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Celebrate Valentine's Day with truffles
The legend behind the Valentine's Day celebration is a bit inconsistent. According to various sources, Valentine's Day is named after an early Christian martyr named Valentine. He was persecuted as a Christian and sentenced to be executed under the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Before his execution, Valentine is said to have performed healing miracles.
It is also said that St. Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies against the will of the emperor, who was trying to grow his army with young single men.
The link between Valentine's Day and romantic love seems to have been ignited by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who idealized the concept of courtly love.
At various occasions at Café Collage, I have witnessed a lover on his knees proposing to his loved one with an incredible bouquet of red roses. Usually, intense silence settles in the dining room as the brave men proposes, followed by an explosion of cheers and applause from all the customers when his proposal is accepted.
This week's recipe is a dark chocolate truffle — an ideal representation for Valentine's Day. It is certainly one the most rewarding recipes, for it relies on the quality of the dark chocolate and unsweetened cacao powder.
Traditionally, chocolate truffles are made with ganache, which is a mixture of chocolate and cream. The ganache is then coated with cocoa powder.
Truffles are easy to make and can be prepared with various filings.
DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
1 pound dark chocolate (I use dark Callebaut, a Belgian brand) cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 tablespoons prepared espresso
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Valrhona cocoa powder, a French brand)
4 ounces dark chocolate, tempered
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
1 cup toasted nuts, finely chopped (use any nuts, according to your preference)
It is preferable to use dark chocolate rather than bittersweet, because of the sugar content. Cut the chocolate into small pieces using a bread knife. Having even sizes of chocolate will help the melting. Put the chocolate into a stainless bowl and keep it in a warm area of the kitchen to facilitate the melting process.
Mix the cream with the vanilla, almond extract and espresso. In a medium pot, bring the cream mixture to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Let the cream and chocolate sit for few minutes, then stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is well blended.
If it is not smooth enough and the chocolate has not melted completely, reheat the ganache over a hot pot of water. Stir until the ganache until it has silky texture.
Transfer the ganache to a ceramic bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or until the ganache hardens. Use a melon baller or a small ice cream scoop to form the ganache into balls. Roll them in your fingers to make them as round as possible.
The way you finish your truffles is up to you. I offer you three options: cacao powder coating; chocolate shell coating; and toasted nuts or coconut coating.
For the cacao powder coating, roll each truffle in the cacao powder.
If you prefer to coat the ganache balls with a chocolate shell, melt 4 ounces of chocolate over a pot of hot water and coat each ball. You might want to spread the melted chocolate in your hand and rotate the ganache ball until fully coated. Let the truffles set until cool.
To coat the ganache balls toasted coconut or toasted nuts, roll them in the preferred coating and allow to set.
The truffles can be stored up to a month at room temperature in airtight container, though I doubt anyone can wait that long before enjoying them.
Happy Valentine's Day!