For some reason, we put truffles in the realm of holiday food. Maybe it’s because they look nice on a platter of cookies, make good gifts, or we think of them as too rich for everyday consumption.
To which I say, c’mon. Live a little! Have a truffle!
They’re really the best kind of cooking, the kind that challenges your beliefs of what is true about how cooking works. At their most basic, truffles are only two ingredients: chocolate (white, dark, or milk, whatever you like) and cream, the former chopped and the latter heated until bubbling. The two are combined, the cream poured over the chocolate and then stirred, slowly, with a silicone spatula or a whisk to make ganache.
This is the first miracle. It may seem unlikely that the two will really come together, the cream pooling muddily around the greasy-looking chocolate—and yet, stay at it, and they do. And, just like that, it’s a creamy, glossy emulsion. (All emulsions—like mayonnaise and vinaigrette—involve a degree of magic.) You could stop now and pour the contents of the bowl over ice cream. This isn’t a truffle, but it is very good.
If you want to proceed to truffles, you’ll pour the ganache into a shallow pan and stick it in the fridge for a few hours, until it’s firm. What happens next is the second miracle: The ganache transforms. It’s no longer pourable, but you can scoop it up into a firm, fudgy ball. Roll it in something—the most classic medium is cocoa powder—to contain its borders and you have a truffle. Simple as that!
This will yield about 15 heaping teaspoon-sized truffles. And with two miracles already on your side, turn next to lily-gilding.
The possibilities! The possibilities! This is a good place to add something creamy and/or thick, like nut butter or jam, or something textural, like chopped toasted nuts or shredded dried coconut. For every 6 ounces of chocolate, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of add-ins.
This is maybe the most exciting option for making truffles taste striking. Add very fragrant things—fresh mint leaves, lemon or orange zest, lavender buds, Earl Grey or green or chamomile tea, chopped pistachios, a dried or fresh chile, vanilla beans, whole spices like star anise or cinnamon sticks, a knob of ginger or lemongrass, a heaped teaspoon of espresso or matcha powder, extracts or flower waters—to the pot with the cream, bring the cream just to a simmer (stirring well if you’ve added a powder), then remove it from the heat and let sit, covered, for at least 15 minutes. Fish out the flavoring (or strain it through a fine-mesh sieve if it’s something small), bring the cream up to a vigorous simmer, then pour over the chocolate.
The amounts of the flavorings will require some feeling out, but use your common sense—you’ll probably need fewer chiles (say, just one) than mint leaves (a big handful!). You can also blend these: For example, a vanilla bean pod and an Earl Grey tea bag would be lovely together.
Cocoa powder is traditional and great—but should you want to branch out, try finely chopping a contrasting chocolate (say, white chocolate for dark chocolate truffles) and roll the truffles in that. Or use crushed nuts, toasted seeds, toasted shredded coconut, or flavored sugars. Go crazy!
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
Do you have a favorite thing to roll/steep/add to truffles? Tell us about in the comments.