Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles Four Ways

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet lately. That’s not because I’ve stopped baking, but a combination of other activities has kept me from having the time and energy to write blog posts for the past week. So I’m going to make up for it by writing three posts in a row, of which this is the first.

I started this dish last Monday — Labor Day — at the same time as I was baking a Joanne Chang-style carrot cake. I hadn’t actually intended to cook two things last weekend (actually three, since I also made Serious Eats’ excellent corn chowder again), but I noticed that I had most of a pint of cream that was about to reach its expiration date, and cream about to expire can mean only one thing: truffles. (Because I don’t really have much use for cream in my everyday life, or even baking, but I always have good chocolate on hand.) I measured the cream, and found that I had about 14 fluid ounces, and turning to Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet, I found a truffle formula that called for 7 fluid ounces of cream and 10 ounces 64–66% chocolate. This was not the recipe that I used last time, but I have always had good luck with Medrich’s recipes. Rather than using one particular chocolate, I ended up mixing together various scraps of chocolates I had in the pantry: some Madécasse 63%, some unidentified block of Callebaut (probably either 60-40 or 70-30, but the thermal printing on the store label had faded too far to tell), and enough Valrhona Caraibe 66% to make up the remainder (about half), for a total of 20 ounces.

Melting chocolate
This recipe calls for melting the chocolate over simmering water, which is easy enough to do, although many ganache recipes don’t call for melting the chocolate at all. After melting nearly all of the chocolate, Medrich says it should be removed from the heat and stirred until the rest of the chocolate is melted, then allowed to cool to about 115°F — I actually found that my melt was cooler than this, and I put it back over the water (no longer being heated but still steaming) to keep it from getting too cool.

Cooling scalded cream
The cream is brought to a full boil and then also allowed to cool to 115°F. This has the effect of denaturing some of the proteins and effectively re-pasteurizing the cream (important for the cooling and crystallization step, which takes overnight at room temperature). I use pure Jersey cream from High Lawn Farm in the Berkshires, which has a higher fat content than standard heavy cream, and it’s also neither ultra-pasteurized nor ultra-homogenized, leading to a shorter shelf life and a tendency to form clumps of butterfat in the bottle. You can see the result of melting these globules of pure butterfat on the surface of the cream: rather than forming a skin of congealed casein (milk protein), this cream forms a layer of fat on top. (Imagine making ganache with raw cream!)

Cooling ganache
Once both have reached the appointed temperature, the cream is whisked vigorously into the melted chocolate, and once fully emulsified, the ganache is poured out onto a plastic-lined quarter-sheet pan and allowed to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, the plastic covering is pulled over the top, and the ganache is left overnight at room temperature to allow the cocoa butter to recrystallize — once this happens, it can safely be refrigerated, which I did the following morning before taking my carrot cake into work.

What IS that yellow stuff?
Tuesday evening, I took the cooled ganache out of the fridge to start forming the truffles, and I was a bit startled by this congealed yellow stuff at the edges of the chocolate. I figured it must be either unemulsified butterfat, or a mixture of butterfat and cocoa butter, but it didn’t taste like anything.

Four powdered coatings
In the title of this post I promised “Truffles Four Ways”, and this is it. I’m not much for tempered chocolate coatings on truffles; I’d rather just have a flavorful powder. In these four bowls, I have chopped hazelnuts — which I really should have re-toasted as they were quite lacking in both flavor and texture, black cocoa, regular Valrhona Dutch-process cocoa, and Chinese five-spice powder.

Truffles Four Ways
I scooped the slightly warmed ganache with a #100 disher, forming balls that I distributed among the four bowls, rolling two truffles at a time in each powder, then placing them on a couple of quarter-sheet pans. I got about 70 truffles total, nearly equally divided among the four kinds, which I refrigerated to re-set the ganache before packing in a plastic container to bring in to the office. I made up two plates of 14 truffles each which I left with colleagues, and for my own group put out another plate of 36. (I also ate some. Burp.) People really liked the five-spice truffles, which makes me want to try infusing the cream with star anise directly — maybe next time I’ll do that.

No nutrition data for these, sorry. They should be very similar to last November’s modulo not knowing the exact chocolates used. Except for the nuts, the coatings make a negligible contribution to any individual truffle (and I didn’t bother to measure exactly how much of each was used).

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