In The Meantime, Enjoy These Chocolate Truffles

chocolate truffles

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.

chocolate trufflesIf 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.

Chocolate trufflesOf 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.

Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 7:37 am  Comments (17)  
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Gluten Free Baking Extravaganza

gluten free cake

I am a terrible listener.  I pretend to listen, I nod and say ‘mmm-hmm’ at the right moments, but really my mind is whirring away down the road.  It’s not that I don’t care – I really do care very much. It’s just that the moment I hear the mention of a problem, a crisis, or a situation, my very goal-oriented brain rushes off to find a solution.  But so many problems have no solution, particularly relationship-related problems. 

So when my best friend called last week with an entirely different sort of problem, I was secretly thrilled.  OK, ok, not thrilled that she HAD a problem, but thrilled that in this case I could actually DO something.  I had braced myself to feel utterly useless in discussing romantic woes, but instead she (exhausted and cranky from a day of medical tests) quickly blurted “gluten is my enemy.”  This I could work with.  Yes, it is miserable to be forced to cut out the foods we love.  And since gluten is in just about everything (seriously, start reading labels – you’ll be shocked), this is most assuredly one of the toughest special diets. But that doesn’t mean that spectacular gluten-free goodies don’t exist.

And since I’m on a mission to find these goodies, I started baking. I have to admit, despite my mother’s wheat sensitivity, I have had pretty limited experience with gluten-free baking.  So the first few tries were awful, as you can probably imagine. I quickly learned that you really can’t just substitute gluten-free flours for wheat flour and expect a palatable texture. But most gluten-free baked goods seem to call for about a million different kinds of flours and stabilizers, and since I had just about none of those ingredients in the house, I needed to create something simple.  

These little tea cakes are about as simple as it gets.  Filled with bits of dark chocolate, they are so wonderful with a cup of cocoa (I know that I’m calling them tea cakes, but seriously, trust me and go for cocoa).  I made mine in shaped tiny tart pans, but you can certainly bake them in mini muffin tins and they would still be adorable.  Part cookie, part cake, these totally satisfy the craving for a treat.bitter orange cake

Once I had mastered these little tea cakes, my confidence was restored and I was ready to experiment.  I remembered an old Sephardic recipe for orange cake, rind and all, and figured this might make a moist base for a more sophisticated gluten-free dessert.  This cake strikes just the right balance between bitter and sweet.  It would be wonderful with some whipped cream, but being the addict that I am, I’d probably go for a drizzle of dark chocolate instead.  Not that there is anything wrong with doing both.  I have to say that it’s a good thing that this cake is no longer in my house.  The flavor is simply so interesting that I just had to have taste after taste.

gluten free orange cake

Chocolate Chunk Tea Cakes (Gluten-Free)

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup rice flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wisk together the egg, milk, oil and sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir in the rice flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chunks. Divide the batter into greased tartlette pans or mini muffin tins and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.  Bake 18-20 minutes until slightly browned.  Cool before unmolding.

Bitter Orange Cake (Gluten-Free)

2 oranges

3 cups water

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup sesame tahini

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups chickpea flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring the oranges and water to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour until oranges are soft.  Remove oranges from the water and cut into quarters.  Remove any visible seeds and transfer the orange segments, rind and all, to a food processor.  Pulse until pureed.  Transfer to a large bowl and mix in eggs, honey, sugar, tahini and oil.  Add in the chickpea flour and baking powder and mix well.  Transfer the batter to a greased cake pan.  Bake 40-50 minutes until firm and browned on top.  Cool slightly in the pan and serve with whipped cream or melted dark chocolate.

gluten free tea cakes

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm  Comments (7)  
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