Did you know that eating chocolate can make you happy? It’s not a myth! Cacao contains a number of compounds that scientists say have mood-lifting properties. One such compound is the natural anti-depressant phenethylamine. Another is tryptophan, an amino acid that the brain uses to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness. And that little bit of caffeine cacao contains is always a nice pick-me-up.
So, if you require scientific justification for your chocolate cravings, now you have it. Now get into your kitchen, gather a couple of ingredients you probably already have, and conjure up your own bite-sized balls of happiness in the form of homemade chocolate truffles.
Originating in France, truffles were named for their earthy resemblance to the highly valued edible fungus that grows in forests throughout Europe. A confection named after something so rare and expensive must be difficult to make, right? Not one bit. The heart of every chocolate truffle is ganache, a fancy French term for a very simple thing – chocolate that has been melted with warmed cream. That’s right, a mere two ingredients is the base for every bliss-filled bite.
But here’s the best part. That ganache? You can flavor it. With just about anything. Liqueurs. Extracts. Spices. Teas. Herbs. Citrus zests. Shuffle your favorite flavors around and take those taste buds on one unique trip. Once the cream-and-chocolate mixture has been chilled to firmness, all you have to do is hand-roll it into balls and adorn each ball in your choice of coating. You can even use it to join in on this year’s hottest cold-weather trend, cocoa bombs. See below!
I know you’re excited to start candy-making, but before you jump to the recipe, here are a few key tips.
- Use a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream, that is, heavy cream and whatever chocolate makes you happy. When I’m trying to be fancy, I use “good” chocolate that is more than 60% cacao, but if the chocolate craving strikes or I need an easy hostess gift, I’ve been known to use regular old semi-sweet chocolate chips.
- Take care not to scald the cream. Heat it until bubbles start to form on the edges and it just begins to steam.
- Add your flavoring agent after you’ve taken the cream off the heat. If you’re using liqueur, extract, or a ground/powdered spice (like cayenne pepper or nutmeg), just stir it in. If you are using a spice that isn’t already ground (like star anise or a cinnamon stick), an herb (mint, lavender, rosemary), citrus zest, or tea leaves (a teabag or loose tea), place it in the warm cream and allow it to steep for 10 minutes, then strain it out.
- Give the ganache time to chill until it is firm enough to form into balls. Truffles are very hard to roll when they are melting messily all over your warm hands.
- Adorn your truffles with something that is a perfect pairing to their flavor – cocoa powder, chopped nuts, sprinkles, powdered sugar, and even a light sprinkle of sea salt are some of my favorites.
- Make these now! Wintertime in Connecticut is the perfect time to make truffles. If you run out of refrigerator space, use nature’s “freezer” to cool and/or store them (in airtight containers, of course). I’ve been known to store them inside the grill on my deck.
- Bring truffles up to room temperature before serving/sharing/devouring.
I hope by now you’re convinced that making chocolate truffles is almost as easy as getting in the car and buying them. My basic recipe makes about two dozen of these melt-in-your-mouth treats – enough for you to enjoy with some left over to gift away. Share the homemade happiness! We could all use a little right now.
A Few Truffle Flavor Ideas To Get You Going
- Maple Toffee – Infuse cream with maple liqueur, syrup, or extract, and roll in Heath bar bits.
- Amaretto Joy – Infuse cream with almond extract or Amaretto liqueur, and roll in toasted coconut flakes OR infuse with coconut rum and roll in chopped almonds.
- Mexican Cacao – Infuse cream with cayenne pepper and roll in cinnamon sugar.
- Chocolate Orange – Infuse cream with orange liqueur or orange zest, and roll in chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder.
- Lavender Chip – Infuse cream with edible lavender flowers (be sure to strain out), and roll in mini chocolate chips.
- Earl Grey – Infuse cream with Earl Grey tea leaves and roll in powdered sugar.
- Peppermint Dream – Infuse cream with peppermint extra, liqueur, or mint leaves, and roll in chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder.
- Indian Kiss – Infuse cream with rosewater and roll in chopped pistachios.
Basic Chocolate Truffle Recipe
Note: Makes about two dozen; to make more or fewer, use a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream.
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
Flavoring, to taste (for liqueur, about an ounce; for extracts or ground spices, about a teaspoon; for chopped fresh herbs or citrus zests, about a tablespoon; for tea, about 2 tea bags’ worth – the more you add, the stronger the flavor will be)
Finishing touch (a small bowl’s worth of chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, chopped nuts, cocoa powder, or whatever you can think up!)
Step 1 – Make and chill the ganache:
Warm cream in a small saucepan until bubbles start to form around the edges and it just begins to steam. Turn off heat and add desired flavoring. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to infuse; strain if needed. Meanwhile, place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Pour warm cream over chocolate and stir until fully incorporated, smooth, and glossy. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to chill for at least two hours, until firm enough to roll into balls.
Step 2 – Hand-roll into balls:
Scoop chilled ganache out of the bowl with a tablespoon. Roll between your hands to form small ball-shaped truffles. Set truffles on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or baking tray and chill for another hour or so.
Step 3 – Decorate:
Roll chilled truffles in desired coating.
Step 4 – Storing and serving:
Keep truffles chilled in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature for serving.