I’ve been thrown for a loop in the past few days, and am still feeling a bit under the weather. But as far as I’m concerned, the road to recovery is paved with chocolate. And while I’m laid up on the sofa, there really is nothing I want more than a truffle, bursting with intense, creamy flavor and complete with a perfectly smooth shell. Thankfully, I’ve been on a chocolate-making jag in the last few weeks and have a store of bonbons large enough to sustain me as I recuperate. I even wrote about chocolate truffles for my latest column in the Dedham Transcript. You can read about these lovely orange chocolate truffles here.
As you’ll see in the Dedham Transcript column, I have carefully avoided the complicated topic of tempering chocolate. Tempering is simply the process of carefully heating, cooling and then reheating chocolate to allow the fat crystals to form in such a way that gives the outer layer of chocolate a shiny look and nice snap when bitten. Tempered chocolate keeps longer and does not get a white powdery fat layer called a ‘bloom’ that tends to appear on untempered chocolate. My favorite trick is that by simply never over-heating most brands of chocolate you can keep the temper, and not worry about it. This is not a fool-proof method, but if you expect your confections to be gobbled up too quickly for longer storage to be an issue, tempering is not a major concern anyway. So just very, very slowly heat your chocolate, trying to keep it at about 90 degrees, and never allowing it above 94 degrees, and it should retain its original temper.
If you would like to properly temper your chocolate, it’s actually not that difficult. Just place half of your finely chopped dark chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler. Carefully bring your chocolate up to about 110 degrees, then remove from the heat and vigorously stir in by the handful enough finely chopped reserved chocolate to bring it back down to about 85 degrees (usually this requires about an equal amount of chocolate to what you already have melted in your bowl). Rewarm your chocolate slowly to about 90 degrees and hold at this temperature while you use the chocolate for dipping. You can hold the bowl over the double boiler occasionally to keep the temperature at 88-90 degrees, or you can place the bowl on top of an electric heating pad turned to its lowest setting and covered with a dish towel.
Of course, there are a million ways to flavor truffles. Instead of orange liqueur you can add any liqueur (or fruit puree) you like to the ganache, and in terms of garnish, anything goes. My husband’s grandmother has dutifully taken a shot of ginger brandy every day for the past 70 years. She calls it medicine and given that she is 90 years old and not only living on her own, but still mowing her own lawn, I’m thinking there is something to this brandy. So my next endeavor is going to be these ginger brandy truffles, since speedy healing is what we’re all about here.
I should be back with some lovely spring recipes soon (I am dying for asparagus salad and Jeff has been jabbering on about grilled lamb chops) but in the meantime, eat chocolate. Lots of chocolate!
Ginger Brandy Truffles
12 ounces good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons ginger brandy
2 tablespoons thinly sliced candied ginger
Melt half of the chocolate with the butter in a mixing bowl set atop a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and brandy. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Using a melon baler, scoop the ganache onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each scoop into a ball with your hands and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Place the remaining chocolate in a mixing bowl and melt very slowly over a pan of simmering water. Do not allow the temperature of the chocolate to rise above 94 degrees or the chocolate will not have a nice sheen and snap to it. Keep the chocolate at about 90 degrees (by holding it over the pan of simmering water and removing as needed or by placing the bowl on a heating pad covered with a towel). Dip each truffle in the chocolate, shaking off the excess, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Garnish with a slice of candied ginger. Allow truffles to set in a cool place.