Monday, December 3, 2007

My very favorite truffle in the whole wide world.

And I don't like! And I'm sorry this picture is blurry.

Anyone can tell you that chocolate truffles are the most brainless of all confections to make. You take a cold flavored ganache, roll it into balls and then in some sort of coating, or, if you're really a lunatic, enrobe it tempered chocolate. I say "lunatic" because tempering chocolate is one of those activities which will take years off your life. But I digress.

I've gladly made truffles voluntarily for the weddings of people I love a lot, and at virtual gunpoint for those chefs for whom I worked. While truffle making is relatively easy, making more than two or three dozen at a time is the most deadening work imaginable, and invariably some chef would come to me with a jolly order for truffles for a party of six hundred - oh, and five different flavors, please. Augggh. Those were the days, my friend.

Horrible flashbacks aside, truffles can be quite delicious, as long as they're simple and made with excellent chocolate. A long time ago my decidedly brilliant and not-crazy executive chef Claude Koeberle taught me one of the guiding tenets of life regarding chocolate desserts (such as ice cream and truffles) and that is: always use a 70-75 per cent quantity of semi- or bittersweet chocolate and a 30-25 per cent quantity of excellent milk chocolate when making a chocolate dessert. For some reason the smaller amount of milk chocolate smooths out and inexplicably deepens the flavor of the bitterer chocolate. This really works, and I hate milk chocolate, and would normally would never have it anywhere on my turf. But Claude comes from a family of expert chocolatiers from Lyon and I have never contradicted his sage advice, something which has always been to my benefit.

So. The following recipe is ridiculously easy, even if you do have to roast the almonds yourself. Just make sure they are very salty and chop them by hand (which is a bitch, I know, but it looks a lot better). This is the only truffle I will eat after making them. The rest - ptui, especially the white chocolate ones.

Chocolate Truffles with Brown Butter Salted Almonds

Makes about 3 dozen 1 1/4" truffles

For the almonds:*

2 cups unblanched raw almonds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-2 teaspoons excellent sea salt (I always use Maldon)

In a large dry skillet, toast almonds over low heat until they start to puff up a little and start showing golden spots on the bits without skin. This will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes -- watch carefully and stir them constantly. They will also start to smell toasty when ready. At this point, add the butter -- it will foam up and start to brown immediately. Keep stirring, letting the almonds sizzle in the brown butter, but don't let the butter get too dark. When it is a deep nut brown (this will only take a minute or two), pour the almonds on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Immediately sprinkle with salt. You want these to be on the salty side. Let cool completely, then chop fairly finely. Place in bowl, cover and set aside.

*If this almond rigamarole is too much trouble, just buy the perfectly good roasted salted almonds at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and chop 'em up. They are completely serviceable.

For the chocolate truffle ganache:

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped**

3.5 oz. excellent quality milk chocolate, roughly chopped**

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Place chopped chocolates in a medium stainless or glass bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream until it just starts to boil -- watch carefully or it will rise up and overflow all over your burners.
Pour 1 cup hot cream over the chocolate and allow to rest for 30 seconds (yeah, this is Jacques Torres' method, and I'm sorry to say it works). Add remaining 1/2 cup hot cream and stir gently with whisk until all chocolate is melted. Now, if you want to make these relatively quickly, pour the ganache onto a clean jellyroll pan (a cookie sheet with a 1/2" rim), cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold, about 2 or 3 hours.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, and have the prepared almonds handy in a nearby bowl. Using a 1/2 ounce ice cream scoop or just a teaspoon, scoop up rounded portions of the ganache, roll them briefly in the palms of your hands if you want very round truffles (you don't have to do this because yes, it is very messy -- rounding the mixture with a spoon is enough) and then roll quickly in the prepared almonds. Place coated truffles on the cookie sheet. If truffle mixture gets too soft while you're working with it, return it to the refrigerator to firm up. When all truffles are coated, place them in one layer in an airtight plastic container, cover and refrigerate. When you serve these, they will keep at room temperature for about an hour, but after that will start to wilt, especially if the room is warm. Act accordingly.

Again -- if you give these away (and they make a fabulous present), tell the recipient that they must be refrigerated.

** For the purposes of this recipe I used two four ounce bars of Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate and one 3.5 ounce bar of Lindt Extra-Creamy milk chocolate, because they are easily available in most nationwide supermarkets. Not everyone has access to high end chocolate (or even Trader Joe's) so I thought I'd use these perfectly fine supermarket brands. They worked very well.

© 2007 Sandy Soto Teich

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