Happy, chocolaty weekend everyone!!
Something totally unrelated to quilts, EQ, or Inklingo today! I am going to show you how to make a small batch of ‘water based’ ganache for truffles. Don’t worry, the main ingredient is not water, but delicious chocolate :-). When you make only 6 to 8 truffles, you can make them exactly to your own taste, and experiment freely.
And you don’t need any special skills or equipment, it is super quick and easy. Just reading this blog post will take you longer than making the truffles ;-)!
Including preparations and cleanup, it takes me no more than 15 minutes to make the ganache, often less!
With no cream, butter, or vegan dairy substitutes to dilute the chocolate flavor, you will be amazed by the intense flavor. Somehow the water magnifies and ‘stretches’ several aspects of the chocolate flavor.
Don’t worry that you may be ruining perfectly good chocolate on your first try. You can always re-melt, and add some more ingredients to improve the flavor and consistency. If you’ve accidentally added too much liquid and ran out of chocolate to add, you will have a delicious chocolate pudding or chocolate drink!
If you use vegan chocolate (most dark chocolate is!) your truffles will be vegan too, and a lot healthier and ‘lighter’ than cream or butter based truffles. They contain less sugar, too! But all of that is not why I love these truffles. It is because they are delicious!!
So, let’s get started!
Ingredients for 8 small or 6 medium sized truffles:
- Half bar of dark chocolate, in small pieces. Use the best quality that’s available to you. (Although, do not melt a SOMA bar. That would be sacrilege.);
- Cocoa powder or grated chocolate for coating the truffles;
- Hot, boiled water.
- Optional ingredients:
- Pinch of salt (it can really bring out the sweetness of chocolate and deepen the flavor.)
- Sweetener (preferably unrefined, like organic raw honey, coconut sugar etc. Keep in mind what it tastes like in combination with your chocolate. Even if your chocolate is sweet enough as a bar, it will taste less sweet as a firmed up ganache. When the chocolate is still warm and melted, you can’t really tell).
- Spices, like cinnamon, chili pepper, etc.;
- Flavored liquids (like fruit juice) to replace part of the water. Total amount of liquid is about half the weight of the chocolate used. (I can’t be more exact, since not all chocolates have the same percentage of fat).
- Kitchen scales;
- Small cup or bowl (heat resistant);
- Small fork or whisk (forks are easier to (lick) clean :-));
- Silicone scraper or something similar to get the liquid chocolate out of the bowl;
- Small container to use as a mold for the liquid ganache. Exact size is not very important, just use a liner of cling film to shape your ganache;
- Piece of cling film, large enough to amply cover the insides of the mold and fold closed over the liquid ganache;
- Knife, to cut the ganache with;
- Cutting board;
- Small ziplock bag.
The pieces need to be small enough to melt quickly. Remember the weight of the chocolate you use. You need to add about half the weight in liquid.
Boil the water while you break your chocolate. If you can chop chocolate without making a big mess of your kitchen, go ahead!
It is easier to weigh the hot water than to use a measuring cup. So I leave my bowl of chocolate on my scales, and put the number back to zero.
I carefully pour the hot water over the pieces of chocolate, while keeping an eye on the weight. I added 16 grams of water to my 34 grams of chocolate (chocolate to water is about 2:1).
Make you sure you cover all of your chocolate in hot water.
There is no need to whisk the chocolate, but you do need to mix well and quickly. The small amount of water will cool off very quick.
Using a small fork allows you to press the lumps out of the melting mix.
You should end up with a smooth, glossy mix, about as thick as yoghurt.
I taste the chocolate, especially for bitterness/sweetness and added spices, before I pour it into the mold. It does not tell me everything, though. Warm melted chocolate will taste very different than set ganache, sweeter and creamier. The melted cocoa butter leaves a smoothing film on your tongue, which makes it hard to detect flavors and alcohol, for example. So be careful with additional flavors.
The cling film allows you to shape your ganache (at a later stage) without getting your hands dirty, and allows you to lift the ganache out of the mold easily.
If your mold is a bit too large, just fold in the cling film for a shorter size, so your ganache will not be spread out too thinly to cut 6 or 8 cubes.
While your ‘ganache’ is still liquid, it is impossible to make a rectangular shape if your mold is too large, so don’t fuss. Just fold over and close the cling film into a haphazard sausage shape, and put your ganache in the fridge to set for a while. If you’re in a hurry you can place it in the freezer for about 5 minutes. (Set a timer! You can really lose track of time once you start licking everything clean ;-)).
Make sure your setting ganache is covered well, so it won’t pick up any smells from the fridge.
If you need to shape your ganache into a rectangle:
Check the firmness of the setting ganache after 10 – 15 minutes. When it has a claylike consistency, take it out of the fridge for shaping.
First, I pull the cling film open and lift the ganache, to get rid of the creases. Next, I fold the film around the ‘clay’ neatly, and press the covered ganache on all sides with a flat surface, to shape a neat rectangle. I use a pancake knife, but you can use a ruler, a cutting board or whatever you have at hand.
Then I put it back in the fridge to set further. If your mold fits perfectly, you can skip the shaping step, and just let your ganache set for at least 90 minutes.
