As you might already know, I go through some sort of a chocolate-marathon twice a year – once as the Easter holidays are coming closer, once for the Christmas holidays. The results of these sticky days don’t just serve the purpose of bringing smiles to the faces of those receiving my chocolate boxes as presents for the gigs, they’re also the times I experiment around and come up with new creations fitting into the months ahead. This time of the year, of course, the contents of my chocolate boxes go along winter’y lines, inspired by the scents hanging in the air whenever I leave the house, thanks to the many, many christmas market stands, cafés and bakeries selling their festive goods out in the biting cold.
A lazy sunday-afternoon stroll, enjoying our postcard-shot December weather – bonechillingly cold, blue sky, lots of sunshine – inhaling deeply and catching all these scents, led to me really going to town with those intrinsically christmas’y aromas this year, skipping the fruity and light chocolates I usually add to the mix to lighten up the full brunt of my winter-chocolates entirely for the first time.
Here’s the chocolate menu I came up with, a walk across a christmas market, condensed and packed into a small box of chocolates~
Vanilla Cream & Salted Almond Chocolates
Salted Butter Caramel & Spice Cookie Chocolates
Spiced Wine Truffles
Luckily I had help this year – a friend of mine asked me to teach her some of the chocolate basics and we fought our way through 3 kilos of chocolate and around 5 kilos of other items together– so instead of 3-4 days, I only spent 1 ½ days submerged in chocolate up to my elbows. Normally, after a marathon like that, the mere thought of chocolate sends chills down my spine and I skip the stuff for several weeks. Not that I don’t taste-test the ganaches, mixtures, spice blends and all that jazz in coated-fingertip-fuls, I just literally can’t stomach the finished chocolates after being coated with it and surrounded by a cloud of chocolate for 3 or more days – at least not right away. Very shape-friendly, that – given the occasions I’m making these for you might have already guessed it’s also quite the consciously timed strategic figure-saving measure – but with inconvenient side-effects when you’re about to dish out an entirely new creation.
The “entirely new” guys on this year’s menu are the Spiced Wine Truffles. I tasted the wine – of course, I usually stick to the “pour one glass into the cook and the rest into the pot” rule~! – I tasted it again after the spices had done their job, I tasted the ganache before we left it to set, I enjoyed their scent as I was rolling them up the next day… and I totally didn’t get the uproar these truffles caused once they were done – the day after? Not in the mood to actually taste what I work over… Anyways. Other people’s “over-the-moon delight” kind of clashed with my “They smell nice” when last I had contact with them in a way that really bugged me, so, against my current, overdose-induced aversion to chocolate, I gave them a last taste-test before the majority of the boxes left my kitchen en route to their recipients. And another. And again… Hm! With my tastebuds dancing in delight (and my overdosed stomach churning in protest) over the fruity, spicy, winter’y and absolutely non-chocolate’y chocolate truffles, I decided to make these the first of this year’s recipes I’m going to share with you guys.
The Spiced Wine Truffles
Depending on how big or small you roll them you’ll get 20-40 truffles out of these amounts
250 ml Strong, dry red wine – for once, I’ll tell you guys exactly which one we used, since the result was absolutely mouthwatering thanks to the wine: Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo. That’s actually the “usual Tempranillo” I mention every once in a while~
1 unwaxed Orange, zest and 2 slices
1 empty Vanilla Pod
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Star Anise
3 green Cardamom Pods
3 Allspice Berries
3 Black Peppercorns
250 g White Chocolate, coarsely chopped
50 g soft Butter
50g Cranberries, finely chopped
125 g Blackcurrant Powder – well-sorted online shops specializing in pâtisserie tools and ingredients usually have concentrated, dessicated powders like this one in stock
1) Set a pot large enough for the wine onto medium heat.
2) Pour in the wine and add the orange zest and slices as well as all of the spices. You could also use a ready made spiced-wine blend – you can find those in the tea section of most supermarkets – and add some more spices to it as you see fit. Orange and a stick of cinnamon never hurt~ If you want to take a shortcut without the need to add something yourself, have a look around your local tea shops. I’ve had incredibly tasty loose tea blends for this kind of thing and, if you take a good whiff of the loose mix, you can have more spices added to it right then and there I most cases.
3) As soon as the spices are in, your work with the wine is done. Leave it to sit and simmer away on the stove until it reduced down to about 75ml. During that time all of the alcohol will have poofed out as well, so no worries about boozy chocolates.
