I’m aware that I am posting the party recipes in rather haphazard fashion, but never mind. I’ve had a request for this one so wanted to get it up here without too much delay.
Before embarking on my truffle-making I consulted two experts, namely Nigel Slater and Trish Deseine, including watching this video of her in action (don’t you just love her accent? I could listen to it all day). It all looked pretty straightforward – and I’m happy to report that it was. I found the whole process incredibly absorbing, and the satisfaction of serving guests homemade chocolates fully justified the extra effort.
Whilst I was lovingly stirring my chocolate and cream together and admiring the mixture’s sleek glossiness, I had a flash of inspiration and decided to add some peppermint oil. This is optional of course, but I highly recommend doing so; it gave the finished chocolates some additional depth and meant they rounded off the meal very nicely.
Just a quick note about the cocoa. One of the hot topics of late amongst people who like to debate matters relating to food, and more particularly ingredients, has been Dutch-processed cocoa powder – what it is, how it is different from ‘normal’ cocoa powder, and so on. If you’re interested, revered food blogger and former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, David Lebovitz, has just written quite a comprehensive post on this very subject.
Essentially, Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been treated with potassium carbonate to neutralise its acids; natural unsweetened cocoa powder is just the unadulterated cocoa beans that have been roasted and ground to a powder. When the latter (which is acidic) is used in recipes containing baking soda (an alkali), it creates a leavening action that causes the batter to rise when it’s in the oven. The general rules appear to be that if a recipe doesn’t specify which sort to use, it probably calls for natural cocoa powder, and also that you can substitute natural cocoa powder for Dutch-processed in most recipes, but not vice-versa. Confused? Hating the science bit? Never heard of there being more than one type of cocoa? I certainly wouldn’t lose any sleep over it; for years we [homebakers of the world] didn’t worry about this stuff and managed just fine (sorry if that seems flippant foodfans, but we’re not talking about bringing about world peace or ending famine here).
For the record, I used Green and Black’s organic cocoa, which happens to be Dutched – although I didn’t know this until I read the teeny tiny print on the back of the pot. It has the added bonus of being fairtrade – particularly apt, since it’s currently Fairtrade Fortnight (22nd February-7 March) – which actually strikes me as being rather more important.
Chocolate Truffles with a hint of peppermint
500g chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
300ml double cream
1.5 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan over a low heat until not quite boiling, then pour it over the chocolate and leave for a minute or so before stirring the whole lot together. The chocolate should melt into the cream and form a glossy, luxurious mixture into which you will want to dive headfirst. If any lumps remain, put the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water until they melt. Stir in the peppermint extract, ensuring it is well distributed.
Put the bowl in the fridge to allow the mixture to thicken, which should take about an hour.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out truffle-sized (will leave that to your judgement…) helpings of the mixture. Ensure they have a nice appetising form – I didn’t shape mine into perfect spheres, but by all means do so if you wish – before rolling them in the cocoa powder. Place on a sheet of greaseproof paper and leave in a cool place to set.
Eat for every meal.
This quantity makes around 60 truffles, depending on size.