off by throwing the chocolate into a little saucepan. Add the milk and turn on the heat to low. Using a whisk keep whipping the chocolate into the milk as it melts. Be carefully not to burn the chocolate.
Once it’s all melted and the mixture becomes thick and chocolatey, add the salt, sugar, nutmeg powder and coffee and whip it all up some more. When everything is blended, pour the mixture into a little cup. Top off with whipped cream if you like. Place the cinnamon stick in the chocolate to use as a stirrer, and serve with a truffle and/or cookie, and a good book 🙂
Oh and make sure to leave your computer somewhere where it won’t bother you, so you can focus on all the delightfulness before you.
My latest chocolate-related invention: Masala Chai Chocolate Truffles!
How did I come up with this curious combination of chocolate and masala chai (Indian-style black tea)? I was planning my birthday party earlier this month, and I was trying to think of snacks and desserts that I could serve at the party. I wanted to be able to do most of the work in advance, preparing at least some of the foods days in advance, but I also didn’t want to compromise on their taste. Truffles, are of course a great choice given these criteria. So I decided to make some of my usual favourites: Cointreau truffles, mint butter-cream truffles and almond butter-cream truffles. But, I also wanted to be a bit adventurous and try something new and quirky. I’d made myself a cup of tea, and was sipping it, while I thought about what new flavours I could throw together, when the obvious occurred to me: tea-truffles. And then I thought, “Why not masala chai truffles, just to spice things up?”. They turned out surprisingly well, and were quite a hit.
If you’d like to give them a go, here’s how.
Equipment you will need:
A cutting board and knife OR a food processor
2 medium-sized bowls
Parchment sheet, baking sheet or foil
Little paper cups to put the truffles in.
8 Oz (approx 225 g) good dark chocolate (at least 70-80 % cocoa solids)
1/2 cup cream (whipping cream in Canada or heavy cream or double cream elsewhere)
2 pinches of salt
1 tea bag masala chai (available in most grocery stores)
A few tablespoons of cocoa powder
Chop up the chocolate on a cutting board into fine pieces with a large knife. This is the tiresome part of the recipe. I have a food processor, so I just break the chocolate up into individual squares and then throw it into the processor. The reason you want the chocolate broken up into fine bits is because you want it all to melt evenly when you pour in the hot cream. Throw the chocolate bits into a bowl.
Next, get the half cup of cream to a gentle simmer and immediately turn off the heat. Add the tea bag to the cream, and let it steep for about 5 minutes.
Heat the cream again to a gentle simmer, and pour the hot cream through a strainer lined with a cheese cloth (as shown below), into the bowl with the chocolate.
Using a ladle, make sure all the chocolate is covered by the cream. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Then add the salt, and delicately mix everything with a whisk.
It’s important not to be rough because then you will get air bubbles into the chocolate. That wouldn’t be good as you want the chocolate to taste smooth and rich.
Once you have a smooth mixture (this is called chocolate ganache), place the bowl in the fridge for about half an hour, until it firms up. The length of time you will need to leave it in the fridge will depend on the temperature inside your fridge, so keep checking on it. You want the ganache to be just firmed up, but not hard.
In the meantime, take out the plates and place a sheet of parchment or foil on each of them. Once the chocolate mixture is ready, take it out of the fridge and spoon out the chocolate in small portions on the parchment or foil (use an ice cream scoop if you have one). The portions should be approximately the size you want the truffles to be.
Now, roll each scoop/portion of chocolate about in your hand until it is more or less spherical, then place it back on the parchment. I would recommend washing your hands periodically, while you do this, as you will get chocolate all over them, and it will be more difficult to shape the truffles if you’ve got melted chocolate on your hands. Also, the washing will help to cool your hands. The truth is, I have to wash my hands periodically anyway because I can’t resist licking some of the chocolate off every once in a while 😉
Once you’ve shaped all the truffles, take another bowl and put about 2 tbsp of cocoa powder in it. Take each truffle in your hand, roll it about for a second or two in your hands, just enough to warm the surface and then roll the truffle in the cocoa powder, until it is covered. Finally, place it in a paper cup. Repeat until all the truffles are done.
