In February I made truffles. I explored a lot of ideas and settled on a recipe for Vanilla Chile Truffles. They were delicious - smooth, luscious, rich and spicy. Still, I was left with many more ideas and flavor combinations I wanted to try.
This month, with St. Patrick's Day in mind, and me planning a trip to England that's got me thinking about beer and pubs, I decided to try another unusual flavor pairing - stout and black pepper. Stout is a traditionally Irish conception of beer, and while it is often thought of as bitter, it can actually be rather sweet as well as smooth and elegantly creamy. Reduced and combined with the chocolate and cream it imparts a dark and complex flavor to the ganache that is hard to put your finger on. Add to that the bite of freshly ground black peppercorns, lending a finish that is spicy but not hot, and you have a challenging taste combination that appeals to a sense of adventure.
This time I dipped. With a little more time to work out the recipe for these truffles, and to get them ready for the camera, I dipped the cocoa dusted chocolate ganache in melted chocolate and added a touch of colored sugar sprinkles as a garnish. The result was pretty, appealed to my senses and was fun to photograph.
Now that we have truffles to help us celebrate St. Patrick's Day, how about some Irish music to add to the atmosphere. For traditional Irish music it might be fun to listen to The Chieftains. Or, for a more contemporary take on Irish tunes how about U2 or The Cranberries.
Or maybe you'd rather watch a movie. Some of my favorite movies are set in Ireland. One of my all time favorite movies is Waking Ned Devine. I also enjoyed The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, and The Secret of Roan Inish is a wonderfully magical tale.
And whatever you do share a bit of Irish wit or charm, even better, an Irish blessing with a friend. There are many blessings, toasts and quotations here. One favorite that is listed:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Stout and Black Pepper Truffles
¾ cup stout (I used Rogue's Chocolate Stout)
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips)
½ cup cream
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 oz melted chocolate for dipping
Pour 3/4 cup stout into a small saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 3 tablespoons. ( I actually decided to use Rogue's Chocolate Stout, a stout that is brewed in the Pacific Northwest in this batch of truffles but an Irish Stout, like Guinness, would work equally well.)
Melt 6 ounces of chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl over hot, not boiling, water. Set aside.
Pour cream into a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until it begins to boil and is heated through. Remove from heat.
Stir the 3 tablespoons of reduced stout into the cream. Add the black pepper to the cream. Stir together until mixed. Add the cream mixture to the chocolate and stir or whisk until well combined.
Set the mixture aside until cool and thick, but not hard, approximately two or three hours.
(For photos from the next few steps in the process see my post for Vanilla Chile Truffles.)
When it is thick, place the chocolate mixture in a Ziploc freezer bag. Seal the bag and snip a ½ inch piece from a lower corner of the bag.
Pipe the chocolate mixture onto waxed paper or parchment in teaspoon sized dollops. Place in the refrigerator or freezer until very firm, approximately 2 hours.
Place the 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder in a shallow bowl. Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator or freezer. Place each dollop in the cocoa powder and then roll it in your hands to form a ball. (This will be messy!)
Place the chocolate ball on a new piece of waxed paper or parchment. When all pieces have been formed into balls, place the chocolate back in the refrigerator until set.
At this point the truffles can be rolled in cocoa powder again just before serving, or they can be dipped in chocolate.
To dip the truffles in chocolate, skip the second cocoa powder dusting and when the balls of chocolate ganache are set, melt 6 ounces of chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a small metal bowl over hot, not boiling, water.
Dip the balls of chocolate ganache into the melted chocolate, shaking gently to help the excess chocolate drip back into the pan before placing the finished ball on waxed paper. Add several grains of green sugar to the top before the chocolate sets. Allow chocolate to cool until the chocolate coating is firm.
For more tips on chocolate dipping check out the instructions on About.com.
Truffles can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks, however, without tempering, the chocolate coating may bloom (get whitish spots or streaks) which does not effect the quality of the truffle but is generally considered unattractive. To avoid this the chocolate can be tempered before dipping...or, better yet, the truffles can be eaten quickly, within a day or so!
Truffles are best served at room temperature.
Place finished truffles in small paper candy cups or on waxed or parchment paper in a box or tin. Enjoy!