So. Valentine’s Day. Pink hearts and flowers and chocolate. I do enjoy the cheerfulness of it all – the happy colors and the excuse to make everything heart-shaped. I think next year it will be even more fun for celebrating with my little red-head as she’ll be close to three years old and will actually know what’s going on. However, this holiday seems to be only geared toward women, full of expectations and children, full of sugar rage. Not much love for the guys. Guys seem to have all the pressure to pick out a gift that’s not TOO cliche, but also not too far off the expected path, because then we’d feel sad we didn’t get flowers. I’m sorry, men. I really am.
I love that chocolate is associated with Valentine’s, because there’s not much Matt likes more than chocolate, except maybe coffee and smokey things like bacon and…whiskey. I skipped the bacon and went for the whiskey for his Valentine’s treat this year. Dark chocolate ganache infused with Laphroaig whiskey and coated in a super thin shell of even darker chocolate. For those who may not know, Laphroaig tastes like a campfire smells. It could seriously make someone suspect of smoking because it’s THAT smokey. For some strange reason, Matt loves it, and even though he might not initially approve of me putting his whiskey into anything except a glass, I think the results were good. He took one bite and said, “They’re SO SMOKEY!” and that was a good thing :)
I was proud of the shell, too. It’s quite hard to temper chocolate correctly so that it has a nice shine instead of dull streaks, and so that it’s perfectly, glassy thin, instead of thick and clumpy. I’ve erred more on the side of thick and clumpy in the past than I’d like to admit. I realized my success with these had a lot to do with the chocolate I used. If you want to make a perfectly tempered chocolate shell, you can NOT use chocolate chips. They’ve been coated in paraffin to make them not stick to each other in the bag and are already dull and streaky. (chips are fine for the centers, though!) Pick a chocolate bar that is already shiny and has a good snap – that lets you know that it has been tempered properly already, so it will set you up for a better chance of success. And if you don’t want to mess with the shell at all (and I wouldn’t blame you a bit) then simply roll the centers in cocoa powder or powdered sugar and call it a day!
Dark Chocolate Whiskey Truffles
makes about 2 dozen small truffles
For the centers:
10 oz dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 65%)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
2 tablespoons whiskey (you can also use any liquor here – brandy or Kahlua would be great)
For the shell:
10 oz good quality dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%), chopped fine
Place your chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil, then immediately take it off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let this sit for about a minute and then, in the center of the bowl with a small spatula, begin stirring in tight circles until the chocolate melts and combines with the cream. It takes longer than you think, but I promise – it will happen. Keep stirring and don’t stop believin’. Once the chocolate is completely melted, let it cool down a bit and then stir in the butter until completely incorporated. Going one tablespoon at a time (depending on taste) stir in the whiskey. Completely incorporate one tablespoon and then taste to see how you like it. The whiskey really changes the viscosity of the chocolate, but don’t worry. It just needs to be stirred a LOT. Once you’ve got the level of flavor you want in the mixture, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set – at least an hour. When the chocolate has firmed up, using a teaspoon sized scoop, scoop out your centers and form into balls and place on a plate or cookie sheet and cover until ready to use. I keep mine in the fridge until I’m ready to dip, but I let the centers set on the counter for about an hour before dipping so they wouldn’t bring down the temp of my tempered chocolate too fast.
For tempering the chocolate:
In a double boiler, or a glass bowl set over a medium saucepan (this is my preferred way. I feel the glass protects the chocolate from scorching better than a metal double boiler pan) slowly melt 2/3rds of your chocolate. Stir constantly and bring the temp up to 115-118F. Use an instant read thermometer to get the best reading. Once the chocolate reaches 115, take it off the heat and add in the remaining 1/3 chopped chocolate, small amounts at a time and stir to melt. Some pieces might not melt completely, but they will by the time you’re ready to dip. And if they don’t, like mine didn’t, oh well. Dip on!
As you are incorporating the remaining chopped chocolate, you’re wanting your chocolate to get down to 82F. Once it gets down to 82, place the bowl back on your saucepan and bring the temp back up to 88-90F. Once it reaches this range, you are ready to start dipping! Your chocolate should be very liquidy and fall easily off the spatula in ribbons. Dip the centers quickly and place on parchment to cool. Don’t worry about being perfect – just dip! Keep an eye on the temp of your chocolate. If it drops below 88, your chocolate will start to get thicker. No worries – just return the bowl to your saucepan and heat for about a minute. Then keep dipping till you’re done! I sprinkled cocoa nibs on top of the truffles before they dried and I love the extra bit of crunch it gives!
Tempering chocolate requires a LOT of patience, most of the time I do not have. But if you find yourself in a pretty zen-like state and you want to try it, I’d encourage you to. It’s a nice process that yields really pretty results! And if you have leftover tempered chocolate, do what I did and submerge gingersnaps in it :)