In honor of Valentine's Day, I decided to make some truffles to bring to work (Okay fine, I just wanted an excuse to make truffles). To add a Chinese New Year inspired twist, I infused the cream with ground, toasted sesame seeds. In addition, I strained out the sesame pieces before adding hot cream to the chocolate so the ganache would retain it's smooth mouthfeel.
Sesame excitement aside, I followed Robert Linxe's chocolate truffle recipe as posted here by Smitten Kitchen. A trip to Sur La Table resulted in a kilogram tablet (that's 2.2 lbs of chocolately goodness) of Valrhona 61% dark chocolate. It completely dwarfed the Trader Joes Pound Plus bar I had gotten the previous day.
I did an impromptu tasting of the two chocolates. The Valrhona bar was very smooth, with a dominant honey note and good acidity (like red fruit, cherries or raspberries). It's a complex chocolate too, with a nutty, rounded aftertaste that lingered for some time. The Trader Joes 76% Pound Plus bar seemed awfully one-dimensional in comparison. It was also smooth and creamy, but taste-wise it was dull and woody, with a very short finish.
To cut the acidity of the Valrhona chocolate and to provide more body, I replaced half of the chocolate with the Trader Joes variety. The resulting ganache had a good balance of acidity and nuttiness from the sesame seeds.
The fun/potentially-covering-your-kitchen-in-chocolate part of truffle making comes from the assembly. Following Smitten Kitchen's advice, I had a multi-stage setup.
Right to left:
1. frozen ganache centers
2. melted chocolate carefully tempered to 90F
3. bowl of cocoa powder with sifter
4. foil-covered pan for finished truffles
Once the ganache centers are pipped out and frozen, they get a crunchy covering of melted chocolate before getting dunked in cocoa powder. Apparently, Robert Linxe recommends smearing chocolate on one's gloved hands, then rolling the ganache centers in said hands to form a thin outer shell of chocolate. I think it would work better if I had better-fitting gloves. As it is, the melted chocolate seemed to go everywhere except on the truffles.
Truffle-making is messy business.
My favorite part was plonking the truffles into cocoa powder. Again, I used a blend of Valrhona and Trader Joe's cocoa powders. The Valrhona cocoa was surprisingly mild, with a savory nutty flavor. In comparison, the Trader Joe's cocoa was harsh and bitter. To be fair, cocoa powder is really meant to be eaten directly...
The finished truffles weren't as round and graceful as the ones I had in Pierre Marcolini's posh shop in Paris (although, sleek black suits for salespeople isn't a bad idea). My pipping skills are rather lacking, so the truffles looked more like small snails than spheres. I'll try rolling the frozen ganache in my hand next time for a more even look.
Graceful or not, the truffles were delicious. The roasted sesame gave it a nice nutty note that went well with the delicate, floral chocolate.
I also had way too much fun taking pictures.