Ask anyone you know one of the following questions:
What is your worst food weakness?
What food do you most often eat in secret?
To which food are you most addicted?
Statistically, the answer will most likely be CHOCOLATE! In fact, most will not even have to think about the answer. Some may even call it their drug of choice. Scientific studies confirm that chocolate can be addictive, but not all find it a major addiction, rather a substance that happens to fulfill some of the body’s cravings. For example, chocolate provides some with euphoria; for others, chocolate provides energy.
Familiarize yourself with the following terms to understand the different types of chocolate and their uses. Always use the proper form of chocolate for each recipe, because each type of chocolate has a different chemical composition and may be required to achieve specific results. Resist the temptation to substitute baking chocolate when a recipe calls for a different type of chocolate, or you will probably be disappointed with the results.
Chocolate liquor When the cocoa beans are roasted and ground, the final product is a liquid or a paste. Chocolate liquor serves as the foundation for all chocolate.
Baking chocolate Baking chocolates come in one-ounce squares, usually eight to a box. Baking chocolate is the hardened chocolate liquor, and it is unsweetened. Many chocolate recipes use baking chocolate as the primary chocolate.
Bitter chocolate This chocolate contains only 35 percent chocolate liquor.
Semi-sweet chocolate Another popular form of chocolate, it contains only 15 percent chocolate liquor as well as added sugar.
Milk chocolate This is the basis for most candy bars. It contains chocolate liquor, sugar, and milk.
Cocoa powder This is dehydrated chocolate liquor; the cocoa butter has been extracted from the chocolate liquor.
Couverture is French for cover. It is used to coat truffles and other candies and contains approximately 35 percent extra cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is what adds the sheen to chocolate candies.
Getting Started: Tools of the Trade
At a bare minimum, you will need the following to get started:
Fine chocolate bars for the couverture
Other ingredients required by recipes
When you find that your chocolate-making addiction reaches or exceeds your chocolate addiction, it’s time to add several nice-to-have utensils and ingredients:
Double boiler If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use two pots, one that fits inside a larger one that leaves enough room for water.
Chocolate dipping fork and spoon
Designer chocolate bars (ranging from unsweetened to semi-sweet)
Now that you’ve assembled the necessary basic items, let’s start with a basic, but the versatile recipe. You’ll find the basic recipe along with several options. After you make your first batch of truffles, let your imagination roam, get creative, and you’ll have many of your own recipes to share with others soon. Just remember that homemade chocolate does not contain any preservatives, so you’ll need to eat it quickly or store it in the refrigerator to make it last a few days that is if you don’t eat it all in one sitting.
Chocolate truffles are the easiest chocolate candy to make at home, yet they are the most coveted as well as the most expensive chocolates to purchase. The homemade varieties rival anything you can purchase, and truffles are the most forgiving when it comes to temperature and technique. If you are a true truffle connoisseur, use fine (designer) chocolate as the base ingredient as soon as you have made a couple of batches of truffles. Start with the inexpensive grocery store chocolate brands until you are confident in your skills.
Chocolate truffles consist of ganache, the creamy inside, optional ingredients to add flavor and/or texture to the ganache, and a couverture. The basic ganache consists of three or four ingredients: melted chocolate, heavy cream, sugar, and butter. If you use semi-sweet chocolate, you can usually omit the sugar. If you have avoided truffles because you think they are a lot of trouble, you are in for a real surprise.
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder (or as much as needed to coat truffles)
Optional fillings (see below)
Measure all ingredients ahead of time. Cut the chocolate and butter into small pieces. Leave the butter out on the counter until you add it, because you want the butter to be soft, but still cool.
Heat the cream until it boils, stirring constantly.
Pour the cream over the chocolate pieces. Let the cream melt the chocolate for a couple of minutes while you mash the chocolate pieces. Stir the mixture until the ingredients are fully incorporated, but don’t overwork the ganache. Start by stirring from the center of the bowl. Move toward the outside of the bowl in concentric circles. If the chocolate doesn’t completely melt, move back to the center of the bowl again, and stir, moving toward the outside. Try not to beat any air into the mixture.
Add the butter and mix well. Add any optional fillings. Allow to cool.
Using a melon baller or similar utensil, scoop the truffles and place on wax paper. Roll the truffles in cocoa powder or other coating, and store in an airtight container or zipper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Note: You can place the truffles in the refrigerator before adding a coating. When you are ready to add the final coating, bring the truffles to room temperature before coating.
This is where you can get creative. Just mix and match until you find your own favorite truffle. In fact, you can split the ganache mixture and add a little of this and a little of that to the different portions. Add the optional ingredients to the ganache before cooling. Start by adding one or two of the following:
Liquor (1 tablespoon per recipe of after-dinner liquor)
Any type of extract (1 tablespoon per recipe)
Any variety of nuts (one or more)
Instant coffee (1 tablespoon per recipe)
Any kind of berry puree (approximately 1/4 cup per recipe)
Powdered instant coffee and cocoa (50/50 mixture)
Coarsely ground Nuts
Melted Chocolate Coating (Couverture)
4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate containing 35 percent or more cocoa butter
1 prepared recipe of truffles at room temperature
Note: Many fine chocolate bars such as Lindt or Cadbury contain a minimum of 35 percent cocoa butter.
Chop the chocolate into coarse pieces. Place the chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt in the microwave at 50 percent full power until almost melted. Time varies by microwave, but this should take no more than a minute. Do not overcook, because the chocolate will become grainy. Also, do not allow any liquid to get into the melted chocolate.
When almost melted, stir until fully melted by beginning in the center of the bowl and working your way to the outer edge of the bowl.
Place one truffle at a time on a fork, and dip the truffle in the melted chocolate. When coated, scrape the bottom of the fork against the rim of the bowl. Place the dipped truffle on a sheet of waxed paper. After the chocolate has hardened, place truffles in foil or paper truffle cups and refrigerate in an airtight container or plastic zipper bag. Serve at room temperature.
Truffles make a wonderful homemade gift. Place truffles in box, and separate layers with wax paper. Tie a pretty bow around the box, and you’re good to go. Lucky is the recipient of such a thoughtful gift.
If you’re following a restricted calorie or carbohydrate diet, you can still enjoy chocolate. Most sugar substitutes do not hold up well when heated. You will have to experiment and taste test while you work with sugar substitutes. Combine sugar substitutes for best results. To make a diet version, try the following:
â€¢ Replace semi-sweet chocolate with an equivalent amount of unsweetened baking chocolate.
â€¢ While melting the chocolate, add Splenda(tm) until almost sweet enough.
â€¢ Add a few packets of another sweetener while melting the chocolate, or add a drop of two of stevia. Be very careful when working with stevia, because it is extremely sweetâ€”a little goes a long way.
Where to Go from Here
Once you’ve mastered truffles, it’s only a small leap to begin creating other chocolates. Think of chocolates as having two components, the inside and the couverture. Now that you’ve worked with couverture, here are three simple variations you can try:
â€¢ Break toffee into manageable chunks, and dip in a couverture.
â€¢ Dip Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, or almonds in a couverture.
â€¢ Wash a pint of strawberries and dry thoroughly. Dip the bottom half in a couverture.