Every Christmas, my sister, mother and I spend a whole weekend in the kitchen together, cooking, baking, boiling, scraping, and fudging our way through dozens of candy recipes. When we’re finished, we divvy all the goodies up onto plates and give them away to friends and neighbors. Over the years, we’ve gotten pretty good at making candy, especially the 15-20 recipes we make year after year.
Although we have several faithful chocolate confections in our stable of recipes, the perfect truffle eluded us until this year. I had begun researching truffles back in February, making Mexican chocolate truffles for a food swap that month and dark chocolate truffles as Valentine’s Day gifts. Neither of those were just right for Candy Weekend, however. The Mexican chocolate version was surprisingly spicy– not a surefire hit for kids– and the dark chocolate version was too fudge-like for our eight-fudge-deep candy plate.
It turns out that the most appealing holiday truffle recipe for us was a very simple, semi-sweet chocolate version posted by Ghirardelli on AllRecipes.com. My sister found it and tested it this month. For Candy Weekend, we followed the proportions of that recipe, substituting store-brand semi-sweet chocolate chips for the dark chocolate chips, and store-brand cocoa for the Ghirardelli. I know that we probably could have improved their recipe by using a higher quality dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but there really wasn’t much point when we were aiming to make a crowd-pleasing, uncomplicated chocolate candy.
Making truffles with chocolate chips is pretty straightforward; you simply heat butter and cream, add the chocolate chips, and stir until the mixture is completely smooth. The real test of technique comes later, when it is time to roll the truffles. Here is the best method we found for rolling truffles.
- Once you’ve cooked the truffle mixture, pour it into a very shallow, wide bowl. A bowl with a rounded bottom edge is ideal.
- Chill the truffle mixture, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before you attempt to roll them.
- About two hours before you’re ready to begin rolling truffles, take the chocolate mixture out of the refrigerator and let it warm to just cooler than room temperature. When we tried rolling the truffles immediately out of the refrigerator, they were difficult to shape and even broke apart sometimes.
- Set up all your supplies before you get started, including a foil lined baking sheet to catch the finished truffles. Make sure the baking sheet is small enough to fit in your freezer.
- Rolling truffles is easiest with two people; one person can scoop truffles, the other person can shape and roll the truffles in cocoa powder.
- A pyrex custard cup is just the right size to hold the cocoa or whatever you plan to roll the truffles in. These have rounded edges and work better than ramekins with a sharp bottom corner. They’re also deep enough so that cocoa doesn’t spill all over the place. Using two custard cups is easier than one larger bowl, too.
- The small end of a melon baller works well to scoop the truffles. We found that the big end of the melon baller made truffles that were too large to handle.
- Once you scoop a small truffle using the melon baller, a long metal baby spoon works well to transfer the truffle mixture to the cocoa for rolling. The best spoons for ths task have an oval shape and firm edges; soft chew baby spoons or round-shaped baby spoons will not work as well.
- The secret to rolling the truffles without them melting everywhere is to only touch them with your fingertips, and then, as little as possible. The person scooping the truffles shouldn’t touch the chocolate much, if at all, with her hands.
- The person rolling the truffles should dampen her fingertips with water and coat them with cocoa before shaping and rolling the truffles. Use the cocoa-coated pads of your fingers to shape the truffles into balls, and then rolling them in cocoa.
- Don’t worry about making the truffles into perfectly spherical balls.
- Taste a truffle. If the cocoa powder coatng is too bitter for your liking, try adding some powdered sugar to the cocoa mixture to sweeten it up a bit.
- Place finished truffles on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pop the whole baking sheet into the freezer for about half an hour before handling the truffles or pacakaging them for storage.
- Re-roll the chilled truffles in cocoa to even out their color and hide any lingering imperfections in the surface of the chocolate.
Obviously, these tips are a lot more detailed than the Chirardelli instructions! Don’t let the specificity here throw you off– once you get the hang of rolling them, truffles are one of the easiest holiday candies to make at home. The finished product is much, much taster than most store-bought chocolate, too!