Chocolate Nut Truffles

Sunday February 14, 2016

Chocolate truffles are rolled into rough balls that look like their name-sakes, the earthy subterranean fungi that grows under oak trees and is a savory culinary delicacy and quite rare.

Chocolate truffles are intensely sweet and able to be devoured in one bite, a satisfying treat for the most discerning chocolate addict.  Usually made from a combination of chocolate and heavy cream, here I have omitted the cream and used prune purée instead.  The result is a smashing low-fat truffle with a pure balance of flavor. And you only need one good recipe to make a wide assortment of flavored truffles. No one could tell the difference in a taste test and marveled that it could be low fat. And you know how healthy dark chocolate is. So think of it as like a big antioxidant vitamin pill.

durfee in his classroom at the CIA

Alice Medrich is given the accolades of bringing the chocolate truffle as we know it onto the American dessert scene. After learning about them in France from her landlady, she started making them and selling them out of Pig By the Tail, across the street from Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley. They were so popular, Alice started her own sweet shop across the street called Cocolat. A tradition was born.

Dried fruit butters are indispensable for low-fat baking and an excellent complement to chocolate.  Since the purée keeps up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, make a big batch to have on hand for spur of the moment baking, or even just spreading on toast.  Sweetened prune filling (available in the baking section) or prune lekvar (available in the kosher section), or prune baby food can be substituted, but homemade is best.

If you want to make these vegan, substitute the butter with Earth Balance or a soy margarine, and a vegan bar chocolate.

The inspiration for this unlikely combination of chocolate and a fruit purée comes from my friend Stephen Durfee, original pastry chef at the French Laundry and recipient of the 1999 James Beard Pastry Chef of the Year Award. Durfee is now head pastry instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley, the prestigious original home of Christian Brothers Winery.

Makes 24 one-inch balls

Ingredients

  • 8-ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, Callebaut, or Guittard
  • 1/2 cup warm prune butter (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Earth Balance
  • 1 tablespoon liqueur (see liqueur choices following below)
  • About 1/2 cup (2 ounces) toasted nuts, finely chopped in a food processor or with a sharp knife, for coating each batch (see nut choices following below) OR 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions

Chop the chocolate and place in the top of a double boiler over simmering water to melt.  Stir with a whisk until smooth to complete the melting and remove from the heat.

With a small wire whisk, add the prune butter, unsalted butter, and liqueur;  stir to evenly combine.  Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the chocolate to prevent a skin forming, and chill about 4 hours to harden.

Use a plate or line a baking sheet with parchment.  Place the nuts or cocoa on a shallow plate.  If the mixture is very hard, let stand at room temperature 1/2 hour until malleable.  Using a teaspoon, scoop a small round the size of a big cherry, and roll between your palms to form the rough balls.  Roll each ball in the chopped nuts or cocoa and place on the plate or baking sheet.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill.  When hardened, transfer to an airtight plastic container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks, or freeze.  Let come to room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Prune Butter

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12-ounce bag pitted prunes
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

Instructions

Place the prunes and 1/4 cup of the water in a food processor (it is too thick for a blender) and process, adding the remaining water in a thin stream while the machine is running, until a thick, smooth paste is formed.  It will look a bit chunky from the skins; that is okay , but if it bothers you, press through a sieve.  Use immediately or refrigerate.

Flavor Choices

Amaretto Truffles

Add Amaretto liqueur to the chocolate mixture and roll the balls in chopped almonds.

Orange Pistachio Truffles

Add Grand Marnier liqueur to the chocolate mixture and roll the balls in chopped pistachios.

Rum Truffles

Add dark rum to the chocolate mixture and roll the balls in chopped pecans.

Raspberry Truffles

Add framboise or Chambord liqueur to the chocolate mixture.  Tuck a frozen whole raspberry into the center when forming the ball and roll the balls in unsweetened cocoa.  Stud the truffle with 4 slivered almond pieces.

Chestnut Truffles

Add Cognac or brandy to the chocolate mixture.  Tuck a piece of chestnut in vanilla-flavored syrup (available in cans in the jam section) into the center when forming the ball and roll the balls in unsweetened cocoa.

Cherry Truffles

Add Cherry Marnier liqueur to the chocolate mixture and roll the balls in chopped walnuts.

Hazelnut Truffles

Add Frangelico nut liqueur to the chocolate mixture and roll the balls in chopped hazelnuts.

Macadamia Nut Truffles

Add Macadamia nut liqueur to the chocolate mixture. Sift some unsweetened cocoa powder onto a plate. Cut the macadamia nuts in half. Scoop the chilled chocolate mixture and place them on the baking sheet. Shape into roughly shaped balls with your hands. Use your thumb to gently press half a macadamia nut into the center of the ball, pressing it closed. Drop it into the unsweetened cocoa and roll it around until it’s completely covered then return it to the baking sheet.

for a crowd-pleasing serving presentation, use candy paper liners

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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