I’ve heard it being said that this process can be messy and/or arduous; I didn’t think it was either; I did however end up smelling like chocolate all day 🙂
You can put the truffles in the fridge for two to three weeks, but take them out a few hours before you serve them, so that they’re at room temperature. They also make for a great present, just put them in a nice box and voilà! you have a handmade, personalized present!
Last week I decided to invite some friends over to mine for drinks, desserts, cheese, and some cheese related hors d’ oeuvres. It was my birthday you see, and what better way is there to celebrate one’s birthday than by feeding one’s friends and drinking with them? 🙂
I tried several new recipes out for this party, including three new types of chocolate truffles! Here’s one of my favourite ones: truffles with mint centers!
This was a modification of a basic truffle recipe that I came up with while fooling around with new flavours and textures; If you’d like to try it, read on!
100 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) (the better this chocolate is, the better your truffles will taste)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 pinches of salt
5-6 tablespoons of icing sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mint essence
3-4 drops green artificial food colouring
5-6 squares of dark chocolate for coating the truffles
4 Bowls and several spoons
1 large plate
A hand-held or stand-alone egg-beater/mixer
1 sheet of foil or butter paper
I began by heating the cream in a little pan to a gentle simmer. In the meantime, I chopped the chocolate into bits (you can also use a food processor), and placed the chocolate bits in a bowl.
Once the cream began to simmer, I poured it over the chocolate and let it sit until the chocolate melted.
Once the chocolate was melted, I took a whisk and gently mixed the chocolate and cream into a smooth mixture adding a pinch of salt as I did this. This delicious ganache needed to cool and firm up, so I covered it up and placed it on the dining table. Once it reached room temperature, I transferred the bowl to the fridge.
While the ganache cooled, I placed the butter in a bowl and began whipping it up with a hand-held mixer (egg-beater). When it was creamy and softened, I added a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of icing sugar, 1/4 tsp of mint essence, and a few drops of green food colouring. I whipped all this up into a creamy smooth mix and then tasted it. I thought the mixture needed a little more sugar, so I added another 2 tablespoons. (You should also taste the mixture intermittently and see if it needs more sugar or mint essence; add as much as you think is appropriate.) Once it tasted just right, I covered up the bowl and placed it in the fridge.
Once both the ganache and mint-filling were firmed up in the fridge, I took them out and began working with them. I covered two baking trays with wax paper (you can also use baking paper or aluminum foil) and then began scooping large blobs of chocolate on one of the trays.
Once all the chocolate was divided into ‘large blobs’ on the first tray, I began scooping smaller portions of the mint-buttercream into my hand, shaping them into rough spheres and then placing them on the other tray.
As soon as all the mint mixture was used up, I placed both trays in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Once the scoops and mint-spheres had hardened from the cold, I was ready to start shaping the truffles!
(When you’re trying this, make sure you have enough works-space on your kitchen counter. I like sitting down while I do this, because it takes some time, so I usually move over to the floor because I feel more comfortable sitting cross-legged. You could move over to the dining table if you prefer.)
Now I was ready for the fun part! I picked up one of the chocolate scoops and shaped it into a sphere in my hand. Then I flattened it out on my hand like a mini chapathi or tortilla.
Then, I took one of the mint flavoured balls and placed it at the centre of the ‘chocolate chapathi’:
and carefully rolled the chocolate layer over the mint centre, shaping the truffle into as perfect a sphere as possible. (I don’t have a photograph of the sphere-shaping bit because I needed both hands and by this time my other hand was covered in chocolate.)
I repeated this until all the chocolate was used up:
Next, I melted 5-6 dark chocolate squares in the microwave. (When you do this, be sure to do this on a low setting as you don’t want to burn the chocolate. Ideally, you should melt the chocolate in a double boiler to avoid this, but I find that if I am careful, I can do it in the microwave. After, I let the chocolate cool a bit (it’s important not to let it harden), I picked up one of the truffles, and dipped it into the chocolate, coating it completely, as shown in the photograph below:
Then, I placed the truffle back on the wax paper to cool. I repeated this until all the truffles were coated. Finally, I let them all cool and then placed them in little green-coloured paper cups.
And Ta DA! They were ready to be devoured! Rich dark chocolate truffles with soft mint-flavoured butter-cream centers.
