The original chocolate truffle was a French confection meant to simulate the much-sought-after truffle fungus. They were rolled rough like the real fungus, not round, and covered in cocoa powder to replicate the dirt they grow in. (Whose idea was it to make people think they were eating dirt?) Chocolate truffles are a rich, decadent treat with a special elegance all their own. Don't be intimidated! Truffles are easy to make and always appreciated. The choice of alcohol to use is yours. It can be a liqueur, such as Chambord or Grand Marnier, or another spirit like bourbon or rum. The alcohol can also be left out entirely. Substitutions for it could include brewed coffee, orange juice or fruit puree.
Follow the method for Master Ganache, adding the butter to the chocolate and the corn syrup to the cream before bringing the cream to a boil.
Pour the hot cream and corn syrup over the chopped chocolate and butter. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, stir slowly in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, about 2 minutes.
Add the liqueur and stir to combine. Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature until it is firm. This should take at least 4 hours in a 65 degree F room or 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Once the ganache is firm, it can be formed into truffle balls. Using a piping bag, a mini ice cream scoop, or a tablespoon, make 1 inch diameter blobs. Then roll the blobs into somewhat uniform balls by hand. This is messy, no doubt about it. If they begin to warm up and become soft, refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. If you have hot hands or it is a hot day, it may feel as though you can't get a grip on the truffle. Work near a sink with cold running water. When the ganache feels like it's melting, cool your hands under the running water then dry them and dust with a little cocoa powder. Be careful not to get too much cocoa powder on the truffles, or they will taste like cocoa powder.
After the truffles are rolled, they can be finished in a variety of ways. The original cocoa powder is the easiest, and quite good.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces and place in a medium heatproof bowl. Fill a medium saucepan half full of water, bring it to a simmer, and then turn off the heat. Create a double boiler by placing the bowl on top of the saucepan. Stir the chocolate occasionally with a rubber spatula until it melts, about 2 minutes.
When the chocolate has melted, take it off the heat. Stir it slowly with a rubber spatula until the temperature drops to 90 degrees F, about 5 minutes. Place the remaining cocoa powder in a small bowl.
Drop 1 rolled ganache ball in the melted chocolate. Remove it with a fork, tap off the excess chocolate, and toss it into the cocoa powder. Roll the truffle around in the cocoa until it is well coated. Transfer the truffle to the prepared baking sheet and let it harden. Repeat with each truffle, coating 1 at a time.
Can deep, dark, intense, rich, velvety smooth chocolate be a spiritual experience? It certainly is heavenly when mixed with cream. Praise the pastry angels and pass the bonbons!
This is the basic ganache recipe. Use it for truffles, tarts, fillings, you name it. Follow the same technique when adjusting the recipe for firm and soft ganache. An alternative food processor method is given, which can be applied to any ganache recipe in this chapter.
My desire is not only to introduce you to ganache but also to make it a staple in your refrigerator. As long as you don't eat it all as a midnight snack, it can be available to help you throw together dessert at a moment's notice.
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces. Don't be lazy here. Big chunks will not melt.
Traditional method: Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boiling means the cream will actually rise up in the pan and threaten to boil over.
Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl, and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going to be sure it's emulsified.
Food processor method: Place the chopped chocolate in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat (or bring to a boil in the microwave.)
Immediately pour the hot cream into the food processor, on top of the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then pulse the machine 3 times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and pulse 3 more times, until all the chocolate is melted. This smooth, silky chocolate is now ganache. Transfer the ganache to a bowl.
Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it cools to 70 degrees F. In a 65 degree F room, this will take approximately 4 hours or 2 hours in the refrigerator. You can speed up the process by pouring the ganache out onto a clean baking sheet (thinner layers cool faster.) Once the ganache reaches 70 degrees F, it is ready to be used. At this point it can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: 2 cups
Recipe courtesy of Sherry Yard, The Secrets of Baking, Houghton Mifflin, 2003