You could say that my first truffle-making experience unfolded under duress. It was December 23, 2008 and our flights to Minnesota had been scratched, a blizzard socking in the midwest. Our chances of flying out the next day—the day (Christmas Eve) of my family’s traditional Christmas celebration—were fading fast and the prospect of driving several hundred miles along a snowy interstate sounded both exhausting and terrifying. Kevin, valiant hero of mine that he is, assured me he could manage the drive, that we would leave the next morning at dawn, that we’d make it to Minnesota just fine—and in plenty of time to partake in the celebrations.
I had my doubts. And my tears. And my hyperventilation. I was a mess. In short: not my proudest moment.
The only thing to assuage my despair was baking. So, I spent the evening in the kitchen, ripping through bags of sugar and and sticks of butter, a bit breathlessly, tearfully. I remember the results of my baking frenzy—several small pots of lemon curd, a chocolate pudding pie, and the truffles—but I am at a loss for recalling the actual making of any of these things, the memories, apparently, blocked out, wiped away by the fact that we did wake at dawn, that we did survive the white-knuckled drive, and that we did make it in time for the celebrations.
My spotty memory of that evening explains why I had completely forgotten how easy truffles—those decadent, luxe treats that look so fancy and, when purchased in pretty boxes from fancy candy shops, cost a pretty penny—are to make. Basically, you make a simple ganache. Then, you allow the glossy puddle of ganache to thicken slightly before you chill it until it is firm enough to roll into little globes, slightly smaller (and way tastier) than ping-pong balls. Last, but not least, roll the orbs through cocoa powder creating a confection that’s equal parts rustic and elegant.
And that’s it. I’m telling you, you can do this tonight if you, like any right-minded human, have chocolate bars and heavy cream (okay, fine, any right-minded non-vegan person) and cocoa powder on hand. A splash of liqueur is lovely, too, but not necessary. I used Cointreau because I’m drawn inexorably to all things citrus this time of year. And I also happen to love the alchemy of chocolate and orange: culinary star-crossed lovers, they are.
Speaking of star-crossed lovers, this recipe (to review: easy, fun (when not under duress, of course) and delicious) would make the perfect do-it-yourself Valentine’s Day gift.
To get the multi-colored look of my truffles, I used different brands of cocoa powder. (I happened to have three on hand, which, yes, I realize is a problem.) You can certainly use just one cocoa powder, though, if that’s all you have on hand or if you’re looking for a uniform appearance.
Yield: 16 to 20 truffles (in other words, double it; you’ll thank me later)
8 ounces best-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon liqueur, such as triple sec or framboise (optional)
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling
Put chocolate into a large heatproof bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; pour over chocolate in bowl. Stir in liqueur, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand 10 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let stand until thick, about 15 minutes.
Pour chocolate mixture into a shallow 8-inch dish or pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until mixture is very cold and set but still pliable, about 30 minutes.
Using a teaspoon or a 1/2-inch melon baller, scoop balls of chocolate mixture, transferring them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as you work. Refrigerate truffles 10 minutes.
Using hands dusted with cocoa powder, dip each truffle in cocoa powder to coat, then quickly shape truffle into a rough round. Refrigerate truffles in an airtight container until ready to serve, up to 2 weeks; before serving, reshape into rounds, and roll each truffle in cocoa powder, if desired.