And then, all that was left was one lonely half-truffle. If it looks half-eaten, that’s because it is 😛 I did it for you all, so you can see what the centers look like 😉
I’ve been remiss again, and for this I apologize. The life of a grad student is often erratic, and various deadlines have kept me from writing about my food-related adventures. Happily, they haven’t entirely prevented me from having said adventures. So, now that I have some time again, I shall return to chronicling my chocolate and spice related capers.
Despite my happiness at having a bit more free time though, there is a cloud in my otherwise blue sky. A literal cloud, in fact, because winter has arrived, bringing with it cold, dark afternoons :(. Finally, I understand why people who live in Canada, the northern U.S and northern Europe are so obsessed with the weather. It’s actually depressing to not see or feel fuzzy, yellow sunshine for months on end. (I mentioned these places in particular, because these are the cold parts of the world that I’ve lived in. I realize of course that there are other cold places, I’ve just never lived there and so, have no idea if people there are obsessed with ‘The Weather’.)
And then suddenly, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a cure, a magical, instantaneous cure for winter blues, namely: hot chocolate. All you need is a few minutes in the kitchen to stir up a nice cup of hot, chocaltey richness, and you’re all set. You can curl up on your couch with a blanket and a good book, and a soft pair of socks on your feet (ideally a cat is also included in this scenario) and winter will actually seem bearable.
Don’t believe me? Just look at this:
I’ve taken to making myself a cup every once in a while 🙂 I use homemade chocolate fudge ice-cream topping to make the hot chocolate, rather than cocoa or chocolate flakes. If you’d like to recreate this deliciousness, it’s fairly simply. Just warm up 2/3rds of a cup of milk. Then dissolve 2-3 tablespoons of homemade dark chocolate fudge into it. Here is a recipe for a velvety, homemade dark chocolate fudge that I strongly recommend; it’s super yummy and super-easy to make. (It is also delicious on ice-cream, which is what I originally made it for.)
Once you’ve dissolved the fudge, top off the hot chocolate with some whipped cream and stick a cinnamon stick into the cup:
Finally, sprinkle some cocoa powder on the cream, and sip away! If you’ve got a cookie to go with it, more power to you. I think my next post will be about the dark-chocolate-chunk cookies that I am now about to go and bake 😛 Mmmm.
I am not much of a coffee drinker. I barely ever drink coffee actually, although I do like a tisane or a flavoured green tea every once in a while. However, because I find myself having to spend long hours at my desk in front of this computer, painstakingly writing, footnoting and editing my thesis, over the past week, I’ve resorted to coffee. The problem though, is that it tastes awful. Coffee smells absolutely heavenly, which is why I use it in baking (my espresso buttercream icing is a case in point) and chocolate-making, I even just sniff coffee-bean jars sometimes, but I am not a fan of its taste. I know, I know, all you coffee lovers out there might object on the ground that I might not be buying the right beans, or grinding them fresh etc., But, dear readers, I’ve never, absolutely never, liked the taste of coffee. No matter how it was made and no matter what beans were used, the taste of coffee never appealed to me.
Therefore, today, I decided to try complimenting my cup of coffee with flavours that I do like. I brewed myself a cup (I used a milk frother and steamed milk by the how, so my coffee would turn out more foamy) and then added 3 dollops of my velvety hot chocolate fudge (go here for the recipe) and one and half teaspoons of Frangelico liqueur.
I have to say, it turned out pretty darned good, for a homemade cup of coffee made by a complete amateur! It was a perfect hazelnutty, chocolatey accompaniment to copyright law on this cold, wet, depressing evening.
I did of course top the coffee off with a generous helping of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.
Now I am all perked up and energetic. Also, I feel strangely warm and fuzzy, it must be the booze 😛
Of all the lovely chocolatey treats in the world, chocolate-themed ice cream is one of my favourites. If you’ve seen my post on the best ice cream in the world you know I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that I am hooked to chocolate filled, chocolate topped and chocolate sprinkled chocolate ice cream.
