Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas truffles

These truffles are a pain, okay? They’re not something you’re going to throw together in half an hour, and once you’ve spent $30 on chocolate and your kitchen’s covered in a fine dusting of cocoa powder, you’ll wonder if it would have been easier to let Russell Stover do the job for you. Last night, when Allen and I got to the part where you roll the truffles in chocolate, he turned to me and said, “Get ready for the most stressful part of Christmas.”

But these are beautiful – not flawless, surely, but beautiful by virtue of being handmade, and once you give them to friends and family, you’ll realize you have a hit on your hands. A hit, and several ounces of melted chocolate and butter.

Martha Stewart, from whom I’ve adapted this recipe, will recommend using a really high-end chocolate, like Valrhona or Scharffen Berger, and she has a point, as chocolate is the primary – almost the only – flavor in these. But I’ve always had good results using Ghirardelli and whatever it is that the DeKalb Farmer’s Market sells by the pound, and good extracts to punch up the flavor a bit.

Each recipe will make about 60 truffles, using a ¾-ounce ice cream scoop, but they could certainly go a bit larger if you prefer.

I’ll outline our particular process for making these, although it’s certainly not the only way. It’s just the best we’ve come up with over the years, and actually we’ve got a pretty fine-tuned operation now. Actually, that “most stressful part of Christmas” was a bit anticlimactic, and it made for a pretty relaxed time, and a good deal of snacking.

Christmas truffles
This recipe is for classic chocolate truffles, but one of our other favorite flavors is peppermint. To make those, just omit a tablespoon of cream from the recipe, and add 1 ½ tablespoons of strong peppermint extract when you stir the ganache. Other extracts and liqueurs will work equally as well – framboise, amaretto, et cetera – but you’ll have to play with the amounts to see how much flavor you prefer.

  • 1 pound good semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons good vanilla extract, Grand Marnier, brandy, or whatever you prefer (to heighten the taste of the chocolate – you won’t get a really pronounced liqueur or extract flavor)
  • 12 to 16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, for dipping
  • cocoa powder or cocoa nibs, for decorating
Place the chopped chocolate in a large glass mixing bowl. In another bowl, heat the cream, butter, and corn syrup just to a boil in the microwave, stirring occasionally. Pour it onto the chopped chocolate, and swirl to cover. Let it sit a minute or two, add the extract, and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Place the bowl in the refrigerator, stirring every ten or fifteen minutes, until the mixture is the consistency of soft butter. Be careful; it will firm up quickly at the end.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Use a very small ice cream scoop to form small balls of ganache, placing them on the sheet. They balls don’t have to be perfect right now; you’ll smooth them later. They should also be a little smaller than you intend your final product to be. Refrigerate the truffles until they harden enough to handle.

With very clean hands, or wearing plastic gloves, roll the truffles between your palms to smooth them into spheres. Refrigerate or freeze until very hard.

Place 12 ounces of the remaining chocolate in a large glass bowl, and microwave it for 30 to 60 seconds at a time, stirring often, until melted and smooth.

Here comes the part that I mentioned above. You want to give the truffles a smooth coat of chocolate all around – the ganache is soft, and the chocolate serves as a protective shell. But you also don’t want to just glob it on so thick that the truffle is mostly hard chocolate. In years past, it’s felt like we were racing against the clock, trying to coat the truffles before they softened or the chocolate hardened. But this year things were much more relaxed, either because we’ve decided they don’t have to be perfect, or because we’ve got the method down.

Here’s what we do: Drop a ball into the melted chocolate, and use a fork to nudge it over to the side of the bowl. Use the fork to toss it up the side of the bowl, let it roll down and land in the chocolate. After a few tosses, both the truffle and the sides of the bowl should be fairly well coated in chocolate. Then you can gingerly lift out the ball, using the fork, and place it on waxed paper or parchment. Once you’ve done a few, dust them with cocoa or some other decoration before the chocolate hardens completely.

Refrigerate the truffles for an hour or so, until they’re hard enough to put into airtight containers. We put ten or so of these into pint containers, or four or so into small canning jars, and give them as gifts, along with homemade granola bars.

Happy fattening!


  1. thanks for the recipe and tips! I'm going to be trying my hand at truffles for the first time tomorrow, and I ran across this video from saveur magazine that shows a slightly different way to dip the truffles that I thought I'd share:

  2. I also use the frozen truffles on a cocktail stick method, but don't stick them upside down in a tray... Not enough space for that! And instead of using your finger for the melted chic to fill the gap where the stick was, I put some in a freezer bag and snip the corner- quicker and less mess!

  3. Does it work to half the recipe (so you could do half peppermint, half regular)?

  4. @Anonymous: You can certainly halve the recipe or divide a single recipe into two flavors.