Oh February, the shortest month of the year, and the month which has the holiday you either adore or dread . . . Valentine’s Day, of course, can elevate those who are in love or make you want to scratch your eyes out if you’re not.
Whatever camp you find yourselves in this year, hopefully eating chocolate is on your agenda. It has been known to cure a broken heart, at least for a minute or two, along with doughnuts, bacon, and hot buttered popcorn. Not necessarily during the same sitting, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
For those of us who have found the lid to our pot, chocolate is often gifted and devoured on V-Day. The act of savouring something rich and decadent is incredibly sensual. But, there’s an even sweeter side to chocolate: according to research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a compound in dark chocolate, called phenylethylamine, releases the same endorphins triggered by sex and increases the feelings of attraction between two people.
And indulging could pay off in the bedroom: The Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that those who eat at least one square of dark chocolate daily experience higher desire and better overall sexual function than those who don’t partake. Dark chocolate for the win!
While it’s easy to go and buy a heart-shaped box of truffles, making them at home will save you a few bucks and you get to customize them how you like. Plus, we all know that homemade gifts (especially the edible kind) are the best gifts of all, especially if you want to impress your loved one.
The most important part of any chocolate truffle is the chocolate you use – so please don’t use a discount bag of no-name chocolate chips. Aim a little higher and go for good dark chocolate with at least
70 percent cocoa. Valrhona, Callebaut, Camino, Green & Black’s, Lindt, are all safe bets. I was gifted a bag of Cacao Barry dark chocolate buttons, so that’s what I used. You’ll need to make ganache, which is just a fancy way of saying pour hot whipping cream over chocolate and stir it into a smooth, creamy, chocolatey mass.
Now for the fun part. You can flavour the chocolate as you wish. Make just one flavour or divide the ganache into several bowls and play around with flavours. I made three different kinds: almond flavoured chocolate covered in finely chopped toasted almonds; boozy chocolate covered in icing sugar (sift first!); and fresh mint tossed in cocoa powder.
They all taste fantastic, but we especially loved the chocolate/almond combo. The chocolate is up front, then you get the hit of almond flavour bringing it all home. Delish! And, if you google “chocolate truffles”, there are a myriad of other flavour possibilities. Have fun experimenting!
Package up those luscious orbs of devilish decadence as you wish, and share them with someone who thinks you’re an absolute gem.
21⁄2 cups chopped dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa)
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1 cup chopped fresh mint, stems removed
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
2 tsp (10 mL) pure almond extract
2 Tbs (30 mL) favourite booze (Baileys, Amaretto, Grand Marnier etc.)
Pinch of sea salt
Finely chopped toasted nuts, such as almonds pistachios, walnuts, pecans
Finely ground coffee beans
Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Heat the cream over medium-high heat just to the boil – there should be bubbles around the edge of the pan. Turn o the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 2-3 minutes. Stir the mixture well until it is smooth.
- Divide the ganache into separate bowls and avour as you like. I poured mine into two bowls and added about 2 Tbs (30 mL) of Irish Cream to one and 2 tsp (10 mL) of pure almond extract to another. If using mint, add it after the cream simmers, remove from the heat and let steep for an hour. Strain away solids, return the cream to a simmer and proceed with recipe.
- Cover the ganache with plastic wrap and refrigerate until rm, about 2-3 hours.
- When the time comes to roll your truffles, place whatever you would like to roll them in into shallow bowls. Scoop about 1 heaping teaspoon of truffle filling, roll in the palms of your hands and gently roll into your garnish. I find wearing disposable gloves helps, as it is a messy job. If rolling into icing sugar, be sure to do so just before serving as the sugar will dissolve as it sits in the fridge.
- Place the finished truffles on a tray and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Truffles will keep well if placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 1 week.