Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Sweet Valentine's Day

Smooches for Valentine's Day! And what better way to say I love you than with something delicious, decadent and 100% homemade!

Nathaniel & I love working with chocolate. It's become a holiday tradition around here. We make all sorts of chocolate candy for different holidays. This year for Valentine's Day, we made dozens of truffles to share with our friends and family. And now we're gonna share them with you, too.

This year we made 8 kinds of truffles using the same basic recipes. The basic truffle ganache filling is very flexible in terms of flavor. You can leave it plain, which tastes wonderful, or you can add liqueur or extracts to flavor the filling. Some flavors we've used before... rum, blush wine, champagne, amaretto, port, brandy, Frangelico, Kahlua, Chambord, Bailey's Irish Cream, vanilla extract, coconut extract, mint extract, lemon extract, maple extract and orange extract. Try your favorite liqueur or extract! Beyond the basic ganache, there's a peanut butter truffle filling and a dairy-free one made with cashews you can try - both are also fab!

Making truffles isn't hard, but it does take strict attention. Chocolate can be fickle and hard to work with - so be patient and always keep the chocolate on low heat when you're melting it. Another tip - never add water to chocolate - they just don't mix! And don't expect your homemade candy to look like store bought truffles - those are made by machines or in molds. Yours will be hand-rolled and may look slightly irregular. They will taste yummy though!

Truffle Ganache Filling
1 cup of heavy cream
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 Tbsp. liqueur of your choice or 2 Tbsp. flavor extract (optional, but good!)

Over a double boiler, warm the cream on low heat. Stir in all of the chocolate and liqueur until extremely smooth and all the chocolate has melted. This is the ganache filling. Pour the ganache into a shallow dish, like a casserole dish and chill in the fridge until set, about 3 or 4 hours.To form truffles, scoop one teaspoon of chilled ganache and roll it into a ball. You'll have to work quickly, or the heat from your hands will melt the chocolate.

Peanut Butter Truffle Filling
1 cup peanut butter chips (like Reese's)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla

Combine peanut butter chips, butter, vanilla and milk in the top level of a double boiler and warm gently over low heat. Melt together and stir until chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour into a low, flat dish, like a casserole and chill in the fridge about 3 to 4 hours, until the mixture is firm enough to handle. Roll into 1-teaspoon balls by hand. Work quickly, the mixture will be sticky and will melt quickly.

Dairy-Free Truffle Filling
3/4 cup unsalted or raw cashews
3/4 cup of cold water
16 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (get a dairy free brand!)

Soak the cashews in the water for about an hour, then put water and cashews into a blender or food processor on high speed for about 2 minutes. It seems like a long time, but keep blending! The cashews will reach a delicious creamy texture and all the nut pieces will be completely broken down. Meanwhile, in the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate until it is smooth. Fold cashew cream into the melted chocolate until well mixed. Pour into a low, flat casserole and chill for about 2 hours until set. Roll mixture into small balls, working quickly, so the heat from your hands doesn't melt the chocolate.

There are two coating options for any type of truffles... if you haven't already eaten them as-is!

The first option is the easier one - roll the finished balls in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, sprinkles, sugar crystals, powdered sugar or chocolate shavings. And that's it! Store in a cool place and serve at room temperature to your sweetie.

The second option is to coat the truffle in another layer of chocolate. To do this, chill the rolled truffles again, or even freeze them. Once they are really cool, add 16 oz. of semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate chips or melting discs (available at craft shops like Michael's) to the top level of a double boiler. If the chocolate gets thick, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or shortening at a time, to thin it back out and make the coating chocolate glossy. Once the chocolate is smooth and melted, use a fork to dip the cooled truffle centers into it. Place them on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. If you want to add decoration to the coating chocolate, like sprinkles or cocoa, be sure to add it to the truffles while the chocolate is still wet, or it won't stik. Once the entire batch is done, let the 2nd layer of chocolate firm up in the fridge.

And then enjoy!!
~ Rissa

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