Wednesday Food: Small Treats

The Holidays are right around the corner!

We've discussed a few different styles of holiday cakes, but what about when you just want to make something small to nibble on?  Yes, cookies are always tasty - but it's hard to resist a yummy truffle.  Small bites of melt-in-your-mouth, rich, deliciousness!  When I first learned how to make them, I was amazed at how easy they were.  Simple ingredients and an even simpler method!

Besides being easy to make, you can turn truffles into just about any flavor you can think of!  Infusing flavors like orange, espresso, framboise or the ever popular peanut butter will customize your treat for any audience or occassion!  The general public seems to go absolutely crazy for the chocolate/peanut butter combo. *Granted there are no nut allergies*

Truffles are made with ganache, which is a super fancy name for basic chocolate and cream.  Ganache is what I will call a foundation recipe.  It is one of those recipes that you can use in many different ways from frosting to candies to souffles. Ganache can be made in a softer or harder form, depending on what you are making it for.  Softer (more cream, less chocolate) works nicely if you are going to whip it for a frosting.  Harder (more chocolate, less cream) is better for truffles, so that they can hold their shape.

These truffles are going to be part of a holiday event at my job this week called Merry Madness.  This is an annual event that promotes the local downtown Portland, ME businesses and makes a festive night out for everyone getting their last minute shopping done.  People travel from shop to shop; drinking wine, cider or in my case eating chocolates and have a merry time.  It's a great way for downtown businesses to get their name out, and a great way to kick the holiday spirit into high gear!  If your city has such an event, or you are in Portland this week, I highly recommend this fun night out! 

This recipe comes from one of my former pastry chefs, Emily Luchetti's fabulous cookbook, A Passion for Desserts. When I worked at Farallon we made sooo many different kinds of truffles, I don't think I could remember all of them!  No flavor was left behind, from white chocolate and passion fruit to dark chocolate and bergamot.  Another StellaBella reccomendation for your cookbook collection.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles - makes about 30 1" truffles

1/2 c. heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely (I used Callebaut, you can get big chunks of it for cheap at Whole Foods Market)
1/4c. smooth peanut butter
1/2c chopped peanuts

1) Put the cream on the stove on medium heat.  While the cream is heating you can chop your chocolate and place in a medium sized bowl.  The cream will not take long to heat (about 3 minutes) so keep an eye on it.

2) Once the cream has heated (little bubbles will pop up around the edges), pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute.  If you didn't chop the chocolate small enough then the hot cream will not melt all of it!  After it sits, use a spatula to get the mixture to come together.  Then add the peanut butter.  I would NOT recommend using a whisk because you have lots of fat you are trying to homogenize, so overmixing can result in a separated ganache. 

3) Spread this lovely batch of chocolate goo into a pie dish, small cake pan or in my case - a loaf pan.  Refrigerate for an hour, till it hardens or overnight.  Normally you would always let it set overnight, but I can understand time constraints.  If you can wait, the flavor is much better when it sets overnight.

4) When the ganache has hardened you can use a melon baller or a teaspoon to scoop even sized truffles.  Once you have them all scooped, you can roll them to make them nice and round.  You can also round them and roll them in chopped peanuts or some sifted cocoa.  If you feel like the ganache is warming up too much and they are too soft, pop them back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.

My chef on externship once told me that creative people have warm hands.  Although I do agree with her, this doesn't help so much when your are rolling truffles!  I keep a bag of ice next to me so between each truffle, I can rest my hands on it.

 This is just one flavor of truffle but you really can go anywhere you want with it and it's quite simple.  Say if you wanted to make an orange flavored truffle, use this same recipe but omit the peanut butter.  When you are heating the cream, add the zest of 1 orange, and let the cream steep for about 25-30 minutes.  Strain the cream, reheat and then pour over the chocolate.  It's that easy!

 I now, send you forth to make holiday chocolate magic, and get creative!  Not only with the flavors, but the garnish too!  Don't just settle for dusting the truffles with cocoa powder.  Maybe, roll a plain chocolate truffle in crushed peppermint candy pieces?!?  A nice crunch and a bit of holiday pizazz!  Send us your Holiday Treat pics - it's the season for sharing!

Remember when the kitchen gets too hot, get back in there an keep cooking!

- BabyStella

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