Other people’s recipes: Alice Medrich’s Extra-Bittersweet Ganache Truffles

This week’s first recipe was born out of a dilemma: last week’s recipe called for a quarter cup of heavy cream. I don’t have anything useful to do with heavy cream, but it’s sold in pint bottles, so I had 1¾ cup left over — which I could either find a way to use, or let spoil in the refrigerator and then throw away. I don’t buy UHT cream, so the shelf life is only a couple of weeks at best. If I had had some leftover buttermilk, I could have combined the two to make crème fraîche or even butter, but this time all I had was sweet heavy cream.

So I thought a bit about the other things I had sitting around in the kitchen, and decided to make truffles. Specifically, I’d make some regular cocoa-powder-coated truffles, and some coated with crushed toasted pecans left over from the Moosewood Pecan Pumpkin Pie. (When you chop up nuts, or indeed almost any food, in the food processor, you either ended up with a powder, if you let it run, or a mixture of several different sizes of broken pieces. I screened out the really fine pieces and used the larger bits for the pie a few weeks ago, but saved the rest for some future venture that called for ground toasted pecans — and it turned out to be almost exactly the right amount to coat half of the truffles I made. There were still a few larger pieces of pecan, which I pulverized using a steel pounder.)

I pulled down the first chocolate cookbook I thought of, Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet and looked for her truffle recipe. (Not that you really need a recipe for truffles, but it’s helpful to have a reminder for the proper ratio of chocolate to cream.) Her first recipe, “Classic Ganache Truffles” (p. 109) is written for 54–62% chocolate, which is a little bit weaker than what I keep on hand. Her “Chocolate Notes” for this recipe recommend one of her other two recipes — “Women of Taste Truffles” or “Extra-Bittersweet Ganache Truffles” for the high-test chocolate I generally keep on hand.

I chose the “Extra-Bittersweet” recipe (p. 113 for those following along at home). This recipe calls for 9–10 fluid ounces (270–300 mL) of heavy cream (check!) and 10 ounces avoirdupois (285 g) of coarsely chopped chocolate (hmmm…). Checking my pantry, the only chocolate I had 285 g of was Valrhona Caraïbe — a 66% chocolate that I could have used with the other recipe. Unless I wanted to mix two chocolates, of course, but I decided against that: having spent the money for nice baking chocolate, I should at least take advantage of all it has to offer.
285 grams of chopped Valrhona Caraïbe

So there’s 10 oz. of chopped chocolate sitting in a white Pyrex bowl. It’s important that the chocolate be in a heat-resistant bowl, because unlike most ganaches, this recipe calls for melting the chocolate before combining it with the hot cream. In fact, it calls for melting and then cooling the chocolate — but when I did it, the chocolate was already at the target temperature by the time it was completely melted. Medrich calls for boiling the cream, which I did — somewhat messily — and then cooling it to the same temperature, but I’m not sure why that’s actually useful when you could just heat it in the microwave to exactly the target temperature (which for both cream and chocolate is 115–120°F). Medrich provides three procedures for making the ganache: one for a hand whisk, one for an immersion blender, and one for a food processor. I have all three of these tools, but I decided to do the food-processor one for the sake of convenience. It just takes a few seconds of blending to come together in the processor, and then the ganache is dumped onto a plastic-wrap-lined pan to cool:
Ganache cooling on sheet pan

After it’s fully cooled, the ganache is wrapped tightly and left undisturbed to recrystallize overnight. The next day I set up my truffle-making station:
Truffle-making station ready for action
I used a #100 disher and the fingers of my right hand to form the truffles into individual centers — remember, they are supposed to look like little clods of dirt! (Not seen off to the left is that same sheet pan, now lined with parchment, where the completed truffles will rest and then be refrigerated to complete the setting process.) I made two or three centers for each flavor before rolling them around to apply the coating:
Two truffles in crushed pecanTwo truffles in cocoa powder

All told I got 36 truffles, but based on the amount of waste, I figured the recipe actually made about 40 truffles’ worth of ganache. That’s not too far off from the claimed yield of 48 truffles, which you could probably get with slightly firmer ganache and a melon baller rather than a disher for forming. I figure four truffles is probably an appropriate serving size.
36 truffles resting on sheet pan
After covering with plastic and refrigerating for an hour, I packed the truffles in a smaller container for further storage. They should, of course, be allowed to come to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Based on Valrhona Caraïbe 66% chocolate and High Lawn Farm heavy cream, yield 36 truffles with approximately 1 serving wasted:

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 4 truffles
Servings per container: about 10
Amount per serving
Calories 221 Calories from fat 178
% Daily Value
Total Fat 20g 30%
 Saturated Fat 13g 64%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2.5mg 0%
Potassium 16mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
 Dietary fiber 2g 9%
 Sugars 6.5g
Proteins 1.5g 3%
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%
Iron 5%
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