Now ordinarily, I eat my ice cream with Sanders Dark Chocolate Fudge, which is an absolutely delicious ice cream-topping that you can get in grocery stores all over Michigan. I haven’t found a decent substitute here in Canada though, and believe me, I’ve looked. So I stock up on Sanders every time I am in Michigan. When I run out, which is always fairly soon after I return to Canada, I settle for whatever generic fudge is available at my local grocery store. This makes me immensely discontent. Really, it gets in the way of me being truly happy here. Also, store-bought fudge is often filled with high fructose corn syrup and tonnes of sugar and preservatives. Given this unfortunate state of affairs, I’ve tried on 3 separate occasions to make a homemade fudge topping, following recipes from different sources each time. Alas, the result was sub-par each time.
But today, as I sat down on my couch to a new episode of “Luther”, I was struck by an idea. You see, the biggest problem with the homemade sauces I made was that none of them were gooey and fudgy enough. Also, there is a warm, velvety feeling that the Sanders fudge fills my mouth with, and I haven’t been able to re-create this texture and taste in all my fudge-making attempts. I’ve been telling myself that my refusal to use high fructose corn syrup lies at the root of my failure. “Or perhaps, it is some other, secret ingredient that I am missing”, I would think to myself morosely, in my dark moments. But the thought that came to me this evening, the question rather, was this: could it be, that the secret ingredient was caramel sauce? (Side note: I have now discovered that this inspiring epiphany was the result not of divine intervention, but a happy co-incidence. You see, I was eating caramel chocolate ice cream on the couch, while watching the tv show).
I was intrigued, I was inspired, I was impatient! I pranced over to the kitchen, and began concocting. What I ended up with wasn’t as good as Sanders chocolate fudge, but it was pretty darned delicious nevertheless. Also, I think that this recipe is slightly healthier, because I used no corn syrup or preservatives, just good wholesome, somewhat fattening ingredients 🙂 If you want to try it, here’s how:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp organic unpasteurized honey
1 tbsp organic grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp good quality, unsalted butter
A few pinches of salt to taste
1 tsp vanilla essence
150 g 80% good quality dark chocolate
Place the sugar, water, honey and maple syrup in a little saucepan and heat on medium heat. Don’t stir the mixture at all; instead swirl the liquid about in the saucepan once in a while. Use a basting brush dipped in water to brush down the sides of the pan if needed. Wait until the sugar dissolves and then turns a deep amber (the maple syrup will make the mixture a little brown right from the start, so wait until the mixture turns even darker), about 8 minutes.
Next, take the pan off the heat and add cream and butter to the mixture. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth.
Then add the chocolate, salt and vanilla essence. Mix it all up until you have a nice smooth texture.
You can serve it warm, as most people like it, or you can wait until it cools and thickens. I like my sauce thicker and more fudgy, so I wait until it has cooled down before I drown my ice cream in it. Either way, whenever you’re ready, pour this delicious goeeyness on your ice cream and eat away to your heart’s content.
Pour the left-over fudge into a jar and store it in the fridge.
My very first post on this blog was about a Nutella cake. While baking that cake, I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book, ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’, as a guide. I really liked that cake, as is evident from my post about it, but there was one thing about it that bothered me. I didn’t like the fact that the cake called for Nutella, which is after all a processed food from the supermarket. I’d rather make a cake from scratch, or as close to from scratch as is possible for someone who lives in a little apartment in a big city. That way, I have a little more control over what goes into it. Last week, I tried making a more ‘wholesome’ and ‘homemade’ option as it were, based off a recipe from ‘Baking Illustrated’.
How did it turn out you ask? Well see for yourself:
Truly, I liked the taste of this cake even better than my earlier attempt; the big bonus of this new recipe is that the cake turns out even more hazelnutty, which is GOOD, because hazelnuts are heavenly 🙂
If you want to make this cake too, here’s what you will need:
A 23 cm or 9 inch spring-form pan, two large bowls, two smaller bowls, a hand-held or stand-alone mixer or a whisk, a food-processor or mortar and pestle, and a tea towel.
For the Cake:
6 free range eggs (I insist on free-range after seeing some horrific videos of how chicks and hens are treated in “egg factories”.
A pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter
200 g hazelnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
175 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
For the Icing:
150 ml heavy cream or whipping cream
150 g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped
2-3 Tablespoons fo Frangelico
A pinch of Salt
2 handfuls of hazelnuts
A half cup or so of dark chocolate flakes (you can make these by using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler on some dark chocolate).
Preparing the Ingredients:
To begin with, I made sure to lay all the ingredients out on my dining table. When you’re baking, unless the recipe otherwise specifies, it is best to use all ingredients at room temperature. Next, I turned on the oven and preheated it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Preparing the hazelnuts: I toasted the nuts (both those you need for the cake and those you need for decorating the top of the cake) in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice in-between. Once they were lightly browned and I could smell the delicious hazelnutty aroma, I took them out of the oven and let them cool for a bit. Then, I placed them in a tea-towel and rubbed the nuts against each other until their skins peeled off.
Next, I put 200 g of the toasted and skinned nuts in a food processor, along with 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar and processed them till fine (you could also use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle).
Preparing the chocolate: I melted the chocolate in a microwave, taking care to use a low heat setting, so as not to burn the chocolate.
Preparing the eggs: I separated the egg yolks from the whites, placing 5 egg whites in a large bowl and 6 egg yolks in a smaller bowl. (You can throw away the extra egg white or use it in a face or hair mask.)
Some people think separating the egg white and yolk and beating them separately is a waste of time, but it isn’t if your recipe does not call for baking powder/soda. This is because all the air in your cake will have to come from the egg whites, since there is no chemical raising agent added to the cake.
I was now ready to begin! What follows are step-by-step instructions to re-create the rich nutty cake I made today! Enjoy!
1. Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Next, add the remaining three-quarters of sugar, one-quarter at a time, until creamy and almost white. Now add the egg yolks two tablespoons at a time, beating well throughout. Next, add the melted chocolate (which would have cooled a bit by now) and beat the mixture until the chocolate is blended in. Then, gently stir in the hazelnut meal that you have already prepared in the food processor.
2. Now we beat the egg whites; this is the slightly tricky part of the recipe. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and then beat them until they are ‘stiff but not dry”. What this means is that you want to be able to make the foamy whites rise to a peak with your finger.
Another way to test this is to take a clean dry egg and try to float it on top of the egg-white foam. If it sinks you’re not done. If it floats completely you’ve overdone it. If it sinks just a quarter of an inch, well you’re egg-whites are perfect then! Make sure the bowl and the whisk you use are perfectly clean, i.e. they are free from oil and water.
3. Once the egg whites are ready, add a dollop of the egg-white-foam to the mixture from step 1 and mix it in. Next, very gently and with a light hand, fold in the rest of the foam. This is important; don’t be rough at this stage; because we want to preserve the airy-ness and lightness of the foam. Here is a video that shows you how to do it:
4. When you’re done folding the foam in, pour the batter in a greased and floured 9 inch or 23 cm springform pan.
5. Slide the pan into the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes. I would go and check on the cake toward the tail-end of this period, say around 45 minutes in. The cake is done when you can insert a tooth-pick gently into the cake, about halfway between the centre and the edge of the cake, and it comes out clean when you pull it out.
6. When it’s done, take the cake out and cool it on a cooling rack. Once it has cooled remove the sides of the pan.
(At this stage of the process, I already noticed one thing that was better about this cake when compared to my earlier Gianduja cake. The surface of this cake was smoother; there were no cracks on this cake at all. Also, it was more evenly baked. (The small nick visible in the picture was made by me with a knife, it wasn’t a crack on the surface.)
7. Now the cake is ready and it’s time to make the icing! Heat 150 ml of cream and 150 g of chopped chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Once it’s melted, add a pinch of salt and the Frangelico. Mix and let the ganache sit on the counter and cool for a bit. In the meantime, take the 2 handfuls of hazelnuts you toasted earlier, and crush them in a mortar or pestle or processor. I like to crush them into small chunks, you can choose to crush them more finely, or coarsely, whatever works for you.
8. Once cooled a bit, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it evenly over it, using an icing spatula or a large, broad knife.
Next, garnish the cake with crushed hazelnuts and dark chocolate flakes and serve with a shot of Frangelico 🙂
Also, a little tip, if you’re going to store the cake for a while, make sure to heat it up quickly in the microwave when you take it out of the fridge. Just heat for 20-30 seconds on a low setting; both the cake and the icing taste waaay nicer that way.
