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Vexatious Frozen Chocolate Truffles

Tips: I try not to create recipes that call for any particular brand of chocolate. People have access to different brands, in addition to their own taste preferences, so if a recipe calls for, say, dark chocolate, it ought to work with many, if not most brands, of decent-quality dark chocolate. But chocolate has a mind of its own (ask any chocolatier!), and on occasion I come up with a recipe that only works with a particular brand. The difficulty here is that these truffles are too good to leave out of this column, but I’ve only been able to get them to work with one brand of chocolate to date. If you are not fond of experimenting in your kitchen, and if you cannot get Callebaut Semisweet Pellets (they look exactly like chocolate chips, but are usually called pellets), please make something else! If you do like to experiment, please use best-quality semisweet here, and promise to let me know what brand you use if your batch is successful! Merckens, my old standby semisweet, results in truffles that are too soft to work with. Incidentally, a good source for those Callebaut Semisweet Pellets is www.ChocolateSource.com, although you might want to wait until the weather cools off before ordering any. I have not tried to make these with bittersweet chocolate, so I don’t know how well that would work. If you use chocolate that comes in a bar form, chop it very finely for this recipe.

The truffle base here is frozen in a square pan before being cut into oblongs; the oblongs are then dusted in Dutch process cocoa powder. I have not tried to dust these truffles in nonalkalized cocoa powder, but I don’t believe doing so would result in any problems. Once the truffles are finished, you can store them airtight in the freezer for a week or so. To serve them, remove as many as you need and let stand, covered, at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes----no longer! They’ll soften up just slightly, which is what you want, but if they stand out of the freezer for longer, they become too soft and begin to absorb their cocoa coating. I’d serve one or two of these per person, along with good iced coffee or milk or maybe even a flute of very cold champagne. These take time to make, but they are truly outstanding: very chocolate without too much sweetness, very adult, as smooth as Don Juan, and rich beyond my ability to describe it.

Feel free to adjust the liqueurs used here in accordance with your likings. Try using a combination of coffee and orange liqueurs, or coffee and hazelnut, or coffee and almond. If you’d like to use a very strong liqueur, such as black raspberry or peppermint, try blending it with brown crème de cacao, and use more of the crème de cacao than you do of the other liqueur (again, you’ll have to experiment here).

Yield: 48 or more truffles

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces Callebaut semisweet pellets (see recipe introduction)
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
  • Few grains of salt
  • 1-1/4 cups very hot heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. orange liqueur
  • 1 Tbsp. dark rum

    For Coating:
  • Unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder

Method:

Clear space in your freezer so that an 8 inch square pan can rest level. The pan need not rest on the bottom of the freezer, but it shouldn’t tilt one way or another. You’ll also need space in the freezer for a cutting board at least 9 inches square, but that need not rest level.

Line an 8 inch square pan (at least 1-1/2 inches deep) with two lengths of crisscrossing plastic wrap. The inside of the pan must be completely covered in plastic wrap, and there should be an inch or two of overhang on all four sides. Press out as many creases in the wrap on the inside of the pan as possible (there’ll still be a lot of creases left. Don’t worry about it).

In large microwaveable bowl, combine Callebaut semisweet pellets, thinly sliced butter, and salt. Add about half of the very hot cream (reserve remainder). Allow to stand for a minute or so, then stir gently until smooth. (If necessary, microwave chocolate mixture at 50% (medium) power for short intervals, stirring very thoroughly between each, just until smooth and melted.) In 3 to 4 additions, stir in remaining cream. Stir in liqueurs. Mixture should be perfectly smooth.

Pour chocolate mixture into prepared 8 inch square pan. Carefully place pan in freezer (chocolate mixture is thin at this stage). Freeze for at least 4 hours (longer is OK. If you’re going to freeze this mixture much longer than 4 hours before working with it, cover it tightly after about 4 hours).

When ready to form the truffles, tear off a piece of wax paper at least 9 inches square and place it on your cutting board. Sift a coating of Dutch process cocoa powder onto the wax paper, forming a square at least 8 by 8 inches. Have ready a large, very sharp, straight-edged knife, and keep the cocoa powder and sifter or strainer handy, too. Have ready large, shallow freezer containers lined with plastic wrap (I store these truffles in single layers in multiple freezer cartons, but honestly I’m not sure that’s a requirement. I think you can store them in a double layer in a freezer carton; just place a piece of wax paper between the layers).

You’ll need a bit of courage for what comes next. Remove the square pan from the freezer (and remove any coverings from the pan). Pick up the overhanging plastic wrap on two opposite sides of the pan and remove the truffle mixture from the pan (it will still be rather soft). Quickly invert the truffle mixture onto the cocoa square on the wax paper. Once you have done this, gently peel and coax off the plastic wrap. Sift a dusting of cocoa powder all over the bottom (now the top) of the truffle mixture. If the sides have gotten way out of shape, dust your hands with cocoa and quickly, gently, reform them. Return the cocoa-dusted truffle “block”, still on the wax paper on the cutting board, to the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Think about how many truffles you want. I like to make 48, but it’s certainly possible to make 64 out of one batch. After the truffle “block” has refrozen, cut it accordingly, pressing down with the full length of the knife blade and keeping the blade well-dusted with cocoa powder. The truffle mixture will still be rather soft. It will be necessary to rinse the knife blade off with first hot, then cold water, then dry it thoroughly, several times during this procedure. Return the cut-up truffle block to the freezer for at least 15 minutes after you’re done.

To form the individual truffles, remove the cut-up block from the freezer. Work quickly. Separate each truffle from the cut-up block (a small cocoa-dusted knife can be a big help here). Quickly roll the truffle on all sides in cocoa, dusting off any excess. Place each completed truffle into a plastic-wrap-lined freezer carton, and don’t worry if each is not a perfect oblong or square. I usually complete 10 to 12 truffles before replacing the rest of the block in the freezer so it won’t become too soft. Note that the completed truffles must also now be stored in the freezer. Continue forming and freezing the truffles until all are completed.

Store the truffles airtight in the freezer for up to a week or so. Allow to stand at room temperature, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes (no longer!) before serving.

© Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you MAY not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.

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