Depending on the chocolate you used and the amount of water, your ganache can be a bit crumbly, or a bit soft and sticky once it is completely set.
If you are happy with the taste and the consistency of your ganache, cut the rectangle into 6 or 8 cubes.
Start smallish, because these provide a lot of intense chocolate flavor, and a larger one may be too much if you are used to sweet and creamy chocolates.
If you are not happy with the consistency or the taste, you can re-melt and add hot water or chocolate (or both, and sugar etc.) to improve.
Remelting can be done in the microwave or au bain marie.
The microwave is easier for small amounts like these. Be careful not to burn your chocolate, because you can’t remedy that. Just use small bursts in the microwave and stir in between.
Once melted, add whatever you need, and repeat the steps above for making a nice glossy ganache base, mold and set.
Now it is time to finish your truffles.
Traditionally, you shape pieces of ganache into balls, and roll them through a plate filled with cocoa powder or something. I leave my truffles rectangular, because it is quicker, less messy and more hygienic.
So far, I have finished with cocoa powder and with grated chocolate. They each have their own pros and cons:
- I have used Vivani Hot Chocolate 62%, so I don’t have to grate my own chocolate. (I am thinking about doing that in larger quantities and storing it, since this 62% is fairly sweet. If you can find this delicious 72% Dick Taylor drinking chocolate, give that a try!)
- It can add a different (sweeter) chocolate flavor, and melts in your mouth.
- It does not absorb the water from the ganache as quickly as cocoa powder, so you can keep finished truffles longer.
- Flakes may fall off. It can quickly melt on your fingers or clothes, which can get messy.
- The quickest, cleanest way to finish truffles for me.
- Can give a dusty, bitter flavor. Use good quality cocoa powder! I prefer Dutch processed cocoa powder, with the highest fat percentage I can find.
- Is absorbed fairly quickly by the ganache, depending on water content, so you can’t finish very long before serving.
- Gives a rustic, non-candy look, which may suit the intense chocolate flavor of the ganache better!
- Does not stain as easily as grated chocolate.
So, when I choose to finish my truffles with cocoa powder, I take a small ziplock baggie with one bottom corner filled with cocoa powder. I just drop the pieces of ganache in through a small opening, only the number I am ready to eat or serve.
Shake the closed bag a bit if necessary, and take your finished truffles out! A small kitchen tong or pair of chopsticks may be helpful, especially if your bag is deeper.
I keep this bag with cocoa powder in the freezer, just so the powder does not get mould or something from small crumbles or smears of water ganache.
When I finish with grated chocolate, I just put a bit in an espresso cup, and put one piece of ganache at a time in it. I move it around with a small fork until it is completely covered.
Of course you can also finish with grated coconut, cereal or whatever. Just remember there is water inside the ganache, and your coating may absorb this quickly and get limp, unlike with cream or butter based truffles!
Your truffles will keep at least a week in the fridge, but because there is water in the mix, and not very much sugar (or alcohol) you have to keep them cool and hygienic.
If you found your perfect recipe (take notes!), you can make a much larger batch of truffles in about the same time.
About the chocolate to use
Dark chocolate is easiest to work with for this. The ratio of liquid in this tutorial is based on the cocoa butter percentage of chocolate of around 70% cacao content. Milk chocolate is a little more difficult (start with less liquid), and white chocolate is hard to get right with water.
Use really good quality chocolate, which has an interesting flavor development. Read the label for ingredients. Quality chocolate has few ingredients! Ideally just cocoa solids, sugar and cocoa butter. Sometimes vanilla or lecithin, which are okay.
Signs of poor quality: palm fat or other fats other than cocoa butter; synthetic aromas like vanillin etc. (which are not real vanilla); preservatives.
Flat flavored chocolate for water based ganache will really need some added flavors (booze, spices) to make an interesting or even just edible truffle.
I used 36 grams of The chocolate Tree 70% Chililique. It is the sweetest 70% dark chocolate I know, and will render nice water ganache all by itself. With other dark chocolates I usually add a little honey or something for truffles.
I start with a half bar, so I can always add more chocolate if I need, and compare flavors between the original bar and the truffles.
If I am experimenting with added flavors, I will use Original Beans, Valrhona, Vivani bars, or even a mixture of different chocolate bars (say an 85% percent and a 60% chocolate if I happen to have some ‘leftovers’). Depending on where you are, different brands may be available, and there are some great online sources for quality chocolate bars, too. My online enabler is chocoladeverkopers.nl.
About the liquid to use
Instead of plain water, you can also use fruit juice, fruit puree, coffee, tea or other infusions, liqueur, beer, champagne, rum etc. and even aromatic oils. Experiment!
However, do not replace all of the water with a strong tasting (alcoholic) liquid. The taste and/or the alcohol will have a strong presence in the ganache! Think teaspoons, or get rid of some of the alcohol by warming and stirring your booze. Keep in mind though, boiling delicate wines, whiskies etc. is probably not a good idea.
And, again, in a water based ganache, there is no cream or butter to smooth out bitterness, acidity etc. Do not ‘use up’ stale wine, old coffee, or other drinks you do not like, because you won’t like your truffles either.
Enjoy, and make sure not to stain your quilts!