Sunday, December 14, 2008
Chocolate Truffles (real ones)
The English language is constantly being perverted by modern culture, especially by the commerce side of things. And nowhere is that more true than in the realm of food. Witness, for example, Starbucks' corruption of Italian coffee names such as macchiatto; coffee snobs would say it's a shot of espresso "stained" (the literal meaning of macchiatto) with a tiny bit of hot or cold milk (and maybe some foam, though that's up for debate). Starbucks, meanwhile, has this sickly sweet and syrupy drink. Which could hardly be called coffee, let alone a macchiatto. It's not mere semantics, either: I've personally witnessed the mayhem that ensues when a Starbucks fan orders a macchiatto from a real barista.
Yeah, that's just evil corporations for you. But another name has been misused by the entire candy industry, even the aficionados: chocolate truffle. Go to a chocolate boutique and order a truffle and what are you likely to get? A nugget of chocolate ganache coated with a harder chocolate shell, perhaps drizzled with some sort of decorative fluorish to indicate the flavor within.
That's crazy, of course, because chocolate truffles were named after that tres cher fungi worshipped by foodies and known by the French as le truffe. And they don't have hard chocolate shells; rather, they look dusty and brown -- a bit unappetizing in fact. True chocolate truffles look the same, dusty and brown -- thanks to the cocoa dust coating -- and thus the name. The candy folks probably thought they looked a bit like turds, so they went for the snazzier chocolate shell, but kept the old name.
Problem is, the revised truffles just don't give the same experience. A real truffle should first assault the mouth with a dry and bitter cocoa dust, which gives way to creamy, deep chocolate ganache. The contrast delights the tongue, and the flavors move all the way through the mouth.
In an attempt to keep true chocolate truffles alive, gin + gelato made some last night for a Paonia rager. People at the party looked at them funny, but after they were assured that they were, indeed, edible, they ate them enthusiastically. The ecstatic looks on their faces said it all. Here's how to do it:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli's 60 percent cocoa chips)
1 little square of unsweetened chocolate
7 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of heavy cream
High quality cocoa powder
Put the first four ingredients in a saucepan and melt it all over hot water (if you can't come up with a double boiler setup, you can also heat the cream and butter and then add the chocolate, stirring constantly over very low heat).
Stir often -- the goal is to have a silky, shiny chocolate ganache without any chunks of melted chocolate.
Chill the chocolate in the refrigerator for an hour or so, until it's firm, but pliable enough to shape with your hands.
Cover a plate with cocoa powder, have another plate nearby on which you can put the finished truffles (it's a good idea to dust this plate with cocoa powder, too).
When the ganache is ready, scoop out a teaspoon at a time, mold each piece of ganache with clean hands into a little ball, and roll it in the cocoa powder.
Now, I must confess, gin + gelato did their own part to pervert the truffle name. They like to play around with different coatings, from curry powder, to chili powder, to crushed nuts, to saffron to beet powder, which makes for a beautiful bright red contrast to the dark chocolates.
Finished truffles can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days or more, but they should be eaten at room temperature.