Truffles or truffles? There is a difference. Many people have no idea what a truffle is. Every time they hear truffle, they think of a chocolate truffle or of the truffle shape. Actually, truffles can be grouped into three categories.
Truffle: a fungus tuber; some varieties can sell for more than $3,000 a pound
Chocolate truffle: a sweet chocolate sphere that is rolled in different coatings
Truffle shape: a moldable food such as goat cheese or another mixture formed into the spherical shape
There are three types of ganache (chocolate sauce made with cream): pouring, Parisienne, and truffle. All three types are easy to make: boil cream, pour over chocolate and sugar mixture, and then stir. Pouring ganache is one part chocolate and two parts cream, and works best with plated desserts. Parisienne ganache is one part chocolate and one part cream; it is thicker and works well for glazing cakes and cookies. Parisienne ganache is thick enough to spread, when warm it leaves a very smooth finish.
Truffle ganache is two parts chocolate and one part cream. This ganache is extremely thick and cools into a moldable chocolate for making truffles. Although it has nothing to do with an actual truffle, the ganache gets its name from the resemblance it has to the tuber fungus, the truffle.
Describing ganache as simply chocolate and cream mixed together is an oversimplification. The type of sugar in the chocolate you choose, as well as your preference, will determine how much additional sugar you will need. The type of sugar you choose can help you start building your flavor profile. Then you can start adding other flavors: spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, liquors (the higher the proof, the less you want to add) — the sky is the limit. There are no raw ingredients such as eggs in the ganache that would prevent you from tasting it. Add a little of the flavor you want and taste, then add some more if needed.
Chocolate Truffle Coating
The coating can be made from just about anything that can be ground and stuck to softened chocolate. Most things are fairly easy to adapt to coating: nuts, coco nibs, coconut shreds, candy, cookies — grind with a food processor or chop by hand. Cookie sprinkles can be used as is.
If you want a hard crunch like a candy bar but don’t want to temper the chocolate, almond bark is an easy way to coat the outside. Different powders are also popular. I have tried raw powered cocoa on its own, but it is not good. Mix it with some powdered sugar to cut the harshness; the same goes for nutmeg and cinnamon.
12 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
1 to 4 tablespoons of sugar as desired
1 to 2 ounces of liquor, such as Irish cream, Kahlua, brandy (optional)
6 ounces heavy cream
Coatings as desired
Mix the chocolate, sugar and liquor (if desired) together in a tall, narrow container; place a hand blender into the ingredients. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, watching carefully so it doesn’t boil over.
As soon as the cream begins to boil, pour it over the chocolate chips and other ingredients. Carefully blend until smooth. If the ingredients do not blend smooth, you may need to heat the mixture slowly in a water bath. Be careful that the water only touches the container and not the ganache.
When the mixture is smooth, remove the hand blender and chill the ganache for at least 3 or 4 hours, preferably overnight. Using a spoon or mini ice cream scoop, form the ganache into spheres. Roll the truffles in the desired coating, chill for at least 1 hour or up to 5 or 6 days.
If you do not have a hand blender, a bowl and a whisk will work as well. You may need a water bath to make the ganache become smooth.
Brook Harlan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He is a culinary arts instructor at the Columbia Area Career Center.