Friday, February 17, 2012

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Besides being scrumptious, chocolate has a long and fascinating history. In ancient civilizations, cacao beans were ground and "chocolate" was consumed as a bitter drink with seasonings. The Aztecs even used cacao beans as money because of its perceived value at the time. The Spaniards brought cacao beans back to Europe and the chocolate drink was sweetened and enjoyed by the wealthy for hundreds of years. During the Industrial Revolution, chocolate became a solid confection that was affordable worldwide.

While I enjoy chocolate any time of the year, Valentine's Day and chocolate just seems to go together. So, this Valentine's Day I made a batch of one of my favorite chocolates - the truffle.

The truffle middle has a silky chocolate inside. They can be dipped in chocolate or rolled in cocoa, coconut, nuts, etc...  For many years, truffles were my Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, butter and cream are used with chocolate to make the creamy inside. I read that coconut milk can be used as a substitute. I tried it and everyone loved the new truffle. I use a can of regular coconut milk. Light just doesn't work as well nor does the coconut milk beverages sold in half gallons for drinking.

These are relatively simple to make but are somewhat time consuming since the chocolate has to be melted, mixed, solidified and rolled. The following recipe is the liquid/chocolate combination that worked with coconut milk to give me the truffle texture I love. Remember that the texture can vary with the brand of chocolate you use since different chocolates can absorb the coconut milk differently. Also, your truffle is only as good as your chocolate. If you want a fantastic truffle, use a fantastic chocolate. A wonderful dark chocolate flavor will not be masked by the coconut milk in this recipe. My favorite is Callebaut - a Belgian chocolate.

                              Dark Chocolate Truffles

                              6 oz. of dark chocolate, chopped
                              3 fluid oz. ( use measuring cup) plus 2 t. of coconut milk
                              chocolate, chopped nuts, coconut, and/or cocoa for dipping and rolling
Blend coconut milk from can to mix it well before measuring since it can separate in the can. Heat milk until almost boiling in saucepan or microwave. Pour over chocolate in heat safe bowl. Stir until melted. Cool chocolate. Use the refrigerator if desired, but cover chocolate to prevent it from picking up any odors and watch it carefully as it can get too stiff. When chocolate stiffens whisk, stir or beat it until it is fluffy and lightens in color. When stiff enough (refrigerate again if needed), roll in 1 - 1 1/4 in. diameter balls. Roll immediately in desired toppings. If you want to dip them in melted chocolate, place balls on wax paper first and let air dry for an hour or two, bringing them to room temperature. Roll in chocolate and let harden on wax paper. Place in paper candy cups if desired. Store covered in cool place. Makes 12 - 16 truffles.

Pure chocolate contains cocoa butter and needs to be tempered to stabilize the cocoa butter and produce a firm hard chocolate. To avoid the need to temper chocolate, you can use confectionery coating in which the cocoa butter has been replaced by other fats. However, if you are avoiding dairy, many of these will not work for you. The real thing is better anyway and healthier, but you still need to check the label of the dark chocolate to make sure it does not contain dairy. Another option is to add 1 T. of shortening to 6 oz. of chocolate when melting it for dipping. Use the microwave at 50% power and stir every 1/2 minute just until it's melted. Always remember to keep moisture out of chocolate during the melting process so it doesn't seize up (thicken).

They make a beautiful gift if you can part with them. Yum.

Enjoy and celebrate Valentine's Day year round!

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