I hate cigarette smoke. I really do. Every now and then, however, I catch the faintest whiff of the stuff and it sends me into sort of a romantic tailspin. This scent, possibly stale or even weeks old, has the power to send me reeling back in time to old boyfriends, my months of study abroad in France, and my father dressed in his stately, plaid, button-down shirts (in the days before he developed emphysema).
Scent is a powerful thing. It’s truly remarkable and probably the one sense, apart from taste, without which my passion for life would really suffer.
I do not classify cigarette smoke as a good scent necessarily. If I did, I am certain my inbox would overflow with email messages to the contrary. In general, I believe there are two basic categories of good scents. There are the scents that are objectively amazing like freshly cut grass and sun-drenched tomato vines. And, on the other hand, there are those scents that have special meaning to you whether or not the majority of the population would agree. Stale cigarette smoke is a good example. Or, perhaps you love the smell of expired sunscreen because it reminds you of summer? I could not possibly disagree.
For me, there is one scent that rises far above the pack. You might assume it’s the smell of bread baking or shallots frying in olive oil. Both are excellent guesses. However, while I agree those scents are glorious and invigorating, they do not compare to the rich smell of chocolate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the smell of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven or the smell of a chocolate orange cracked into pieces on Christmas Eve. It’s all wonderful. In fact, I cannot recall a time when I felt otherwise. The chocolate scented scratch n sniff stickers were always my favorite. I scratched them with such vigor they were barely recognizable. I have the sticker books as proof of this phenomenon.
Nowadays, hardly a few hours pass during which a craving for chocolate doesn’t take hold of me.
Despite these cravings, I rarely cook chocolate sweets. Their power over me is too strong. I can’t control my impulses and, thus, I routinely deprive myself of one of the most fabulous treats on earth. However, I realize it’s December. This is clearly not the time for deprivation or personal tests of will power. The holidays are barely around the corner and I have no interest in depriving all of you of the fruits of my chocolate labors.
Besides, I am a firm believer in edible gift-giving. A bottle of wine disappears into your host’s hands the moment you hand it over, but a box of homemade chocolate truffles is a marvel. A box of fresh chocolate never fails to result in much fawning, savoring, and genuine thankfulness. Chocolate melts even the coldest hearts. It’s a much loved thing.
I am quite certain you are at least vaguely familiar with the power of chocolate. If you are not aware, however, you will learn soon. This is the year you will plan ahead. This is the season you will leave the bottle of wine behind and arrive at the holiday party amidst a fragrant cloud of fresh chocolate. You will be popular beyond your wildest dreams because you will bring your host a box of homemade chocolate truffles.
Are you with me? I hope so. Making truffles at home is not a trial. It’s a joy. It’s easy. It’s fun and it’s a wonderful task to do with friends on a rainy (or snowy) winter afternoon. Split the work and enjoy the proceeds. No one will be disappointed.
I used the recipe from Tartine this week, which I like a great deal. I suggest you start out in this manner as well, but feel free to experiment a bit. Chocolate is somewhat forgiving. I use the term “somewhat” because I don’t want you to believe you can fiddle too much with the measurements. You can’t. However, you can add a flavor here or there. A drop of vanilla is heavenly. A bit of peppermint, perhaps. Or, roll the chocolate in mint, coconut, or anything you think compliments it best.
Eat and enjoy the power of chocolate.
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tblsp. light corn syrup
5 tbslp. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup cocoa powder (substitute with topping of your choice e.g. crushed nuts, grated coconut)
Place the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the cream and corn syrup and heat to just under a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Allow it to sit for a minute or two. Stir with a rubber spatula in a circular motion until the chocolate melts. Add the butter and stir until it is incorporated. Let the mixture firm up in a cool place until it can be piped from a pastry bag. The amount of time for the mixture to become firm depends on how cool the room is. Or, place in the refrigerator to speed the process.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (no. 6 or 7) plain tip. Pipe out long logs, about 1 inch wide. Place in the refrigerator and chill well, about 1 hour. If you don’t have a pastry bag and tip, you can leave the mixture in the bowl and refrigerate in the same manner.
Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and cut the logs crosswise into about 1 inch long pieces. Or, if using a bowl of mixture, remove a spoonful at a time. Roll each piece between your palms into an irregularly shaped truffle and then roll between your palms. Once the truffles are shaped, place the cocoa powder in a shallow bowl or small pile and roll each truffle in the cocoa coating evenly.
The truffles will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Source: Tartine Cookbook