I’m one of those people who is “all or nothing”, especially when it comes to making things. When I see a new idea or medium, ideas start running buck-wild in my head, and I surf and surf for every possible variation I can find. Then I vow that I will tackle and conquer every one. We usually end up with big tummy aches and weeks worth of fruit hand pies or whatever else I’m making to get rid of. It would be wise to pack up the products and give it away, but most of the time I’m too embarrassed gifting my sad-looking attempts.
The holiday season amplifies this characteristic, in that there are ample opportunities to make and gift things (instead of buying) and everyone knows that my signature phrase while on shopping trips is, “I can make that!” I typically gift sweet goodies to friends and co-workers during the holiday season, as no one needs another coffee mug or gift card to Starbucks. The last few years I packed up my favorite cookie, the Jam Thumbprint, and spread my fruity buttery spirit around the office. This year I thought I’d pretend to be more sophisticated and decided to try my hand at chocolate truffles.
As I started looking for recipes, I ran into so many delicious and decadent variations that I couldn’t help myself. So, I made 8 different flavors (see below for recipes)! Chocolate works well with so many flavors and truffles are actually fairly uncomplicated. For the majority of the flavors, I used the basic recipe for chocolate truffles from Joy of Baking here, and just switched up different liquors or flavors for each kind.
– Grand Marnier / Chocolate Orange (Recipe here from the Spinning Plate.)
– Espresso (Joy of Baking recipe with Kahlua and coated with instant coffee)
– Milk Chocolate (Joy of Baking recipe with milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate and milk chocolate candy shell, pipped with white chocolate decoration)
– Rum Coconut (Joy of Baking recipe with rum and coated with coconut shavings)
– Peppermint (Joy of Baking recipe with mint leaves cooked and infused in the cream/butter mixture and coated with a chocolate candy shell)
– White Chocolate Lemon (Kitchen Simplicity’s recipe here)
– Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (Taste of Home recipe here)
– Sea Salt Caramel (Epicurious recipe here, adjusted with double the caramel per people’s comments and sea salt instead of Fleur de Sel)
The hard parts are getting the flavors to really pop and not get lost in all the chocolate, and coating the soft centers with a thin coat of chocolate. Most recipes call for high quality chocolate with 60% cocoa and above. Sometimes too high of a percentage = bitter and stronger chocolate flavor, and a pretty expensive homemade dessert. I used 60% cocoa chocolate from Ghirardelli (because it was on sale at the grocery store). As this was my first attempt on all these recipes, I think for the next batches, I would infuse more of the flavor elements into the mixture (as in heat the citrus zest, liquor or herb (like mint) with the cream and butter) to make the flavors more prevalent. I think I would also incorporate the flavor elements into the chocolate coatings too. How do you make flavors pop in your desserts?
So the other challenge, which in the next batch I need to adjust, is the method of coating the soft flavored centers with a thin chocolate coat. Last week, I watched numerous videos on YouTube, trying to figure out how to coat these suckers and mentally prepare. It looked so easy that there was even a video where 8 year-old kids were doing it with professional results! I mean, how hard can it be? Drop the ball in the hot chocolate, swirl it around to get it coated, and then fish it out with a fork and put it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Well, it’s a clumpy chocolaty mess and evidently, I am no match for 8 year-old chocolate geniuses. I even concocted a dipping device from a plastic fork to help, but nothing saved me from getting chocolate everywhere and some pretty thick chocolate coatings. It was probably because I was cheap with my chocolate usage and melted and tempered a 4 oz bar at a time, which didn’t really create much of a pool of chocolate to swirl the centers in. The centers started to melt as they touched the bottom of the bowl and I ended up with mushy messes and thick shells. Next time I will use this method from Saveur Magazine which looks much cleaner and easy:
My friends are always such sports to be my guinea pigs. So check out the comments for their taste test results and let me know which are your favorites too! I still have a week left to make more for co-workers, so your opinion counts!
What yummy things are you making as gifts this year? Happy holiday crafting and baking season to all!