Sunday, 11 May 2008

"i wanna be a chocolate god" post 2: truffles.

A friend of mine is becoming Dr.Friend. This is a cause for celebration, and she loves truffles, so I decided to send her some. I started making vegan truffles 8 or 10 years ago for fun and gifts, so here's the method I use. Some unapologetic notes: I like dark chocolate, and I don't like fussy truffles. These are dark, a little on the bitter side, and very intense. Also, I've had people email me and say "I made your truffles starting with vegan chocolate chips and they didn't work. Why?" If you start out with crappy chocolate, you will end up with crappy truffles, no matter how carefully and lovingly you make them. I start out with untemperered chocolate, either from Callebault, Valhrona or Michel Cluizel. Also, if you start out with tempered chocolate (bars or chips), the truffles won't be as melty. And if you skimp on fat, they also won't be creamy. So deal. That means making these truffles is expensive, and required finding good chocolate. It is, in fact, more expensive than buying truffles in a lot of cases (depending on how fancy your truffle purchases tend to be). While it is cute and heartfelt to make truffles from chocolate chips, you can't really temper chocolate chips, they have too little cocoa and too much sugar, and they often use random vegetable fats. All of this will affect your truffles. When you make truffles, you dilute the chocolate quite a lot with extra fat and with other added flavours (if you add flavours), which means you should start out with a high-cocoa content chocolate, like 70-80%. I like Callebault best, because it's creamier than the other chocolates, though for sharper flavours (for example, I sometimes make balsamic vinegar, olive oil or vanilla salt... those are three flavours, not one) I like to use Michel Cluizel, and that's my favorite, but this is just a matter of taste. Valrhona is great if you want a plain truffle that is super exciting all on it's own. So if you can taste your chocolate before buying it, that's always nice. These truffles are made with Callebault, because Dr.Friend usually likes sweet milky stuff. I don't make omni truffles, and I usually don't even take requests, but for a PhD defense, I made an exception on the request-taking.
In terms of added fat, you have 2 steps, each with some choices. For step 1: You need a fat that's solid at room temp but melty at body temp. Margarine will ruin your truffles beyond redemption, so your actual choices are coconut oil and coco butter. I prefer coconut oil, because it's just that little bit meltier. Depending on the brand, you may or may not be able to taste it in the final product. I use KTC (available in many indian/middle eastern groceries), and you can't taste it. When I make coconut truffles that I want to be more coconutty, I use some fancy organic cold-pressed stuff that you can really taste. For step 2: you need cream. Your options are coconut milk (which you can taste, but that's a good thing if you're making coconut or garam masala or clove truffles), you can use soy cream, which is neutral and will leave you with very melty truffles (this is my default), or you can use blended soft silken tofu, which will give you a slightly crumblier and inexplicably richer-tasting truffle. Silken tofu truffles only keep for a week. The other two keep for about 2 weeks. I usually make a batch and split it in half, using coconut milk for half and soy cream for the other half.
One last thing before we start: this takes a lot of time. You can't really speed it up without ruining your truffles. I find a good way around this is to invite friends over to be on the truffle chain gang. Who's going to say no to an afternoon of chocolate?
The method to the madness:
Truffles, like gremlins, cannot come into contact with water. Everything that touches, or even thinks of touching, the chocolate MUST BE DRY. All these instructions are for a kilo of chocolate. The minimum batch size is about 250 grams of chocolate.
1. Temper your chocolate: This is the only tricky part. Just go slow, k? Chop the chocolate and divide it into three piles. Melt two of the piles over very very very low heat with at least 250 mL of coconut oil. You can add up to 350mL if you want meltier truffles. When the chocolate is melted, it should be just above body temp. Now, remove it from the heat, and if possible, pour it into a new, cold pot (I never pour it into a new pot, cuz that would waste too much chocolate). Add the other 1/3 of chocolate. This will cool the melted chocolate down. Stir, stir, stir. It should take a fairly long time for this last 1/3 of the chocolate to melt, and when it does, you should have a liquid chocolate that is BELOW body temp (I just test with my finger). If it's not below body temp, keep stirring until it is. This step takes some time. Drink tea while you do it. Talk with your friends. Watch a movie. Just don't stop stirring, and don't reheat the stuff or put it in the fridge.
2. Solidify the truffles: Add the cream (200mL) while stirring. The chocolate will turn the consistency of pudding. Continue adding more cream slowly while stirring. The pudding will get thicker. When it stops getting thicker (actually, when you feel it start to get slightly thinner), stop adding cream. ou waYnt to add as much as possible, but if you add too much, you'll just end up with a really expensive vat of chocolate pudding. We used 200mL + about 150 mL of cream in these. Then, add half a shot of vodka to any truffles not otherwise destined to get alcohol or vinegar. This makes the truffles meltier. You can see photos of the cream being added, and then of me threatening to do some serious "quality control" on the pudding-like result.
3. Flavour the truffles: Each flavour needs it's own bowl. This time we used: rose water + candied rose petals, toasted garam masala, toasted cumin and laphroig whiskey. In the past I've done almond, pistachio, balsamic vinegar, salt, coconut, plain, violet, basil, olive oil, and truffle (like the fungus) and chili, plus some others that I've forgotten at the moment. The rose water is a bit tricky. Add the flavours. Remember that they will intensify over about a day. Now leave the truffles in a cool place, like the fridge, for a few hours while they solidify. You can see the solidified version just under the quality control photo.
4. Roll the truffles: First, you may need to break up the solid truffle goodness using a spoon, but your hands should have enough heat to melt the truffle dough enough to form it into balls, unless you are undead and have no body heat. In this case, enlist some live friends to help. If you look at the clever photo, you can see that the truffle dough is really stiff. Also, that our hands are really covered in chocolate (as were some shirts, trousers, faces etc., but this is not strictly necessary). You need about 2 c of unsweetened cocoa powder here. Pour about a cup of it on a plate and coat your hands with it. Form truffles, roll them in cocoa, and put them on a plate. Leave them to dry overnight. The cocoa will pull the moisture out of the outer tiny layer of the truffles. If you have a sweet tooth, you can also roll them sugar. If you want to make dipped truffles, put these in the freezer, temper another batch of chocolate with coconut oil, and dip the frozen truffles in the molten chocolate using a potato masher (or put them one by one on a mesh, like a wire collander and pour molten chocolate over them). Meh. I don't do this. Why mess with something that's already perfect?
Truffles keep about two weeks in theory. I've never actually had anyone test this. I mail them out, and I find the best way to ship them is packed in coco in tupperware containers.


medici said...

i was on the truffle chain gang yesterday. my cohort and i were covered in cocoa dust and delight bt the time we helped roll the last truffles. this was fun - i recommend it heartily as a transcendental experience. T and i would probably have been lost, however, without the fine direction provided by the master truffle dancer. at least i would have been. T must speak for herself! i was sent home happily with a small container of truffles in my side bag and a big honking smile on my face and cocoa smears all over my favorite shirt. what luxury! it was better than first class in a transatlantic ocean liner!

G said...

Excellent showing of chocolate love.

sinead said...

thanks. the chocolate love never stops in my kitchen. i have to say that the cumin truffles were fanfuckingtabulous. darling tried some cumin chocolate at a fancy schmancy chocolate place and wrote to me about it and i had to try the combination, since cumin is one of my many favorite spices and chocolate is, well, just one of my favorite things period.