Friday, 22 March 2013

Truffles for Triumphs...

Rich, dark, and wickedly delicious Chocolate Truffles are not your everyday lunchbox filler; instead waiting patiently in the wings like the other social butterflies of the kitchen (the canapé, the soufflé, or anything else ending in é, in case you were wondering) for one of those occasions that calls for the special china or the fancy napkins, rings and all. Cream, chocolate, a splash of something alcoholic and an enormous measure of down-right scrumptiousness, these little balls of all things bad for your waistline but glorious for your taste buds, are quite rightly one of those decadent, and dangerously moreish treats that are only allowed to roll out of the kitchen on special occasions. And thank goodness for that, you hear me sigh, I would need a crane and strategically placed hole in the roof just to get out of the house if they were on offer much more often...

Last weekend, one of those perilous occasions where truffles are most definitely called for, or so I like to think, arose.,, I can only blame my boyfriend, (seemingly a more and more regular feature on this blog...starting to suspect I’m a feeder) who is somewhat an over-achiever; one of those annoying people that is always doing something worth celebrating, which, in my rather food driven world, obviously means something worth cooking for. This time round, forgetting the carrot cakes and pork pies of old, the leftover dark chocolate in the fridge was the star of the show.

Feeling like the Hermione Granger of the kitchen (I would say Harry, but I don’t suit glasses..) the somewhat miraculous transformation of a matt block of dark chocolate to the thick, spectacularly shiny, see-your-face-in-it stuff that appears when it is added to hot cream, is nothing short of magic. And it really is as easy as Hermione makes mending those ugly aforementioned glasses look; once you have mixed, flavoured and tasted to your heart’s content, all that is needed is to leave the bowl to its own devices in the fridge for a few hours before rolling into balls. Easy peasy.

But the truly great thing about truffles in my eyes, (yup, even better than being ridiculously quick and even more stupidly yummy) is that they are almost a complete blank canvas of chocolate; giving your imagination free reign and letting you get totally creative. Adding a bit of this nut, or (a lot) of that liqueur takes the mixture from a bog standard choc to a treat that is truly your own.

As I got stuck in, it seems that I was feeling a little bit exotic as far as flavourings go. Don’t ask me why, it certainly had nothing to do with the weather, but drawing inspiration from my favourite, pink foil wrapped chocolate bar, half of the glossy cream and chocolate mixture took on the flavours of a Turkish delight. Enriched with pieces of the neon, rose flavoured jelly, pistachio nuts and rose water, before being rolled in bright green crushed pistachio nuts, they are not only full of Eastern Promise, but promise to fly off the plate almost as quickly as they got there. They would look beautiful piled on to a glass dish at Christmas time, not at all out of place in Nigella’s winter wonderland of a kitchen. Just don’t be too fussy about arranging in a meticulous, Ferroro Rocher style pyramid, they are guaranteed not to last long...

The other half of the basic truffle mix was a slightly manlier affair; speckled with crunchy salted almond praline, spiked with red chilli and given an added kick with a glug of spiced rum. Just yummy. Both were totally delicious, but if you don’t fancy the idea of a chocolate that will make your lips tingle, add your favourite nuts, dried fruit, spices, orange zest; go mad, the possibilities really are endless. Just get stuck in and get creative, these are a treat a million times worth any of the minimal melting, stirring and imagination required.

Ps. Listen up, this is a serious point; as I learnt after a few hours on the train and tube with my bag of treats, truffles do not travel well. If you want to avoid presenting your loved one with a bag of something that looks a lot more like something you would give to your enemy, make sure you keep these cold and un-squashed. Because they are definitely not an attractive present when they arrive in one brown, squidgy mess. If you know what I mean...

The Best Chocolate Truffles.

Basic Dark Chocolate Truffle
300ml double cream
A knob of butter
300g good quality dark chocolate, broken in to small pieces
A pinch of sea salt
A splash of alcohol (brandy, rum, orange liqueur- Whatever your tipple!)
Chopped nuts, fruit, marshmallows, praline, orange zest, dried chilli flakes or whatever extra flavouring you fancy.
Chopped nuts, cocoa powder or dessicated coconut; to roll.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until very hot but not quite boiling. When small bubbles begin to appear on the surface, add the butter and stir until melted.

Pour this hot mixture over the broken chocolate, whisking to combine, and allow the chocolate to melt nice and slowly.

Mix in a splash of your chosen alcohol, a pinch of salt (really brings out the flavour of the chocolate, honest) and any flavourings you fancy. Stir until the chocolate is melted, and the mixture is thick and smooth.

Leave to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours- You can make it a few days in advance if you are short of time.

About half an hour before you want to serve your truffles, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into small  balls; coat in chopped nuts, cocoa powder or desiccated coconut and serve!

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