Last Christmas I had a bit of a rush of blood to the head, after realising that nice chocolates cost about a pound each. “I know!” I thought, crazed with the madness of the festive season, “I shall make my own!” So off I went to Waitrose and bought loads of dark chocolate and double cream (because that, gentle reader, is the sum total of what you need for this enterprise), and I switched on Radio 4 and made my own chocolate truffles. It was terrific fun. The first attempt seized irretrievably, and my kitchen ended up looking like it had been the setting for the Oompa Loompa Spring, but they tasted great. So I tried again this year, with more success. Next year’s will be even better, I hope. I’d make them more frequently, but at the rate we get through them I wouldn’t be able to fit through the door of Waitrose after a couple of weeks.
100g of chocolate (70% cocoa solids, natch – I have yet to attempt this with milk chocolate) and 100ml double cream gives you about 15-20 truffles, allowing for waste and picking. Allow extra chocolate for coating, if you’re going to attempt it. If you’re going to infuse the cream with anything, allow two hours for this.
Bring the cream to the boil and add flavouring. I made a batch of chilli, to which I added a pinch of dried red chilli flakes, and a batch of Earl Grey, to which I added a teabag. The flavour of the latter was v subtle – next time I will use loose leaf tea. Allow to infuse for two hours, then strain.
Process all your chocolate in the food processor until finely chopped/reduced to rubble. Divide it into bowls, allowing 100g to every 100ml of cream. (I made 150ml worth of chilli cream/150g plain chocolate; 150g of tea-infused cream/150g plain chocolate; and 150g of rum-flavoured cream, which didn’t need to be infused – I just chucked the rum in with the cream once it was hot, and mixed with 150g chocolate.)
Boil the flavoured cream again, or the unflavoured cream for the first time, and pour it over the chocolate while it’s still very hot, so the chocolate all melts and you end up with a homogeneous choclately goo. Mix well, and resist the urge to take it to bed with a spoon. Ideally at this stage you should leave the mixture for about four hours to cool at room temperature, but if you’re impatient you can stick it in the fridge, stirring it often until you have a smooth, moldable paste.
Use a teaspoon to scoop out lumps of the truffle mixture and form it into balls by rolling between your palms. Have a sinkful of hot soapy water ready, because this gets messy. Once each truffle is rolled, plonk it on to a plate with plenty of cocoa powder and roll it around a bit. Repeat and repeat and repeat until they are all done, washing your hands whenever you can no longer bear it, and chilling the chocolate if it gets too melty. It goes without saying that you should keep the batches separate if you’re planning to put different coatings on the different flavours. Once they’re all done, put them in the fridge to solidify for a couple of hours.
Make the couverture. There’s a lot of talk on the internet about the importance of tempering chocolate to give it the perfect glossy appearance and pleasing snap. Next year I might invest in a sugar thermometer and try to do this properly – for now I operated on the principle that as long as it didn’t seize it was good enough for me.
So, over a pan containing a little gently simmering water, set your chocolate to melt in a bowl. You do need to allow for a lot of waste here – 100g of chocolate covers maybe 20 truffles. I had to dash out any buy a slab of Co-op Truly Irresistable Orange Green & Black’s Maya Gold Knock-off to coat my chilli truffles, and actually it worked extremely well. Anyway, you want to get the chocolate off the heat before it’s all melted, leave it for a bit until it all has, allowing the water to cool slightly, then replace the bowl over the still warm water (off the heat) and get on with dipping.
I used two cocktail sticks, one to impale the chocolate, swoosh it about and fish it out; the other to push it on to the waiting non-stick paper-lined tray. Again, repeat until all your chocolates are done. I used plain chocolate for the tea truffles, orange as above for the chilli ones, just a dusting of cocoa for the rum ones, and dipped some marzipan left over from icing Satan’s cake into the remaining plain chocolate.
Now touch up your errors. The cocktail sticks will have left little holes in the tops of the truffles – you might want to drop a bit of extra chocolate over these to seal them. Refrigerate until the coating has set. The truffles will also have “feet” where the melted choc has spread over the baking parchment – if you are particularly anal you may want to trim this away with a paring knife, wearing latex gloves so as not to leave fingerprints on the chocolate. (Did I do this? Did I hell.)
Next, decorate your chocolates. I dusted the chilli ones with gold lustre powder, using a sponge applicator from an unused eyeshadow compact. A small paintbrush would have worked even better. My attempt to pipe white chocolate over my Earl Grey truffles was not altogether successful – they looked like the Oompa Loompas had held a post-revolution bukkake party. Oh well – lessons were learned.
From 700g of chocolate and 450ml of cream, at a cost of about a tenner, I ended up with more than 60 gorgeous chocolates. It’s a fun way to spend your Christmas kitchen pottering time, if you’re into this sort of thing, and the truffles, prettily boxed, would make fantastic presents. I’m sure I’ll get better at this with practice, so watch this space for next Christmas’s attempt. The Oompa Loompas are getting restless already…