Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chocolate-Champagne Truffles

Working at a design studio, I've seen some beautiful holiday confections circulating the office for the past couple of weeks (supplied by both clients and crafty coworkers alike), and I've been waiting and hoping for things to calm down so that I would have my own chance to get in the kitchen and bake something pretty for my coworkers too (because when the rare opportunity to make small personal food gifts arises, one must take advantage of it!). This weekend I had my chance: my friends went out of town and I got up early to finish my holiday errands before the afternoon shopping rush, leaving one whole day to myself to cook up whatever confection I pleased. Not to mention we had a big beautiful snowfall on Saturday night to make staying in the next day feel even more romantic and cozy.

My first thought was to make some kind of rolled-and-cut-out cookie like I did in my previous entry, since I had so much success with the sugar cookies. However, two of my coworkers eat gluten-free and I wanted to make something we could all enjoy, so I decided to make chocolate truffles instead. Two kinds: champagne truffles rolled in powdered sugar, and Grand Marnier truffles dipped in dark chocolate and garnished with candied orange peel.

Truth be told, I ruined a batch of truffles on my first and only previous attempt, so I was extra careful and did lots of research to make this one work. As I learned, do not attempt to make truffles with lower-fat anything, because if you skimp the ganache will not set!

Chocolate-Champagne Truffles adapted from Martha Stewart's chocolate-champagne truffle recipe, as well as this truffle recipe from the Cabernet Inn in North Conway, New Hampshire.
Makes about 3 dozen

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
9 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate (I used one half of a Trader Joe's Pound Plus 56% dark chocolate bar)
2 1/2 tablespoons champagne
1/2 tablespoon cognac
powdered sugar, for rolling

Place the dark chocolate in a pie pan and set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring cream and butter to a full boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and cover the pie pan with a large plate or plastic wrap, to melt the chocolate. Let stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.

Whisk the ganache slowly to avoid creating air bubbles, until it is smooth and silky in texture. Add the champagne and cognac and whisk until it is all incorporated. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until the ganache is set (I left it in the refrigerator overnight).

Using a melon baller, scoop the ganache to form 1-inch balls (if the mixture is too hard to scoop, allow the pan to sit out for a few minutes until it has warmed to room temperature). Using your hands, pinch and roll each scoop to form a solid ball. Transfer the balls to a wax paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for another 15 minutes.

Place powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Using your hands, roll each ball until completely smooth, then roll in powdered sugar to coat. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Variation: Dark Chocolate-dipped Grand Marnier Truffles with Candied Orange Peel

Prepare truffles as above, replacing champagne and cognac with 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur. Do not roll the truffles in powdered sugar. Make sure to refrigerate the truffles for at least an hour after scooping, so that they will be cold enough to survive dipping!

Prepare candied orange peel (I followed this very simple recipe). After peels have dried, chop some into small pieces for garnish, about 2 or 3 tablespoons.

Roughly chop 9 ounces dark chocolate (this could be the other half of your Pound Plus bar) and melt in a double boiler, stirring with a fork until smooth. Lay out wax paper for drying the truffles after dipping.

Remove a few of the truffles from the refrigerator at a time. Drop one at a time into the melted chocolate, using the fork to guide and cover the truffle with the chocolate, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Dry the truffle on the wax paper, garnishing with the candied orange peel. Allow chocolate to set; store covered in the refrigerator.

We can waste a lot of paper at work, which has been a daily source of guilt since I started working there, it's just a given about the kind of industry we're in and it's not practical to try to save it all. However, I do usually try to set aside printouts I can see a specific re-purpose for, like full pages of artwork for gift wrap and other projects. This week I used recycled paper to make origami boxes for the truffles. They're so cute I can hardly even stand it. I'm proud of how these came out and I'm so excited to gift these tomorrow!!

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