Mmm this cake was utterly delicious, it’s totally worth the effort of baking it, I promise!
This post is also about truffles. I thought I should just make that clear right at the start. If you’re tired of all my truffle-y posts, skip this one; my next one won’t be about truffles, or even chocolate. It’ll probably be about this delicious, spicy Hyderabadi-style fish I made yesterday; or it might be about a nice little Persian restaurant that I visited last week. Either way, it probably won’t be about chocolate.
Although, it just occurred to me that if you’re bored by chocolatey posts, you’re not really my key demographic, are you? (Really, what are you doing here if chocolate doesn’t make you ever-so-slightly unhinged?)
Anyway, this is a post about a great gift-idea: assorted chocolate truffles. This is usually an ideal little present because truffles are delicious (to most people), make people happy (quite literally (read my previous post for more on this)) and they’re very personal (you can custom-make flavours to suit your friends’ tastes). They’re also pretty easy to make, once you’ve gotten the hang of it.
The first step involves choosing flavours. You could choose from so many different kinds! Here are a few:
1. Dark Chocolate truffles (go here for my recipe)
2. Cointreau Dark Chocolate truffles (go here for my recipe)
3. Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles with Cream Cheese Centers (go here for my recipe)
4. Dark Chocolate Truffles with Orange-Cream Cheese Centers (go here for my recipe)
5. Dark Chocolate Truffles with Strawberry Cream Cheese Centers (go here for my recipe)
6. Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (recipe in this post)
7. Mint Chocolate Truffles (recipe in this post)
8. Dark Chocolate Truffles with Brazil-nut butter centers (recipe forthcoming)
I could go on and on, but I’ve got my whole life to invent truffle recipes. For now, I am going to stop thinking about truffle flavours and get on with this post.
Here’s what I chose for my first truffle-gift-experiment: Cointreau chocolate, mint chocolate and hazelnut. I chose these flavours because they’re really easy to make, easier than truffles with flavoured centers.
What you will need:
200g dark chocolate (At least 70% cocoa solids)
1 cup heavy/whipping cream
Two pinches of salt
About a teaspoon of mint essence
2 teaspoons Frangelico (or some other hazelnut liqueur)
1 teaspoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier
A handful of hazelnuts
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
50g chocolate to dip the mint truffles in
3 sheets of parchment paper or foil
Coloured paper cups to place the truffles in
Chop up the chocolate with a knife and place it in a bowl:
You could also use a food processor. Next, warm up the cream until it just begins to boil and pour it over the chocolate:
Try and make sure that all the chocolate is covered. Let the bowl stand for a few minutes. Add the salt, take a whisk and gently mix the cream and chocolate. Now your ganache is ready.
Bring out two more bowls. Spoon about one-third of the ganache into one of these bowls and another third of the ganache into the other bowl. Now you have three portions of ganache in three separate bowls.
Mix in the mint essence in the first bowl, Frangelico in the second bowl and Cointreau (or Grand Marnier) in the third bowl. I would start by adding a little of each flavour and then adding more to taste. It is especially important to use the mint essence sparingly. For one thing, different brands of mint essence have varying levels of strength. Also, mint as a flavour very easily overpowers chocolate.
Let the ganache(s) cool to room temperature and then, place the bowls in the fridge.
In about an hour, check if the ganache has firmed up. If it has, take all three bowls out of the fridge. Place three sheets of foil or parchment paper on three separate plates. Take three post-its and write the names of the flavours of the truffles down, one flavour for each post-it. Now, stick a post-it underneath each plate. Next, scoop out tablespoon-sized portions of the mint flavoured ganache on the correspondingly labelled plate. Use an ice-cream scoop if you have one.
Repeat this with the other two flavoured ganaches. Place the plates in the fridge.
After about 20 minutes, take the plates out and begin to roll each scoop of ganache into as perfect a sphere as possible. Make sure not to confuse the different flavoured truffles; place all mint truffles on the plate labelled ‘mint’ and the Cointreau ones on the plate labelled ‘Cointreau’ and so on.
