Homemade Truffles for Valentine's Day

Chocolate Truffle
Valentine's Day is almost here, and if you're planning on spending a small fortune on chocolates for your sweet, hold up! Consider making your own chocolate truffles -- in addition to the "OMG, you shouldn't have" look, you'll get bonus points for having taken the time out to make something by hand.

Ok, so I know I've lost some of you already. Hear me out. "But truffles are soooo haaarrrrrd to make," I can hear you sighing. "I could never do that." Au contraire, mon cheri. Despite the fact that stores charge big bucks for these little balls of chocolate love, truffles are actually one of the easiest candies to make. Within an hour you'll have a few dozen handmade chocolate truffles, and a one heck of a fabulous Valentine's Day gift. And if you're sweetie is of the vegan persuasion, I've got you covered with a vegan truffle recipe as well.

First things first: You'll be melting chocolate, which means you'll need to chop it first. Like, chop it as finely as possible. It's easy to chop the long, flat bars you get from the baking section of the grocery store, and I recommend you use a large chef's knife or my weapon of choice: a meat cleaver. If all else fails, don't fret. You can use semi-sweet chocolate chips without suffering any dire consequences.

Second: You must use a double boiler to melt your chocolate. Any other means of melting will burn the chocolate or turn it into a seized up lump of concrete. If you don't have a real double boiler, never fear. Find a pot and a large bowl that will snugly fit in the pot without slipping into it. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't rest in the water. Rather, you want there to be a good inch or two between the bottom of the bowl and the water in the pot. Also, be sure to not get any water into your chocolate mixture, lest it seize up. If this happens, you'll need to dump it out and start over. Sad panda. For more information, check out this guide on melting chocolate.

Now, let's get our hands dirty!

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Basic Chocolate Truffles Recipe
Yields about 24 3/4" truffles.

Ingredients:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Possible Coatings:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup chai spices
1/4 cup of whatever fun, powdery thing you'd like to roll your truffles in
Small foil cups for packaging (available from your local craft store)

Instructions:
Fill the bottom of your double boiler with a few inches of water, set it over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Have the chopped chocolate waiting in the top of your double boiler but not yet set over the heat.

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream just until you see bubbles start to fowl around the edges of the pan. Immediately pour the cream over your chocolate. Set the bowl over the waiting double boiler, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and mixed with the cream. Stir in vanilla and Grand Marnier, then cover and refrigerate until firm enough to handle (about 4 hours).

That's it! Seriously! And in case you weren't aware, you just made a chocolate ganache, one of the most delectable substances in the dessert world. Go you!

After your ganache has firmed up, line a cookie sheet with parchment. Scoop about a teaspoonful of ganache and then, working quickly, roll it into a sphere shape with your hands. Set the rolled truffles on the lined cookie sheet, and keep going until you've finished all of your chocolate mixture. Your truffle may look a little sticky at first. That's fine, we'll smooth them out in a second.

Note: Try to make sure your hands are as cool as possible or your truffles will melt as you roll them. It might be a good idea to keep a paper towel or two nearby, so that if your hands get caked with chocolate you can wipe them off. It also helps to stick the bowl of ganache back in the refrigerator for 5 minutes if you notice it getting super sticky.

Coatings
Let your chocolate truffles sit for about ten minutes at room temperature, or stick them in the fridge if it's a warm day (say, above 70 degrees). Add cocoa powder (or hazelnuts, or powdered sugar) to a small round-bottomed bowl. One at a time, pick up your truffles and roll them between your hands for a few seconds to barely warm the surface, then drop them in the bowl of coating. Toss the bowl a bit until the truffle is completely covered in coating, then set it back on the cookie sheet. If you end up with a too much coating on your truffles, don't shake them off until after they have firmed up again.

Once you're done, put the cookie sheet full of truffles in the fridge for half an hour. Once they're firm again, shake off any excess coating and put them in little foil cups for decoration.

These chocolate truffles will keep in the fridge for two weeks, but can be kept at room temperature for a few days. I like them a little softer, so I pull them out of the fridge a few hours before serving.

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For a little variety, check out these other truffle recipes:

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