Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Chocolaty Goodness...

‘Tis the season of constant celebration!  I feel as though this summer, most of my weekends have been booked up with either birthdays or weddings...  I spent last weekend near Chichester at a family gathering for my grandmother’s 90th. 

Being a bad granddaughter, I’m afraid I never quite know what to get her as a present – but one thing I do know is she has an impressively sweet tooth.  (She drinks the sweetest, of sickly, syrupy German wines and even then only if it’s been cut with a couple of teaspoons of sugar.) 

For most of our adolescence my brother and I relied heavily on gifting innumerable boxes of Quality Street (every single year - birthdays and Christmas)...  This year I regressed somewhat and decided to tread the chocolaty path once more, and made her a box of truffles.

After searching through several different recipes, I set upon one from the ever reliable Delia.   All I needed now was a gift box for them... easier said than done!  After much deliberation and searching through countless shops, I decided that the best port of call was to buy a huge box of Ferraro Rocher and eat the contents within the following three days to make room for the new occupants.  I can tell you, it was a trial...

I deviated slightly from the official recipe because I only read as far as the ingredients list and the first step before becoming distracted (as usual)... so this is more in the spirit of Delia’s recipe rather than following it to the letter:

Blend the chocolate in a food processor until it looks like coarse granular sugar. I know it sounds patronising but make sure the blender lid is properly secured - I wasn't holding mine down and somehow it worked it's way loose, flew off, and sprayed the whole kitchen with tiny melting pieces of chocolate... it got in the toaster, the kettle, the cutlery draw... EVERYWHERE!

Divide the butter and cream into three pans (one for each flavour).  Next time I would add slightly less butter as the truffle mixture ended up being very soft. 

Heat a third of the cream to simmering point, add an earl grey teabag and leave to infuse for a minimum of ten minutes.  Gently press the teabag against the side of the pan to squeeze as much flavour out as possible, and add the vanilla essence.

Add the brandy to one of the unflavoured pans of butter and cream and the orange zest and juice to the other.

Heat all three pans of cream, butter and additional flavourings until melted and at simmering point.  Remove from the heat.

Stir the chocolate into the cream/butter until it becomes smooth. 

Add the yogurt (I used crème fraiche)
and stir.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then pop in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. 

I have made truffles before which set like concrete, because they chilled too much prior to shaping (read: chiseling) so I now check on the mixture every half-hour/hour to see how firm they have become.

Once firm (they should be the consistency of Nutella which is kept in the fridge) scoop out teaspoonfuls and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and return to the fridge to solidify further.

Place the truffle coatings on plates ready to roll the truffles in and line up the cases so you don't have to fiddle with them with chocolaty hands.

Next roll the truffle mixture in your hands (which have been coated in cocoa to try and control the stickiness).  This process (like pastry) needs to be done as quickly as possible with hands as cool as possible to prevent the truffles melting.

Roll the brandy truffles in cocoa, and the vanilla and earl grey truffles in vanilla sugar.  Once they have been rolled, leave them for 10 minutes or so and then roll them a second time to ensure a thorough coating (these truffles seem to be quite absorbent).

For the orange flavoured, chocolate coated truffles heat the milk chocolate and oil in a Bain Marie (use a small, deep bowl if possible) and allow to melt. 

If you have a sugar thermometer and would like a glossy finish to your coating you can "temper" the chocolate, this is done by heating the chocolate until it reaches 45°C then placing the bowl in cold water (stirring constantly) until it drops to 27°C.  Finally heat again until it reaches 32°C.

Dip the truffles in the melted chocolate coating, tap against the edge of the bowl so any excess drips off and then place on a baking tray lined with parchment, in the fridge to harden.  I ended up with golf ball sized truffles doing it this way and have since read a possible technique for a more delicate coating:  Roll the dipped truffles in the palms of your hands to make sure the coating is even, then chill to set.

You can reuse any leftover chocolate from truffle making/coating by chilling it until hard and then grating it to use as decoration.  You could either roll truffles in the grated chocolate or use it to sprinkle it over cakes etc.

Once the truffles have set, melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Store the truffles in the fridge in an airtight container and eat as soon as possible (Delia recommends within three days, most other recipes I found suggest 1 week).

Alternatively, truffles can be frozen. 

Take the truffles out of the fridge approximately an hour before serving (so that they have returned to room temperature).

On Sunday we doled out my grandmother's presents.  Having entered the world as the last of many siblings, she’s never grown out of being "the youngest".  Despite the fact she's about to become a great-grandmother, she seemed as happy as any small child when surrounded by all her swag... HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANA!!

Basic Truffles:
150g dark chocolate (minimum 75% cocoa solids)
150ml thick double cream
25g unsalted butter
1tbsp Greek yoghurt 

Vanilla and Earl Grey Truffles:
Add 1tsp vanilla essence
Infuse cream with earl grey teabag

Brandy Truffles:
Add 2tblsp of brandy

Orange Truffles:
Add 2tblsp of orange juice
Add the zest of 1 orange

Vanilla sugar
100g milk chocolate
50g white chocolate
A splash of groundnut oil

Other Flavor Ideas:
Rum – 2tbsp rum
Almond – 2tbsp amaretto and roll in chopped almonds
Peppermint — Add peppermint extract to taste, roll in finely chopped mint sweets (e.g. candy canes)
Lemon/Ginger – Add lemon zest and roll in finely chopped crystallized ginger
Coffee – Add instant espresso powder to the heating cream or substitute cream for equivalent measure of espresso shot
Raspberry – 2tbsp Framboise liqueur (use white chocolate)
Cherry – 2tbsp Kirsch liqueur (use dark chocolate)

Coating Ideas:
Vanilla sugar
Chopped nuts
Cinnamon sugar
Finely chopped crystallized ginger
Finely chopped dried fruit (e.g. cranberry)
Shredded coconut
Grated chocolate
Icing sugar

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