Once you’ve rolled all the ganache into balls, place all three plates back in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
Now comes the last step, coating the truffles.
For the hazelnuts truffles, I decided that the most appropriate coating was toasted and crushed hazelnuts. This is a simple enough coating to make. Just pop a handful of hazelnuts in the oven (preheated to 375 farenheit (that’s 180 celsius)) for about 10 minutes, tossing the nuts once during this time. Let them cool and then place them in a tea-towel and rub them against each other until they lose their skins. Then place them in a mortar and pestle and coarsely grind them. I suggested a mortar and pestle rather than a grinder because this way you can make sure you break up all the nuts without reducing most of the nuts to a powder.
And now for the final touch, just roll each hazelnut truffle about in your hand for a bit to make the outside of the truffle sticky and then roll it in the crushed hazelnuts. Lightly press the nuts in to make sure they stick to the truffle.
For the Cointreau truffles, I decided on a simple coating: cocoa powder. Just take a few tablespoons of cocoa powder in a bowl, warm the outside of each Cointreau truffle by rolling it about in your hand, and then lightly roll it in the bowl of cocoa until it is completely covered.
Lastly, I decided to dip the mint truffles in dark chocolate. This looks and sounds more difficult than it is, and it’s actually a lot of fun 🙂 It is also undoubtedly messy.
Carefully melt 50g dark chocolate (using either a double boiler or a microwave on a very low heat setting). Let the chocolate cool a bit (we don’t want to wait for it to harden, but we don’t want it to be too warm either).
Once the chocolate has cooled somewhat, take a truffle and dip it into the chocolate. Roll it about in the chocolate until it’s completely coated and then fish it out.
Place the truffle back on the foil/butter paper. Repeat this process with all the truffles. Once you’ve dipped all the truffles, take a toothpick and trace a circle around the bottom of each truffle. This is so that we don’t have a lot of excess chocolate stuck awkwardly to the bottom of the truffle once the outside chocolate has hardened.
Place each truffle in a paper cup. Preferably, use paper cups of different colours that compliment the truffle flavours. For instance, I used green for mint, orange for Cointreau and light brown for hazelnut. Let the truffles sit somewhere cool to cool. They should be ready in 20-30 minutes.
Since the idea was to make assorted truffles as a gift, I wanted to pack them in a nice box. I hunted all over my neighborhood for a cute gift box, but couldn’t find anything appropriate. I finally stumbled upon an arts and crafts store, and they were nice enough to cut some beautiful coloured paper for me so that I could make little bags out fo it:
I placed the truffles in these bags once they were ready and sowed on little message cards on the front that not only gave my friend my regards, but also described the different flavours of truffles included in the bag on the back.
Needless to say, my friend won’t mind taking care of my plants again 😉
This is my favourite kind of truffle so far. In fact, I can honestly say that I’ve never eaten a more delicious chocolate truffle. Mmmm.
It all started with me wandering into my kitchen last evening. I went through my fridge and cabinets, trying to think of a new combination of flavours that I’d never tried in a truffle before. All sorts of ingredients caught my attention, but my eyes kept returning to the block of cream cheese in my fridge. As I wrote in Sunday’s post about dark chocolate cream cheese truffles, I absolutely love the flavour of cream cheese. So I decided to stick with cream cheese, and see if I couldn’t come up with a slightly better version of Sunday’s recipe.
Sunday’s truffles were cream cheese truffles through and through; not only did they have cream cheese centers, the truffles themselves were made with cream cheese. While I liked Sunday’s truffles, what I found was that the texture of the truffle changes when you use cream cheese instead of heavy/whipping cream (this is what is used in traditional truffles); the texture isn’t as velvety and creamy. Generally speaking, this is an acceptable compromise to me because I love the flavour of cream cheese. But Sunday’s experiment taught me that if you’re willing to go to the extra trouble of making cream cheese centers, you don’t need to make this compromise at all! In fact, I thought that the cream cheese in the chocolate didn’t add much in terms of flavour, it was upstaged by the intense flavour of the dark chocolate and by the cream cheese in the center. I could reduce the amount of chocolate I added, but I wanted to make dark chocolate truffles, not milk chocolate ones.
