Monday, February 11, 2013

Lavender and kahlua truffles

Valentine's Day is coming up, and here is a recipe that will curry favor with your friend, boss, coworker, or hunny bunny. These are decadent morsels that melt in your mouth, and dare I say, melt your heart? I bet they could coax a smile out of the most bashful people.

Truffles get their name because they look like the misshapen, pricey mushrooms that pigs forage for. This led me to believe that truffles did not have to be rolled into perfect little balls, because that's certainly not how real truffles look.
Lavender steeping in heavy cream, and being strained out. 

Chocolate truffles are essentially a type of ganache. A ganache itself is a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream of varying proportions. The ganache mixture for truffles is in between that of regular chocolate, and liquid ganache used for drizzling over cakes or fruit. For those of you who might balk at the words chocolate and heavy cream, just think about the adage from the great food journalist Michael Pollan: "you can eat as much junk food as you want- as long as you make it from scratch". If at every craving for sugar you needed to bake a cake, chances are you would reconsider those sweet cravings. Maybe.

Truffles are infused by scalding the cream and steeping different flavors in heavy cream. The infused cream is strained, and added to the chocolate. Some flavors that go well here are dried lavender, earl grey tea, or espresso/kahlua. Once you have your mixture chilled and rolled into small balls, the amazing blog Tartlette suggests letting them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes (or overnight if you want to finish it later) to develop a "skin". This skin will prevent extra powder from absorbing into the truffles. However, if you are rolling them into crushed nuts or sprinkles, it would be better to coat them immediately after rolling so they adhere firmly.

Prep work for the lavender, and coconut truffles!
As always, when using so few ingredients, it is important to use the best ingredients you can get. Ghiradelli is a good, readily available chocolate, but there are lots of other delicious chocolates out there. Other harder to get brands that are worth a look are Callebut, Scarfenberger, and the mythical Vahlrona (presumed to be the best of the best of the best)!

Playing around with lavender on my new macro lens for my iPhone.
You might have guessed from previous posts, but I love lavender. It cuts the rich butteriness of shortbread (perfect with a cup of tea), and here it complements the sharp cocoa flavor quite nicely. I am a fan of using 60%-70% semisweet chocolate for these rather than milk chocolate, because the cocoa flavor is more pronounced. Most truffles have the same ratio of chocolate to cream, which is 1/2 cup cream for every 8 oz of chocolate. This yields a ganache that is firm, but rollable. You may need a little more cream or chocolate, depending on the consistency of the ingredients, the humidity, any myriad of factors that can subtly change your ganache. Furthermore, as Tartlette says, if you decide to add alcohol beware that it will soften the ganache. For every ounce (two tablespoons) you will want to add one more ounce of chocolate.

Lavender ganache. 

adapted from
Makes 30-35

Lavender Truffles:
1/2 Cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons edible lavender buds
8oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
Cocoa powder for rolling (you could also try toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, or chopped toasted walnuts)

Kahlua Truffles
1/2 Cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons espresso powder (I just used what I had- 2 tsp of ground coffee beans)
2 tbl (1 oz) coffee liquor
9 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted walnuts

     Heat cream in small saucepan, and bring to simmer. Add lavender, and cover. Move to a cool burner and let sit for 30 minutes. Then strain the cream, and bring back to a gentle simmer. Pour cream over the chocolate, stirring to melt. If your mixture isn't 100% melted by the cream, you can microwave it at 15-20 second intervals- no longer- or your risk burning the chocolate. Chaos would ensue. Once the chocolate is melted, pour it into a shallow container, cover, and refrigerate until firm, at least four hours.
     Once the chocolate mixture is chilled, you are ready to roll them out. Depending on your chocolate, you may need to let it sit for 15 minutes to bring to a workable temperature. Prepare by placing one bowl with toasted chopped walnuts, and/or another with toasted coconut. Using a small melon baller, scrape the chocolate out and roll into a ball. I had originally started out using a small ice cream scoop, but I found that for the consistency of my lavender ganache, (a little harder than usual) it worked best to flake the chocolate with a spoon, and gather the flakes into a small ball. Work off of the consistency of the chocolate- it will be a little different every time! I let my lavender ganache sit on my kitchen counter for fifteen minutes to make it more rollable.
     As mentioned earlier, a great tip from the blog Tartlette is to let the truffles sit in the fridge to "cure", and later dip them later in cocoa, or just roll them immediately in nuts or coconut. (This prevents the truffle from absorbing too much cocoa powder, and getting dark spots. Still delicious though). Don't worry about getting perfect little spheres- real truffles are quite misshapen, and it will add a rustic charm to your endeavors.
     I love these served cold- I put them in the freezer, or in the refrigerator. They're perfect with a cup of tea, coffee, friends, any and everything!

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