I’ve been making chocolate truffles at Christmas for at least ten years, ever since a friend of my Mum’s let me know how easy it was – just make a ganache of melted chocolate and cream, let it cool, then shape and roll in cocoa powder. Some years I decide to get fancier and dip each truffle in tempered chocolate. I usually spike the ganache with some kind of booze, but this year I made the caramel version I’ve had bookmarked for years in one of my Canadian Living cookbooks. All it entailed was cooking sugar into a caramel syrup, adding cream, and pouring it over chopped chocolate to make the ganache filling – simple, yet delicious. Because of the extra sugar in the caramel, these truffles were very sweet, so I added a pinch of salt to balance it out and made them into tiny portions (in hindsight, I wonder about using some portion of unsweetened chocolate in the ganache… perhaps an experiment for next year!).
I’ve picked up a few good tricks for making truffles over the years, my favorite being the method below for portioning out the ganache into each truffle. Lots of recipes recommend using a melon baller to scoop the ganache into balls, but I always ended up with uneven portions and a big, chocolatey mess. I think it was Cooks Illustrated that turned me on to this idea: pour the ganache into a square pan lined with parchment or waxed paper, then once it’s set, cut into little squares. This allows you to determine exactly how many truffles you will end up with, and they are all roughly the same size. And I find rolling them into balls with my hands to be much neater that fiddling around with a melon baller!
This year I dipped the ganache centers in tempered chocolate (I used David Lebovitz’s tempering method) using a handy little chocolate dipping tool that I picked up at Bulk Barn for a few dollars, but I’ve done it successfully in the past with a fork or chopsticks. If you don’t want to temper the chocolate, that’s fine – you’ll just need to store the truffles in the fridge to keep the chocolate from “blooming” – that is, turning chalky white and streaky (it’s fine to eat, it just doesn’t look as nice). Or forgo the chocolate dipping entirely and just roll the ganache centers in cocoa powder. Any way you do it, these will be delicious and you will receive high praise from everyone you share them with!
Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from Canadian Living’s Best Chocolate Cookbook. Makes 4 dozen truffles. For best results, be sure to use good quality dark chocolate for these, with at least 70% cocoa solids.
Place 1 cup granulated white sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook, moving the sugar around with a spoon or spatula occasionally, until it melts and turns golden brown. Cook the caramel, swirling the pan, until it is a deep amber colour. Remove from the heat and pour in 2/3 cup heavy cream (be careful, it might splatter and boil vigorously). The caramel might harden and seize up – this is fine. Return the pan to the stove over low heat and cook the caramel, stirring, until it is smooth. Add a pinch of kosher salt and remove from the heat.
8 oz chopped dark/bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp unsalted butter, soft
Let it sit, covered, for a few minutes to melt the chocolate, then stir until smooth. Line the bottom and sides of a square cake pan (8″ or 9″, size doesn’t really matter) with parchment or waxed paper and pour the caramel ganache into it, spreading it into an even layer. Chill until solid, at least 2 hours.
Remove the solid ganache from the pan and cut it into 48 squares (6 x 8 strips). Working quickly, mold each square into a rough ball with your fingers, then briefly roll it between your palms to smooth it into a ball. Place on waxed paper and refrigerate until you are ready to proceed.
It this point, you can simply roll the ganache balls in about 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and call it a day.
Or, you can dip them in chocolate. (If you don’t want to bother with tempering the chocolate, simply melt the chocolate over a bain marie and follow the dipping instructions below.)
For tempered chocolate, you will need about 10 oz of solid dark chocolate: 8 oz finely chopped and about 2 oz in 1 or 2 large chunks. In a metal bowl over a bain marie of barely simmering water, slowly melt 8 oz finely chopped dark chocolate until it reaches 115˚F – 120 ˚F. Remove the chocolate from the heat and add the large chunks of solid chocolate. Stir the chocolate frequently until it cools to the low 80˚s F. Remove any chunk(s) of unmelted chocolate and return the bowl to the bain marie. Heat again until it reaches 88˚F – 91˚F, then remove from the heat and use for dipping. Rewarm as needed to keep it above 88˚F, but don’t let it go above 91˚F or you’ll have to start again. (Read David Lebovitz’s post for why you would want to go to all this trouble at all…)
One at a time, dip each ganache ball in the chocolate, coating it completely and letting the excess chocolate run off before placing on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet to set. Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle each truffle with a little bit of coarse raw sugar (or, if they’ve already set, you can dab each truffle with melted chocolate and then sprinkle the sugar). If desired, place each truffle in a ruffled paper candy case.
All truffles should be stored in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper. Cocoa-powdered and un-tempered truffles should be stored in the fridge; tempered truffles can be kept at a cool room temperature.