Homemade Truffles

Homemade truffles in candy cups.
Every year in December, I bake a bunch of holiday cookies and give them away as gifts to my landlord or superintendent, boss, and a few other people to whom I want to give a little something.

This year, I went with confectionery instead. I made dozens of chocolate truffles, experimenting only a little with the fillings.

The image above shows the finished truffles in candy cups, which makes for a nicer presentations. From left to right, top to bottom, they are: chocolate with pink Himalayan salt, cayenne pepper with red Hawaiian salt, classic truffles, chocolate with rose petal, I'm not sure but possible another  cayenne, and smoked paprika.

My sister also made peanut butter cups:

Homemade peanut butter cup.

Here's another shot of the finished product below. I bought some inexpensive ($0.49) boxes at a cake decorating store and used red tissue paper to hold the truffles gently so they won't wiggle around and smudge. 

The recipe? It's very easy but rather time consuming and takes a lot of patience.

Recipe: Homemade Truffles
For the ganache filling:24 ounces chocolate, chopped (any kind is fine, really)
1 cup heavy cream
spices, your choice 
For the coating:
18 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (ideally, use something that's about 60 percent cacao or higher)

Set a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Melt together very gently about 24 ounces of chopped chocolate and 1 cup heavy cream. Do not rush this step, and do not stir the mixture obsessively. Leave it alone. When the chocolate has melted enough that you can see a difference in color from the melting chocolate and the bits on top that are still in tact, stir gently with a folding motion. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue folding gently until all the lumps disappear. You may have to put the bowl back over the water again if there are big lumps.

You can either let this mixture cool in the bowl to room temperature, or pour it into a lined baking pan. I used an 8-by-11-inch pan lined with plastic wrap, and my house is pretty warm, so I popped it in the fridge, too. It can stay at room temperature though.

When the ganache is cooled, melt the dipping chocolate, also in a bowl over simmering water. Again, do not rush this step. It may take 40 or 50 minutes. That's okay.

When the chocolate has melted, you ideally want to temper it to make it glossier. Tempering means, more or less, manipulating the temperature. In this case, you want to cool the chocolate slightly, then raise it back up to melting temperature. There are two ways to do it:

  1. Reserve a few ounces of chocolate, and store them in the refrigerator. When the rest of the chocolate has melted, remove it from the water bath, and throw in the cold chocolate, which will bring the temperature down. After the cold chocolate melts, you can return the bowl to the water to bring it back up to temperature.
  2. Alternatively, you can remove the bowl from the steam and set it in a larger bowl with cold water. Stir the chocolate gently until it starts to thicken. (A real confectionery expert would use a thermometer, but I don't bother.) Then return it to the steam and re-melt it.

For classic truffles, you don't need the coating chocolate. Just scoop out a small amount of ganache and roll it into a ball shape with lightly buttered hands or using two spoons. Coat it in cocoa powder, and you're done.

I punched out small rounds of chocolate using fondant shape cutters. I dusted the tops of some of them very lightly with smoked paprika or cayenne (ground red pepper). If you experiment with flavors, just remember that a little goes a long way. Then, set the ganache cut-out on an off-set spatula, or the reverse end of a spoon, and dip it in the melted chocolate. Slide it onto a tray lined with parchment paper, and let it cool for a minute or two before adding a decoration to the top, like coarse salt or rose petals. use tweezers to place salt, as wet and sticky fingers won't do you any good.