4) Chop up the cranberries, place them in a small bowl and sprinkle them with 2 tsp of your blackcurrant powder. Set the bowl aside for now, you’ll be needing it later after discarding the spices.
5) As soon the spiced wine in your pot is closing in on the 75ml level, strain it through a fine sieve to remove the spices. Measure the amount and, if necessary, pour it back into the pot for a last round of reducing.
6) Once you’re there, stir in the cranberries and blackcurrant powder. Turn the heat to low to keep the wine warm.
7) Place the chocolate bits in a bowl and set it onto a pot of gently simmering water.
8) Heat up the chocolate until it’s about halfway melted, then pick up a whisk and get to work stirring while adding the warm wine in a slow and steady stream.
9) Take the bowl off your waterbath once the mixture has a nice and even, purple color.
10) Keep whisking for a minute longer, then set the bowl aside and give the mixture roundabout an hour to cool down to room temperature.
11) Tightly cover the bowl with clingfilm and place it in the fridge to chill for at least 8 hours. I usually make truffle ganaches in the evening and simply tuck them into the fridge for the night. Once my morning coffee kicks in the next day, the ganaches are ready as well – just keep in mind that, should you go ahead and double the amounts, you will need to adjust the resting time as well – double the time the original batch-size would take, plus an additional hour.
12) Now for the st~icky part. Use CSI gloves. Seriously, go buy some if you don’t have any a hand, you will most likely loose a lot of the ganache if you’re even able to roll them before they melt all over the place.
13) Before you snap on the gloves you could cool down your hands under running, cold water – or, if it’s cold enough outside, open a window. That may sound silly, but I’ve never handled a ganache like this before. It seems to be on the firmer side of things, but as soon as it gets into contact with the warm skin of your palms, a thin layer of cream and butter seems to instantly coat the surface while the rest stays just as firm. And, like a greased marble, those things are a slight pain to handle. Keeping the room and your hands cool helps a lot.
14) Anyways, line a tray with a sheet of baking parchment.
15) Pick up a teaspoonful of the ganache and roll it into a ball as quickly and gently as you can. If the mixture turns too soft to be shaped -between- your palms, form a sort of V-shaped cup by bringing the pinkie-sides of your hands together and gently wriggle the truffles into shape.
16) This first round doesn’t have to be perfect, they will be chilled again and re-rolled anyways. Just portion them and get them in a round-ish form at this point.
17) Once you’ve soldiered your way through the bowl of ganache, pop the tray holding the proto-truffles into the fridge again for about 3-4 hours to firm up again.
18) Last round~! After the truffles had enough time to chill through and firm up again, pop the blackcurrant powder into a small bowl.
19) Quickly re-roll the truffles if necessary, place them in the bowl and swirl them in the powder to coat them all around. If you want, you can, once more, roll them in the powder again after gently pressing the first coat into the surface. Have a bite of your truffle-so-far first, though. These powders – depending on quality, storage or simply the ripeness of the fruit prior to being freeze-dried and crushed – can be on the sour side of things. Don’t go taste-testing the raw powder, though – they taste rather… for lack of a better description: dusty. They only develop and release their original aroma once they come into contact with moisture.
20) Set the individual truffles into small chocolate paper cups and place them in an airtight container.
21) Like all chocolates, they have to be kept chilled and sealed away in airtight containers. While chocolate in general loves to take on other aromas, as soon as you add cream, or even worse, butter, merely thinking of cheese or other usual suspects in your fridge is more than enough to make your truffles taste like whatever went through your head. So, keep them sealed and chilled until you’re ready to serve them~
22) Speaking of serving – once you open your box, you might notice the formerly bright pink blackcurrant powder looking darker or wet. That’s normal, after all, there’s moisture in the truffles. If the darker color bothers you and if the powder taste-test gave you a “there’s room for more” type of result, roll them in the powder again before showing them off~
23) Tightly sealed and chilled they’ll keep for 2-3 weeks. In theory. If you have sweet-toothed people with access to your fridge, you can probably kiss that theory goodbye~
Just on a side note: Chocolate-truffle’y speaking, these are quite non-fussy to make. The wine needs some time to gently reduce – during which you can cover everything else and then some – and the ganache needs a night to chill. A bit of sticky rolling-action the day after and you’re done, so, just in case you need something last-minute for the holidays, these could be your guys for the job~
P.S.: If you’re particularly interested in one of the other chocolate’y delights on this year’s Winter Box Menu, let me know! You might find the recipes for the most popular ones coming your way soon~