Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine’s Day Truffle Reprise
What’s Cooking? Goat Cheese & Nutella Truffles

I dreamed last night that I sent one of these chocolate truffles to every member of Congress. And I’m pretty sure that if I really did that, the mood in Washington would get better overnight. They’re that good.

Those of you with good memories or who are long-time readers of this blog will note that I’ve published this recipe before – almost exactly a year ago, in fact. But I think a really great recipe deserves a periodic reminder. Moreover, I’ve improved my technique with these truffles, and have discovered a handy little tool that made them easier to manage.

On the broader subject of chocolates, let me reiterate: these are the most amazing truffles I’ve ever had, and I really like truffles. Now if you haven’t the time or energy for making the ones here, but you also are a chocolate truffle fan, you should hop on down to your local Vosges Haut-Chocolat shop, where the name is a bit pretentious but they have the most amazing and beautiful chocolate truffles I’ve ever inhaled. Really excellent milk chocolate or dark chocolate wrapped around a delightfully exotic range of fillings and flavors. Also available online or at many Whole Foods. And no, they haven’t paid me a dime for this plug.

The tool I mentioned above is part of the set pictured here, sold in most kitchen stores in their candy-making aisle. The one I found most helpful is the middle one, that looks like a tiny whisk. It’ll let you dip the goat cheese/Nutella centers into your melted chocolate with a great deal more ease than with a spoon or fork, although I believe even a fork is better than a spoon if you’re trying not to dribble chocolate all over the kitchen.

 So here’s the truffle recipe, with revised instructions – from making them several times –  that I hope are easy enough to get you all to make some. Then if we coordinate our efforts and send them to Congress...

Remember, the recipe comes to us all courtesy of Chef Leigh Friend, the amazingly talented Pastry Chef at Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, at 401 West 52nd Street, in NYC.

Kitchen Goddess note: Last year at this time, the bag of Ghirardelli bittersweet chips was 11.5 ounces, which shows you what kind of hidden inflation can take place in a year. The Kitchen Goddess used the entire bag, so if you are especially sloppy or heavy-handed with the chocolate coatings, you might want an extra bag or bar around. The bags are 60% cacao, but if you buy the bars, you have a choice between 60% and 70%. If anyone tries the 70% bars, let me know how you like it. And if you buy the 4-ounce bars, you’ll want to get 3 of them. I just think the chips are easier to deal with.

Goat Cheese and Nutella Truffles
Adapted from Leigh Friend, Pastry Chef at Casellula Cheese & Wine Café

Makes 32-34 truffles, each about 1½” in diameter.

4 ounces goat cheese (chèvre – any mild-flavored brand, as fresh as you can get)
4 ounces Nutella
5-6 ounces toasted, chopped hazelnuts (see note at #1 below)
10-ounce bag of Ghirardelli Bittersweet 60% Cacao Baking Chips
finishing salt (Maldon or other flaky sea salt)

1. A note on hazelnuts: If you can buy hazelnuts without skins, bravo. Move to Step 2. If, like me, you can only find whole hazelnuts with skins on, by far the best way to remove the skins is to boil them 3-4 minutes in a quart of water with 4 tablespoons of baking soda, then rinse them in a colander under cold water. Most of the skins will peel off on their own; the rest will come off easily with a little rubbing.

2. Chop the nuts and toast them 10-20 minutes in a 350º oven. The first time I made these, I chopped the nuts pretty finely; I now chop less finely and leave some good-sized chunks, as I think the look is more artistic. You should go with whatever look you like. Put the toasted nuts in a bowl and reserve.

3. Line a couple of small baking pans with baker’s parchment. I use 2 quarter-sheet pans, which are 8" x 12¼".

4. In a KitchenAid-style mixer with a paddle, combine the goat cheese and Nutella. Mix until smooth, making sure to scrape down the sides. If you are handy with a piping bag, transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe out the truffles to balls about ¾ inch in diameter.

If you are NOT handy that way – and now we are talking about people like the Kitchen Goddess herself – chill the mix well (maybe stopping halfway and re-chilling, as the heat from your hands will start the melting process faster than you would guess), and use a teaspoon or melon baller to form the mix into balls about ¾ inch in diameter.

Put the balls on the parchment-lined trays. Cover with Saran Wrap and freeze 30-45 minutes.

5. Melt the chocolate. If you have bars of chocolate, chop them into uniform pieces about the size of a chocolate chip. To melt using a double-boiler, make sure the bottom of the pan with the chocolate doesn’t touch the water, and stir frequently with a spatula once it begins to melt. The easier way is to melt the chocolate in a microwave at 50%, in increments of 30-45 seconds. If you can’t do 50% power, use shorter increments. Stir well between each interval of heating. Be conservative with the power, as chocolate that has been overheated can turn grainy.

5. Working only one tray at a time, dip the truffles in the chocolate once to get a good thick shell on the outside. Refreeze each tray as you work on the other.

You may want to reheat the chocolate periodically, as it thickens in the dipping process, but do so carefully, and stir again after heating.

6. After coating all the truffles once, dip them a second time and, before the chocolate can harden, roll them in the chopped hazelnuts. Sprinkle sparingly with the salt. Chef Friend combines the toasted chopped nuts in a bowl mixed with a large pinch of the salt, but I prefer to sprinkle it on. Do whatever works for you.

If you are not serving the truffles the same day, I recommend freezing them. Frozen, they’ll keep well for at least a month.

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One of the great joys of arriving in Austin has been that I’ve discovered a community of blogging foodies. They are a most generous group who are always willing to trade recipes, restaurant recommendations, or simply good ideas. Click here for a compendium of Valentine-related recipes collected by one of these good souls.

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