Happy New Year everyone! So I have to admit, I'm sort of glad that the holidays and all the gluttony that goes along with them are finally over, although having said that, I'm already planning my Valentine's day menu. The past two weeks have been a swirling mess of working, food, cooking, cookies, gift baskets, drinking, and shopping. It's been exhausting. I apologize for not posting more and believe me, I really wish I had. There are a number of things that I've made that I'd love to write about, but somehow wasn't able to pull everything together to take photos of them. But don't worry, I plan on making some of them again, specifically a roasted butternut squash risotto that was the hit of our Christmas meal. I did however get a chance to document a few of the dishes that Annie and I made for our Greek inspired New Years Eve feast, which I will be posting in the next several days. But before I do that, let's go back in time, to a week before Christmas.
Now maybe you are the kind of person who listens to people all year long and makes mental checklists of gift ideas that your friends and family might need, want or hint for. Maybe you are the sort of person who then goes shopping before all the malls turn into a swarming hell strung with Christmas lights and blaring with holiday musak. I however, am a procrastinator who doesn't listen. And as such, I kept putting off and putting off shopping for gifts for Mark's mom and brother. With just two days before Christmas, I still had NO IDEA what to get and the thought of willingly entering the Beverly Center or the Grove just to browse for ideas was too much to bear. Then I had an idea. What if I MADE gifts? BRILLIANT. If nothing else, people are wowed by and appreciate the effort.
Deciding what to make was easy. Mark's mom loves loves loves chocolate and it just so happened that I'd seen a very interesting although admittedly strange sounding truffle recipe on Epicurious, one that was flavored with balsamic vinegar of all things. I came up with the chocolate ginger truffle myself. It was inspired by some ice cream Mark and I had on our trip to England - Green and Black's. They had the most amazing flavors such as dark toffee, chocolate and orange, although my favorite was dark chocolate with little chunks of crystallized ginger.
Combined with just a few other little tasty treats that I could pick up from the store, my Christmas gift dilemma had been solved.
(For the Chocolate Ginger Truffle)
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3.5 ounces extra dark chocolate, chopped (I used Droste 75% cocoa)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used half a bag of Ghiradelli chocolate chips - I would have preferred a little bit better chocolate, but that's what I had. And just so you know, It worked out really well)
1 3-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into chunks
unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
(For the Balsamic Pine Nut Truffle)
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3.5 ounces extra dark chocolate, chopped
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped pretty fine
To make the Chocolate Ginger Truffles, add the sliced ginger to the cream and bring to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm, 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Remove from heat. Add the cream and whisk until smooth. It might look sort of grainy or curdled at first. Just keep whisking and it should end up nice and smooth. Pour the chocolate and cream mixture onto a large baking sheet with sides and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the chocolate is set, remove from the fridge and, using a small spoon, melon baller, or one of those small spring-action handled ice cream scoops that some people use for measuring out cookie dough (the later works the best), draw the implement across the chocolate until you've gathered about a tablespoon. Place the chocolate on the parchment lined cookie sheet and continue. I was able to get exactly 2 dozen and 1 truffles. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and ground ginger and stir to combine. Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and roll in the palms of your hands until nice and round and then place in the cocoa powder mixture. Using a spoon, roll the truffle around in the powder until completely coated and place on the baking sheet.
Continue until all the truffles are coated. They can be eaten right away, but if you plan on placing them in little gift bags I would refrigerate for another hour or overnight, so the powder can sort of set onto the chocolate.
To make the Balsamic Pine Nut Truffles, the procedure is essentially the exact same, just omit the ginger when bringing the cream to a simmer and once you have, that's when you add the balsamic vinegar. Then do everything else the same, except just replace the cocoa powder with the chopped, toasted pine nuts.
Since there is cream in the truffles, they can get pretty soft if left at room temperature, so it's best to refrigerate them, unless they are going to be eaten right away. As such, when I made my little gift bags, I was paranoid that unless they were each individually wrapped, they'd melt into one large chocolate-ginger-balsamic-pine-nut mess, so I went to a party supply store where, in the cake decorating section, they sell small plastic bags that are meant for home made candies and the like. The can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a week, although the truffles coated with the nuts are better, the fresher they are. The nuts stay nice and crisp, otherwise they tend to get a little soft.
So the thing about truffles, as much as I love them (and they really are my favorite way to eat chocolate - so smooth and creamy), they can get a bit sweet. I think that's why I tend to prefer dark chocolate over milk. By combining the extra dark with the semi sweet, I think you get a good balance of the sweetness with the bitter. The unexpected addition of ginger gives the chocolate a sort of fresh, clean flavor which contrasts well with the bitter-sweetness. Similarly, the balsamic vinegar, which on it's own tastes quite sweet, does not in fact make the truffles sweeter. Rather the acidity of the vinegar mellows the sweetness and gives it a pleasant tang and then the toasted pine nuts add a sort of woodsy note. It's really unique. The texture of the balsamic truffle is lighter than that of the ginger, I think because there is slightly more liquid to chocolate. Because of this, it won't set quite as firmly as the other one. I suppose you could just add a little more chocolate to make up the difference, but I rather like the softness and it contrasts well with the more solid ginger truffle.
Each recipe makes 2 dozen and 1 truffles.