Tired of making the same shortbreads year after year, and looking for new ideas for your holiday food gifts? Something with a real “wow” factor? Or are you looking to add a touch of elegance to your holiday cocktail party with a make-ahead treat that will really impress? These dark chocolate truffles are beautiful, decadent, and as easy as you want them to be!
Last night was our holiday party. It was an intimate gathering of 15 or so close friends. No kids, just a rare adult night of cocktails and interesting conversations. I was uncharacteristically laid-back about the menu. Just a few bite-size sweets and savories. No fuss. I didn’t even have a final menu until the day of!
But the one thing I knew from the beginning I wanted to serve were these dark chocolate truffles. I made them years ago as bridal shower favors for a friend and they were a big hit. For some reason I didn’t get around to re-creating them until now, but I’m so glad I finally did.
The ganache center for these dark chocolate truffles is super easy to make. Just melt some chocolate, make a quick caramel and combine the two. The result is a rich, silky-smooth dark chocolate center, with a hint of toasty caramel flavor.
How you want to coat them is up to you. You can simply roll them in cocoa powder. Ridiculously easy. Or, if you don’t mind a bit more of a project, you can dip them in chocolate. Here too, you have options. You can simply melt the chocolate, dip the truffles, and keep them refrigerated, or you can do as I did and temper your chocolate before dipping them.
The point of tempering the chocolate is so that it will stay beautiful and shiny at room temperature. Untempered (or improperly tempered) chocolate left at room temperature tends to “bloom”, which means that it develops grayish streaks, and a crumbly texture. It is totally safe to eat, and tastes fine though, so if this happens don’t toss them!
Tempering, I will tell you, is something that has taken me a while to master. While it’s technically a simple process, chocolate can be a finicky thing. I won’t get into the details of specific temperatures or the chemistry of it here, for a couple of reasons. 1) the details are widely available on the webs with a simple google search, and 2) the method I’ve found to give the most consistent results does not require any knowledge of these things, and in fact, does not even require a thermometer at all. All you need is a little patience. (Seriously, do not rush the process!)
The number of steps below might look scary at first, but read through them and you’ll see it’s really very simple, and can be boiled down to:
slowly melt some chocolate, and slowly mix in more chocolate. Stir a lot.
The extra details are just there to help you avoid some of my own early mishaps!
So without further ado, here’s how I temper chocolate.
How to temper chocolate the easy way
1 – Finely chop chocolate. Put 3/4 of the chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. (I find that plastic is best, as it doesn’t seem to heat up as quickly as glass or ceramic. And slow heat is key here). Set the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate aside.
2 – Microwave the chocolate on full power for 30 seconds (15 seconds if you are melting less than a pound of chocolate). Remove from the microwave and stir. Repeat once or twice more, until the chocolate has begun to melt.
3 – Continue heating the chocolate but reduce to 15 second increments, and stop when the chocolate is about 70% melted. At that point, stir with a rubber spatula until the residual heat has melted the remaining chocolate. The idea here is to melt the chocolate as slowly as possible. If you do want to check yourself with a chocolate thermometer, you should register between 105 and 115 degrees F. Be sure not to go over 120 F or the chocolate will be overheated.
4 – Throw a handful of the remaining chocolate into the bowl, and stir vigorously, scraping the sides of the bowl with the spatula as you go. You want to really agitate the chocolate, while keeping a smooth stirring motion, to avoid creating air bubbles.
5 – Continue to add more chocolate, stirring to melt completely after each addition, and reducing the amount of chocolate in each addition, until you find that it is no longer completely melting. Here, you can pop it into the microwave for no more than 5 seconds, just to warm it up enough to get rid of any unmelted lumps.
6 – Stir the chocolate vigorously for 2-3 minutes, until completely smooth and shiny.
7 – Test the temper by dipping a metal spoon into the chocolate and setting it on the counter. After about 5 minutes (or sooner), it should set up hard and shiny, with no streaks or swirls.
NOTE: If it does not start to set up after 5 minutes or so, avoid the temptation to pop the spoon into the fridge has this will give you misleading results. It is probably just that the chocolate has not cooled down enough yet. Instead, add a bit more chocolate and keep stirring. Try the spoon test again.
If you find that after 5 minutes, the chocolate on the spoon has set up, but you can see some oily-looking swirls or streaks if you look closely, this usually means that the chocolate hasn’t been agitated enough. Give the chocolate another good stir for a minute or two and try the spoon test again.
Dipping dark chocolate truffles
Hopefully you now have some perfectly tempered chocolate and you’re ready to start dipping your dark chocolate truffles. Since it can take a while to dip all those truffles, I like to heat up a dish towel in the dryer and wrap it around the bowl while I’m working. This helps keep the chocolate at a good working temperature for longer. Stir it periodically while you’re working, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Dip your dark chocolate truffles, working as quickly as possible. It really helps to have these tools for dipping, but a regular fork will work too.
These dark chocolate truffles with caramel are guaranteed to impress! I love giving the gift of food at the holidays. If you’re looking for other ideas, here are a few you might like!
Wishing you love and happiness this holiday season! xx