While you need not look further than our exquisite Aphrodisiac Confections and Casanova Caramels to treat your loved ones this Valentine's Day, as artisan chocolatiers, we understand the do-it-yourself spirit that inspires you to produce something for your dearest with your own two hands.
So, here we will show you how you can impress those special people this February with bittersweet ganache truffles straight from your own kitchen! You'll need just a few chocolate bars, a bit of cream and butter, and a handful of cocoa powder; (well, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day if you didn't add some love too!). We'll also explain how to customize your ganache truffles to fit the personality of your sweetheart.
What is "Ganache"? It is the French term used to describe the combination of cream and chocolate that makes up the center of a chocolate truffle. The word "ganache" literally means "jowl," but it is used figuratively to refer to a foolish person. Folklore has it that chocolate ganache as we know it came about in the mid-1800s when a chocolatier's apprentice accidentally spilled cream into a pot of chocolate, at which the exasperated chocolatier--thinking his chocolate was ruined--exclaimed, "Ganache"! Needless to say, the chocolatier soon discovered that the result of his apprentice's foolishness was a fantastic new chocolate confection. One hundred and fifty years later, we still celebrate this happy accident each time we mix cream and chocolate to make a batch of truffles.
Here's how to start:
3 bars Theo 70% dark chocolate (9 oz.), finely chopped
6 1/2 oz. heavy cream (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)
2 1/2 oz. butter (5 tablespoons)
natural (non-alkalized) fair trade cocoa powder, for coating
What to do:
- Prepare an 8x8” baking pan by lining half of it with foil to create a roughly 8x4” enclosed area for the ganache, leaving an overhang with which to remove the ganache when it is finished (or, double this recipe and use the whole pan!)
- Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl.
- Place the butter and cream in a small saucepan and slowly bring the mixture up to a bare simmer, stirring constantly. Doing this slowly will allow water to evaporate from the cream and butter, resulting in a more smooth ganache, so do not rush!
- When the cream is steaming heavily and has tiny bubbles collecting around the edges of the pan or appears to have a fine foamy layer on top, remove it from the heat. Let it cool for one minute, then pour it over the chocolate in the bowl and let it sit undisturbed for about two minutes.
- Using a spatula, stir the chocolate and cream together using a tight circular motion at the center of the bowl. Take care not to whip any air into the ganache. Continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted. The mixture should appear homogenous and glossy and should be just cool to the touch.
- If you have a digital thermometer, check that the temperature is within 30-32°C or 86-92°F. If you do not have a thermometer, check the temperature by placing a dab of the ganache on your lip; it should feel just cool to the touch. If the ganache is too warm, simply let it rest on the counter for several minutes, then come back, gently stir just briefly, and test again.
- Once the ganache is at the proper temperature, scrape it in the prepared pan and jiggle the pan to ensure an even layer.
- Place the pan in a cool part of your kitchen and let it sit undisturbed for a full 24 hours. Although it may appear solid much sooner, it needs the 24 hour period to achieve the proper consistency.
- After 24 hours, remove the solidified ganache from the pan by lifting the foil edges. Turn it over onto a cutting board and peel off the foil.
- Cut it into small squares and toss them with cocoa powder.
- Don't forget to add your love, if you haven't already! Then package as desired.
Truffles will keep in an enclosed container for about a week. For longer storage, you can keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator; bring to room temperature before serving. The recipe makes 40-50 pieces.
The pure bittersweet flavor of these truffles needs no embellishment, but you may wish to add to or alter the flavor for a certain someone. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
For the chocolate hedonist: dip the truffles in tempered chocolate before, or instead of, rolling them in cocoa powder
For the vanilla-phile: add half a plump vanilla bean, split and scraped, and its seeds to the cream and allow it to steep for up to an hour before proceeding with the recipe
For the nut-lover: roll the cut pieces of finished ganache in finely chopped toasted nuts instead of cocoa powder
For the not-so-bittersweet chocolate lover: replace one bar of Theo 70% dark chocolate with one bar of Theo 45% milk chocolate and reduce the cream to 6 oz. (3/4 cup).
For your flame: add a pinch each of cayenne pepper and cinnamon along with a spoonful of honey to the cream
For the sweetie with punch: add finely chopped pieces of crystallized ginger to the ganache before scraping it into the pan (rinse the pieces with hot water to remove sugar granules and pat completely dry before adding)
For the romantic: reduce cream to 3/4 cup and add a splash of cognac or other brandy to the ganache before scraping it into the pan