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Making chocolate truffles is so. much. fun! A few years ago in December, my friends came over and we spent an afternoon with our hands covered in chocolate, laughing and having the best time. I can’t remember whether we had a reason/motivation for making truffles beyond the resulting plateful of chocolate goodness, but does one really need anything more than that? I am not sure whether we tried different flavorings in the chocolate, but we did experiment with coatings: cocoa powder, powdered sugar, crushed candy canes and either nuts or coconut– it’s hard to tell from the pictures. What’s not hard to tell is how happy and proud of ourselves we were. Such a good memory!

I hadn’t made any truffles since that day but thought about doing some to give away for Christmas this year; for the past month or so, I have been searching for an excuse to do a test batch of the flavor I had in mind. For the last Backyard Barter event of 2012, which happened yesterday evening, I decided to give myself a theme, purely for fun. I made/took all holiday-related items to swap: compound butter with honey and cinnamon to go on cornbread or in sweet potatoes; brown butter pumpkin cake (recipe coming soon!); pickled cranberries, caramelized pear butter and bitter chocolate orange sauce from my stock of canned goods; and, as a treat, a batch of truffles made with Chambord*. It was a good way to test my truffle recipe without having 24 around the house to snack on; I was very, very happy that the first test batch came out exactly the way I wanted, with the dark-but-not-bitter chocolate flavor, hint of raspberry and consistency I was hoping for. The flavors of raspberry and dark chocolate are so complimentary; I am thrilled with the ease of this recipe and the elegant results.

At the barter, I was surprised how many people commented on the “difficult” or “painstaking” process of making chocolate truffles. It actually couldn’t be simpler! In fact, if you are not concerned with getting perfectly round balls and don’t mind having a little bit of extra clean-up to do, this would be a fun project to do with a child. (If you’re at all concerned, the Chambord can be left out altogether.) The key to good truffles is patience: you have to heat slowly, stir gently for a while and then wait for them to reach a setting point you can work with. As is usually the case, the waiting is the hardest part. (Cue Tom Petty.) But, your patience will be rewarded; I hope you will try making a batch of these truffles for holiday giving, entertaining or just as a treat.

Chocolate Truffles with Chambord (adapted from Ina Garten; makes 24)

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Callebaut)
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used a bar from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. prepared coffee
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 T. Chambord
  • baking cocoa to finish the truffles

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream until it is close to boiling but not quite there; remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 mins. In a separate medium-sized saucepan (the mixing bowl you use in the next step should be able to rest on top of this saucepan without touching the water inside), bring a cup or two of water to a boil and set aside. While the cream cools, very carefully chop both kinds of chocolate and place in a larger-than-you-need mixing bowl. Pour the slightly-cooled cream through a mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth into the bowl with the chocolate; place the bowl over the saucepan with the steaming water (off the stove) and use a whisk to slowly mix together the cream and melting chocolate. Take your time; your final product will benefit from your patience.

When the chocolate is all melted and mixed with the cream, whisk in the coffee, vanilla and Chambord. The mixture will be very thin at this point, like a chocolate sauce. Cover the bowl loosely with a towel, plastic wrap or a plate and put it in the freezer for about 30 mins. Test whether you are ready to proceed: use a teaspoon to form a ball that is malleable but holds its shape. You are looking for a consistency similar to modeling clay or play dough. If the chocolate is not ready, keep it in the freezer until you can form a ball, checking every 15 mins. or so.

If the truffle mixture is ready, prepare a work space you don’t mind getting messy– I used a large sheet of wax paper to cover a kitchen counter– and a container to hold the finished truffles. Pour about 1/4 c. cocoa into a bowl and place beside your station. Use a melon baller or teaspoon to gather a small amount of chocolate (each truffle should be one or two bites) and roll it in your hands to form a ball. Place the truffle into the cocoa and roll it around to coat, then drop it several times onto your work space to remove the excess cocoa. Repeat until you have used up all the chocolate mixture, working quickly or re-chilling the chocolate as necessary until you’re done. The finished truffles can be eaten immediately or refrigerated for up to three weeks (according to Ina Garten– I’ve never had a batch last that long); bring them to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

*If you’re not familiar with Chambord, it’s a raspberry liqueur that goes beautifully with dark chocolate. You could use Grand Marnier, brandy or Kahlua in its place if you don’t have Chambord.