This weekend was spent making truffles. And not just any kind, but a whole range of them.
I had been dying to give truffles a try, despite countless failed attempts at making chocolate Easter eggs. But since I mastered macaroons, surely nothing could hold me back.
Over the years I have figured out that attention to detail is not really one of my strengths, nor are fiddly repetitive activities such as piping tiny little circles of meringue onto baking paper. To overcome this hurdle I invited my colleagues round to a truffle-making day, generously offering to ‘teach’ them how to make chocolates, whilst conveniently scheduling it in one of their houses and hoping for the best.
As a teacher teaching teachers, I clearly wouldn’t have passed any inspection. For a start I was teaching a subject I have no qualification in (the three sets of failed Easter eggs do not count. I never even got as far as filling them!). But it clearly helps to work with a high ability group! Not only did they stay calm whenever I lost the plot, they also took over and showed me how to do it properly:
The day was incredibly fun and I can only advise you to invite friends round if you are attempting something new – it’s so much more fun messing up and around with a group of likeminded people. And you get to share the blame if things don’t work out.
I decided to work predominantly with pre-fabricated chocolate shells to make it all fit into one afternoon. If you want to cast your own moulds you’ll need a 12-hour break before finishing off your chocolates. We made non-alcoholic strawberry and yoghurt truffles and raspberry truffles, using white chocolate moulds, as well as hand-rolled champagne truffles and rum and amaretto truffles, the latter in dark chocolate shells.
Handling chocolates is a risky business, and I don’t just mean in terms of your waistline. You need to warm the couverture in a bain marie, by placing a large bowl on top of a small saucepan with only 1-2 cm / 1 inch of simmering water. Avoid any contact with water or, indeed, steam: one single drop will turn your beautiful luscious chocolate into rubbish. Avoid this by making sure the water only simmers, but never boils, and by placing the bowl onto a towel every time you remove it from the saucepan.
But the real challenge remains the correct tempering of the chocolate: we used pre-tempered couverture, which needs to be heated to no more than 37C / 100F to make the glossiest covering. Still you will need to use a thermometer to make sure you don’t exceed the temperature or your truffles will go dull or even streaky. Some of our dark chocolate truffles ended up a little dull, all the more reason to eat them quickly.
I have included the method for tempering chocolate, should the one you are using need to be tempered. Buy so-called ‘couverure’ as these have the perfect fat-cocoa balance for this type of work. As I used two rather strong alcohols I decided to go for milk chocolate shells to add a little sweetness.
If you can get hold of the shells, absolutely go for it. It takes a little time and practice but you will be rewarded with the most delicious truffles imaginable. Which brings me to the only drawback to making truffles with friends. They end up taking most of them home with them …
Whisky Truffles (makes 25 truffles)
For the ganache:
- 75g milk chocolate couverture
- 40g double cream
- 10 g soft, unsalted butter
- 40ml whisky
For the truffles:
- ca. 25 milk chocolate shells
- 100g milk chocolate couverture
Chop the chocolate couverture very finely and place it into a small bowl.
Bring the cream to boil and keep it at that high temperature for a minute. Then pour it over the chocolate and stir continuously until the chocolate has melted. You might need to place the bowl over a saucepan filled with a little boiling water to raise the temperature a little more. Add the butter, and when it is fully incorporated, the whisky. The ganache will be quite runny; simply place it in the fridge for ten minutes or so to speed up the setting process.
Temper the milk chocolate couverture by bringing a small casserole filled with 1-2 cm water to boil. Remove the pot from the hob and place a bowl with 2/3 of the white chocolate couverture on top of the casserole: the bowl should not touch the water – you want to avoid that any water, including steam, comes in contact with the chocolate. One drop of water and you need to bin the lot!
Once the chocolate reaches 40-44C / 100-110F, remove the bowl from the casserole and dry it. Place it on a cool surface and add the remaining chocolate. Keep stirring constantly until the temperature has cooled down to 27-28C / 80-82F.
Place the bowl back onto the casserole and heat the chocolate to 31-32C / 88-89F. Now it has reached the ideal temperature and you have to make sure you keep it at that as this is the ideal temperature to work with milk chocolate. You might need to place the bowl back on top of the saucepan and warm it up a little, but make sure you don’t heat it up too much!
Apricot Brandy Truffles (makes 40)
For the ganache:
- 5 dried apricots
- 50g apricot brandy or Marillenschnaps
- 90g milk chocolate couverture
- 40g double cream
- 10 g soft unsalted butter
For the truffles:
- ca. 40 milk chocolate shells
- 150g milk chocolate couverture
Chop four of the apricots very finely and soak them in the apricot brandy for an hour.Cut the remaining apricot into thin strips and set them aside to decorate the finished truffles.
Bring the cream to boil and keep it at that high temperature for a minute. Then pour it over the chocolate and stir continuously until the chocolate has melted. Add the butter, and when it is fully incorporated, the soaked apricot pieces. The ganache will be quite runny; simply place it in the fridge for ten minutes or so to speed up the setting process.
Once the ganache has the consistency of thick cream you can pipe it into the chocolate shells. Fill them up to the very brim and leave to set for another ten minutes or more.
You can get little paper cases, similar to cupcake ones, to prevent them from sticking together.
Pack them up nicely in a little box, in time for Mother’s Day. These truffles will last for at least two weeks if you store them in a dark and cool place – (15-18C or 60-65F). Apparently. I bet nobody’s ever managed to stay off them for that long!