I did my Valentine’s Day chocolate post a couple weeks ago, but I’m still in the mood for chocolate so I decided to double down. You can’t have too much chocolate.
If you want to show your love for that special person, make your own chocolate truffles. Mixing a little labor with your sentiment is always a nice touch. And surprise him/her with a filling of blue cheese. (Yes, it works. See below) Accompanied by a nice Malmsey Madeira or Tawny Port and you are all set for Valentine’s Day.
Unfortunately, chocolate truffles can be a challenge to make at home. That smooth, shiny finish and pleasing snap as you bite into it is the result of the process of tempering the chocolate coating, which can be time-consuming, exacting, and a bit temperamental. And forming attractive shapes takes a lot of practice. Happily, an authentic truffle need not be dipped in tempered chocolate or symmetrically shaped. The whole idea of a truffle is that it should look like a truffle–the fungus that pigs dig from under the roots of a hazelnut tree.
It is much easier to make truffles if you are not worried about a smooth, glossy, regular surface. It is a great thing when authenticity coincides with easy.
I want to use this recipe as an experiment testing the food-pairing theory, one of the two reigning theories of why flavors work together. (The other is called network theory) The food-pairing theory asserts that ingredients that share flavor compounds will pair well together. It turns out that chocolate and blue cheese share 73 flavor compounds, which led Heston Blumenthal, chef/owner of The Fat Duck to develop his famous Molten Chocolate and Blue Cheese Cake.
The jury is still out on whether flavor-pairing theory always works. It has many detractors. In this case, I would say the theory holds up well. When you first bite into the truffle the flavors and textures of chocolate and blue cheese meld so completely that even this pungent blue cheese stays in the background. But gradually the acidic tang of the cheese cuts through the thick ganache and the finish is decidedly cheesy.
It is an unusual flavor combination that struck me as odd at first but became increasingly enticing. Score this a win for flavor-pairing theory.
Here is my recipe for chocolate/blue cheese truffles.
The trick is to make chocolate with a silky smooth texture that isn’t gritty or gummy. For that you need to melt the chocolate at a low temperature, minimize stirring and excessive mixing to keep air out of the mixture, and allow to cool at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator, which develops the proper crystalline structure.
For the ganache I adapted a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.
2 cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (Sharffen Berger or
Valrhona is best. But Ghiardelli is quite acceptable.)
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (Don’t use sugar. It will cause the truffle to be
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
1/2 lb blue cheese
1 Cup (3 oz.) Dutch processed cocoa
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
And various other ingredients you can add as you wish to make an assortment. I used: Chopped nuts, confectioner’s’ sugar by itself, sugar with cinnamon, crushed pink and black peppercorns, salt, and toasted sesame seeds.
For the ganache:
1. Line an 8-inch baking dish with wax paper.
2. Place chocolate in a bowl and microwave at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until most of the chocolate is melted. This should take 2 minutes. Set aside.
3. Microwave cream in measuring cup until warm, about 30 seconds. Stir corn
syrup, vanilla, and salt into cream and pour mixture over chocolate.
4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 3 minutes, and then stir with spoon to combine.
5. Gradually stir in butter
Transfer the ganache to the baking dish and allow to cool at room temperature
for 2 hours. Then cover dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
To add the Blue Cheese:
1. Remove truffles from refrigerator. Lift parchment with ganache from pan and allow to warm up for 10 minutes.
2. Cut ganache into sixty-four 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows) [Don’t worry too much about making the rows perfectly even unless you want identically sized truffles.]
3. Remove 1 square and place it on your workspace. Using a butter knife, press chocolate so it forms a flat square about 1/8 inch thick.Use the knife to shape it into a square if necessary. Place about 1/2 teaspoon blue cheese in the center of the square. [You may have to adjust the amount depending on the size of the square of chocolate.
4. Using the butter knife fold chocolate around the blue cheese. Use the knife to shape it into a ball. [Use some of the reserved ganache to repair any holes that appear from shaping the chocolate.
5. Repeat for the rest of your chocolate squares.
For the Coating: Sift cocoa and sugar through strainer into a bowl. Sift again into cake pan or other container and set aside.Lay out other coating ingredients you want to use such as chopped nuts.
Using a couple spoons or other utensils, roll balls in cocoa mixture or other coatings.
Transfer coated truffles to airtight container and repeat until all ganache squares are rolled and coated.
Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.