Forgive me for not posting a truffle recipe sooner, but I’ve been in recovery from truffle trauma for some time now. Folks, this is no truffling matter.
(Sorry – too many Marx Brothers videos.)
The first event occurred when I worked at a restaurant I lovingly refer to as Pome (though it would be more apt to take a tip from Sara Barron and call it simply “Hell”). We used to make truffles to give to the lucky (and usually high-maintenance) patrons, gratis, after their exorbitant meals, presumably to soften the blow of the bill when it came crashing down on their idyllic evening. (On second thought, they probably all had expense accounts.)
It was often my job to roll the truffles, and, in order to protect the congealed ganache from the brutal heat of the ancient oven, I would do so in the walk-in refrigerator. This wouldn’t have phased me save for the fact that the walk-in often contained a pig.
A dead, partially dismembered pig, dangling from the ceiling.
So me and the partially dismembered pig would hang out (me, figuratively; the pig, literally), rolling truffles, in a tiny, 40 degree room.
It surprises me that with these unpleasant associations I had any truffle-making gusto left after I quit. But that winter I decided to make truffles for everyone I knew. And not just one type – I decided to make nine different kinds of truffles; three flavors each of rolled, filled, and cut truffles. This decision was followed by an intense week of steeping, chopping, whisking, dipping, dredging, and “tasting” so much ganache that I never wanted to see the stuff again.
But last week I had a birthday party with guests who were variously gluten-intolerant and/or vegan. Since I haven’t braved many gluten-free and vegan treats (those scare me, and besides – I love butter), I should have made these. (What I actually did was make these gluten-free brownies and top them with this white chocolate peppermint cream. I then handed the vegan a bar of dark chocolate and told him to have at it.)
Had I been using my noggin, I would have made these truffles, because not only are they gluten-free and vegan, they also taste so amazing that even a person with no food allergies would enjoy them (and in our case, are currently enjoying them) immensely. They were inspired by a couple of favorite blogs: Love and Lemons and Green Kitchen Stories, as well as my own traditional truffle-making experience (minus the pig).
The ganache begins with coconut milk steeped with chiles de arbol and ceylon cinnamon. Chiles de arbol are fairly hot (a 7 on a scale of 1-10) skinny red peppers, and they not only give the ganache a capsicum kick, they add their own savory-sweet flavor as well. Ceylon cinnamon is the real deal; the sticks are delicate, like parchment paper, and easily broken up. Their flavor is more nuanced and subtle than the cassia cinnamon that one usually finds, less bright and spicy, and it blends beautifully with the fruity coconut milk and chocolate, letting the chile be the star of the show. (Either type of cinnamon will be delicious here, though.)
The hot, spiced coconut milk gets strained and whisked into chopped bittersweet chocolate and softened coconut oil to make a creamy ganache (that I bet would make a killer glaze for a vegan chocolate cake). The ganache chills until firm enough to scoop or pipe into tablespoon-sized balls. The balls are rolled smooth, then they (along with your hands and anything you try to touch with them) get coated in melted chocolate and dredged in velvety cocoa powder.
The finished ganache is so creamy and rich, no one will ever guess that these truffles weren’t made with butter and cream. A small box of them would make a welcome gift; or drop them into mini-muffin cup liners and serve them at a cocktail party. I bet you could even plop them into some hot milk and whisk like mad for instant spicy hot chocolate bombs. (Note to self: do this.)
Truffle-making isn’t hard, it just feels strange doing it for the first time, like anything else. If you’re new to rolling truffles, take a look through Deb’s post, which does an excellent job of demystifying the truffling experience. (Heck, it even helped kick my own truffle trauma.)
The trickiest part is coating cold ganache balls in warm chocolate. But know that you can skip the chocolate-coating if you like and just roll the balls in cocoa powder (or chopped nuts or shredded coconut). If you do so, serve them within an hour or two, as the cocoa will absorb the moisture in the ganache and the truffle will lose its velveteen appearance.
Vegan with a vengeance:
Hippy Crispy Treats
Raw Chocolate Pudding
Chocolate Coconut Milk Tapioca Pudding
One year ago:
Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie
Two years ago:
Bojon Eggnog (fully cooked, fully awesome)
Sage, Thyme and Mimolette Cheese Straws
Three years ago:
Roasted Winter Squash and Sage Tart
Triple Ginger Molasses Cookies
Satsuma, Ginger and Oat Scones
To make these officially vegan, you’ll need to use a bittersweet chocolate that’s made with vegan sweetener. Do take care to use a chocolate with a 70% cacao mass, as a lower
amount will likely result in overly-soft ganache, whereas darker
chocolate could cause the ganache to “break” as you whisk it. I’m partial to Scharffen Berger, but Guittard and Valrhona are also excellent brands. Velvety dutch-processed cocoa powder looks the prettiest and has a milder flavor than the natural stuff, but either will work for coating the truffles. As I mentioned above, you can skip the pesky chocolate coating altogether and just roll the truffles in cocoa powder, nuts, or shredded coconut shortly before serving.
All ounce measurements are by weight.
Set up a station like so (assuming you are right-handed): bowl of melted chocolate with a small spatula or spoon sitting in it on your left, cocoa powder in the middle, and sheet pan holding chilled ganache balls on your right. Once you get chocolate on your hands, you won’t want to touch anything. (You can wear latex gloves for this, if you like, though I go commando when making a small batch like this.)
Smear about 1 tablespoon of chocolate on the palm of your left hand. Pick up a ganache ball and quickly roll it around in the chocolate, coating it completely. Immediately drop the coated ball into the bowl of cocoa powder and toss it around to coat it. Repeat this with as many balls as will fit in the cocoa bowl, then remove the balls to a plate (I just use the same sheet pan that the chilled balls are on). Keep this up until all the balls are coated in chocolate and cocoa.
Congratulations, you made truffles! Store these babies at cool room temperature. They should keep for at least a week or two, and possibly for a month or more.