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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Secret Indulgence....

I thought it was time to share my favorite indulgence with all of with my sistah’s. Following the rule of simplicity…the secret to Zen-ness is the decadent combination of Truffles and Port. This is utterly the most godlike combination for tranquility. Believe it or not, when it comes to making chocolates at home, these are by far the easiest. And with that said, when it comes to the truffles, I live by the philosophy of “mo’ chocolate, mo’ better” so below I will share my favorite recipe for truffles, followed by a couple inspirational ways to alter this morsel.

The History of Truffles
Chocolate Truffles are a rich and elegant, bite-sized petit four made with a creamy mixture of chocolate, cream, and butter to which various flavorings are added (liqueurs, extracts, nuts, coffee, purees, spices, candied or dried fruits). This mixture is really a Ganache that is rolled into mis-shaped rounds to look like the real truffle fungus that grows around the roots of trees in France and Italy. Piggies usually sniff these out....
Same goes in this case! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Once the truffles are formed they are then rolled in cocoa powder to simulate the 'dirt' that the real truffles grow in. While cocoa powder is the traditional coating, truffles can also be coated in confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, toasted and chopped nuts, tempered chocolate, shredded coconut, or even shaved chocolate.

Now, the taste and quality of the truffle is primarily dependent on the quality of chocolate you start with. Remember not all chocolates are the same. Chocolate begins with the beans from the tropical tree Theobroma which translates to "Food of the Gods". There are three types of cacao beans (Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario) and the type and/or blend of beans, their quality, and where they are grown all contribute to the quality and taste of the chocolate. Other factors affecting taste and quality are how the beans are roasted, how the beans are ground into a mass called chocolate liquor, how much extra cocoa butter is added to the chocolate liquor, quality and amount of other ingredients added, and how long the chocolate liquor is conched (processed). A chocolate with a velvety smooth texture will produce a truffle that is velvety smooth. However, the most important point to consider when choosing either a bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate for making your truffles is whether you like the chocolate when eaten out of hand.

Once you have decided on your chocolate, you then need to decide on your choice of alcohol to flavor your truffles and also the coating. The choice is yours but there are a few things to consider. For example, if you want a hazelnut flavored truffle it is a good idea to add Frangelico to the chocolate and cream mixture and then coat them in chopped hazelnuts. Or if you would like your truffles to have a coffee flavor stir about one tablespoon of espresso powder into the hot cream and then add Kahua to the truffle mixture. For fruit flavored truffles use 2 tablespoons of fruit puree or jam (raspberry or blackberry) in place of the alcohol. Orange flavored truffles can be made by adding about 1 tablespoon of orange zest to the hot cream. Let the cream steep for about 10 - 15 minutes and then strain out the zest. Then add Grand Marnier to the truffle mixture. There is also the option to add different flavoring agents other than alcohol. Chai tea can be steeped into the whipping cream & butter, and believe you me….curry powder & cardamom seeds add an amazing flavor when paired with the chocolate. As you can see there are endless variations to the basic truffle so experiment and come up with your own recipes.
Truffles store very well. They can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or frozen for several months. However, truffles are best when served at room temperature.

Thee Recipe

8 ounces (227 grams) milk, dark or white semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons alcohol (Port, Bonny Doon’s Framboise Dessert Wine, Demi-Sec Champagne, Cognac, Brandy, Grand Marnier, Kirsch, Rum, Bourbon, Baily’s Irish Cream, or Kahlua to name a few) (optional)

Different Coatings for Truffles:
Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
Confectioners Sugar (Icing or Powdered)
Toasted and Chopped Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios)
Toasted Coconut
Shaved Chocolate

Time…4 hours including chilling. It is really easy to drink the remainder of the port in that time frame…I know. But it is essential that one re-corks the nectar to savor with the truffles.

For Truffles: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the truffle mixture is firm (this will take several hours or overnight).

Place your coatings for the truffles on a plate. Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator. With your hands, or else a melon baller or small spoon form the chocolate into round or mis-shaped bite-sized balls. Immediately roll the truffle in the coating and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Cover and place in the refrigerator until firm.

Now…for the Porto….
What in the World is Port?
The distinctive character of Port does not come only from its method of production. Like that of every great classic wine, it is also born of an association of climate, soil & grape varieties unique in the world. Being fortified, Port is capable of ageing in wood for much longer than most other wines – from two years to many decades, depending on its character and potential. It may mature in cask, vat or bottle - or a combination of these. These differing periods and methods of ageing give rise to a diversity of different styles, each with its own distinctive character and purpose.

Hands down my ultimate favorite…
Taylor 20 Year Old Tawny.
This is what I commonly refer to as the “nectar of the gods”! I had the privilege of working with the distribution agent for this company, and was spoiled senseless with the option of tasting all their ports. Taylor 20 Year Old Tawny is a magnificent and finely-balanced tawny of outstanding richness and complexity. The additional ten years of aging it has on the 10 year tawny produces a fine balance between the rich, raisiny fruit and the nutty, honeyed finish - a taste to linger over. This rare port is traditionally enjoyed as a dessert wine or at the end of the meal, or in my case….whenever I can get my hands on truffles.

I truly hope that this post has inspired a few of you to go outside the norm, and try my favorite pairing. Just don’t call me the next morning, complaining of hair cramps because you didn’t know when to stop!


Loretta Rodger said...

The chocolate is so beautiful. Don't think I have the patience to make these myself though! Love your blog, the picture of the pig reminds me of my dog (no kidding) she is so pig ish its ridiculous!

Stamp Happy!

Lorraine said...

yummy. Truffles are my all time favorite chocolate treat. tfs how to make them

Rachel said...

Oh good Lord! Now I gotta go downstairs and "root" through the pantry for some chocolate! Thanks alot...LOL!

Seriously, though, your truffles look yummy -- thanks for sharing!

Jen said...

Wow, you know your chocolate and port! I've made several different kinds of truffles at home and they are always amazing. I will have to try your recipe!

Janet said...

mmmmmmmmmm sounds good!!!

you have been tagged! check out my blog for the dets!


Cris A said...

Now I'm starving!! Can't wait to a picture of the diaper cake!! I'm working on one too and would to see some ideas!

Sara said...

These look amazing, can't wait to try to make them

kareNstampZ said...

Welcome to SBS sisterhood _ & some of us we're trying to diet!