Therefore, for today’s project, I decided to use a traditional dark chocolate ganache (made with cream) to make the truffles, and then incorporate the cream cheese flavour I love so much by making cream cheese centers for them. But that wasn’t all, I added a twist or two to the recipe. You see, I wanted to play around a little with the flavours in my kitchen; it would have been boring to simply recreate, with a small modification, Sundays recipe.
First, I wanted a citrus flavour to the cream cheese, so I added some orange liqueur (Cointreau). Second, I thought it might be fun to coat the truffles with something I’ve never tried before, large brown sugar crystals. But since they’re sweet, I decided to make the chocolate a bit bitter. So I replaced some of the dark chocolate in the ganache recipe with unsweetened chocolate. Here’s what I ended up with:
And boy am I glad I played instead of sticking to what I know. The truffles were just right in terms of texture and flavour! They were creamy and squishy and the cream cheese centers were gooey, soft, and a little orang-ey. To top it all, the sugar-coating was literally the sugar-coating, it balanced the bitterness of the chocolate perfectly. Here is a shot of half a truffle after I’d bitten into it. I think it illustrates the squishiness and softness I am talking about:
The flavours danced together on my tongue with just enough complexity to be intriguing; they acted in perfect concert, I had to close my eyes and savour it. I haven’t felt this excited since I discovered chocolate brazil nut butter.
If you’ve been sold by my mad ravings or these pictures, go ahead and give it a go! The only tough part of the process is actually shaping the truffles with the cream cheese centers. This can be a little messy and it requires patience.
Update: Another important thing to note is that the sugar-coating absorbs moisture. So the outside of the truffle can get wet and sticky over a day or two. The solution that I have found for this problem is to roll the truffles in brown-sugar right before (or even a few hours before) serving them.
Ingredients for the Truffles:
2.5 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
A small dollop of butter
A pinch of salt
Brown sugar to coat the truffles
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Centers:
50 g cream cheese (at room temperature)
A dollop of butter
2-4 tablespoons of icing sugar
2-3 teaspoons of Cointreau or Grand Marnier
Chop up the chocolate into small pieces (you could also process it in a food processor) and place it in a bowl. It’s important to chop up the chocolate into little bits so that it melts evenly when you pour the cream over it. It should look like this:
Heat the cream in a pan until it just begins to bubble and then pour it over the chocolate:
Let the mixture stand for a few minutes. Then very gently mix the chocolate and cream:
Add the butter and salt and mix until you have a smooth ganache:
Cover the bowl and let the ganache cool to room temperature, then place it in the fridge.
While the ganache hardens, let’s make the cream cheese filling. Take another bowl, put the cream cheese in it and whip it up with a mixer, until it’s smooth.
Now add the butter, two tablespoons of icing sugar and a teaspoon of Cointreau and whip it all up.
Taste the mixture. If you think it needs more sugar or Cointreau add some more. When it tastes right, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge.
Once the ganache has been in the fridge for about an hour, take it out and see if it’s firmed up. It should be firm but not hard. If it’s firm take it out along with the cream cheese filling. You will also need a bowl with a few tablespoons of brown sugar in it and a large plate covered with foil or butter paper. Now you’re ready to begin shaping the truffles.
Portion out the ganache onto the foil or butter paper, with each portion measuring about a tablespoon. When you’ve scooped out the lot take the first portion and shape it into a ball. Then, flatten it on your hand like a mini-tortilla or chapathi:
Now scoop a bit of cream cheese filling onto the center of the ‘chocolate chapathi’:
Now fold the chocolate over the cream cheese.
Finally, roll the whole thing carefully into a ball. I don’t have a photograph of this because by this time my hands were covered in chocolate. Repeat this until all the ganache has been used up.
For the final step, start with one of the first few truffles you shaped. (When you work with the truffles they will get a little melted and squishy from your body heat. This is why i suggest picking up one of the first few truffles you worked on; by now it will have cooled down and firmed up again.) Gently roll it about in your hand to make the surface a little sticky. Roll the truffle in the bowl of brown sugar so that it is completely coated.
Repeat until all the truffles are coated. And there you’re all done! Enjoy your delicious truffles, I know I did 😉