Long term readers of Garlic, My Soul might remember that my father is an accomplished maker of chocolate treats, and his pièce de résistance is the hand-dipped truffle. Every holiday season (and for a couple of family weddings), he rolls out his chocolate tools and sets to work making the perfect truffles. When my dad made a trip out to Los Angeles for a visit last weekend, we were lucky enough to get a master class on the chocolate making methods he has been perfecting for the last 20 years or so.
The secret to a delicious truffle is the ganache, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that ganache is actually not all that difficult to make. The key is to get the proportions right, and adjust depending on the consistency you want. For a softer ganache, up your liquid by an ounce or so. For a harder ganache, reduce it. For these truffles, we used about 16 oz of bittersweet chocolate chips, 8 oz of heavy whipping cream, 3 oz of organic almond extract and 4 oz of amaretto liqueur. See this recipe for a good starting point.
My dad’s trick to help the ganache come together easier is to pre-warm the chocolate by placing it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, until the edges of your chips just barely start to melt, so that they stick to the sides of your bowl when you tip it. Use your hands to feel the bottom of the bowl. It should be slightly warm, but not hot.
When you pour the hot cream and liqueurs over the chocolate, this pre-warming helps it incorporate a little faster. Refer to recipe for full instructions.
We let this ganache harden overnight, then formed it into teaspoon sized balls. You can do it with two teaspoons, but a cookie scoop like this one will save you a lot of headaches.
Then, you heat the tempered milk chocolate that will be your outer coating. If you have a tempering machine, by all means use it, but if you’re like the rest of us, the microwave will do. Be sure to start with tempered bars. We used Ghirardelli milk chocolate bars for this batch, but Symphony bars are my father’s preference.
Break the bars into pieces in a microwave safe bowl, and then heat for 10 – 20 second increments, stirring in between and monitoring the temperature of your chocolate. The magic number is 90 degrees. If you go over 90 degrees, the chocolate will lose temper and the crystalline structure will break down. However, you do want to get as close to 90 as possible so that you have soft, workable chocolate. As you get closer to 90 degrees (in the 88 range) start zapping the chocolate for smaller and smaller increments, even 5 or 1 second at a time as you near your target temperature. We found that the Ghirardelli worked best right at 90 degrees, but the Symphony bars will work beautifully at 89.5.
When you reach your target temperature, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the milk chocolate onto a layer of parchment paper, and use your hands to gently coat the balls of ganache in the warmed milk chocolate. Arrange them on a clean sheet of parchment paper to set. This may take only 30 minutes or up to a few hours, depending on your climate. In relatively cool, dry Los Angeles, these set within minutes.
We are so grateful that my father spent the day teaching us his truffle making tricks Just goes to show that you can accomplish anything with a good teacher!