by Contributing Writer, Mary Cressler
I have a thing for chocolate, truffles especially (who doesn’t?). When planning my wedding, I had the grand idea to hand-make chocolate truffles for my guests to snack on for dessert. We had a traditional cake but wanted something a little more personal to offer our guests as well. And what’s more personal than a handmade gift?
Two days before the wedding, my bridesmaids and I found ourselves crowded into the kitchen of my tiny San Francisco apartment chopping chocolate and rolling approximately 200 truffles while sipping on wine (not a bad way to spend an afternoon).
I don’t remember eating a single truffle on my actual wedding day. I’m told they went quickly. But every time I’ve had a chocolate truffle since, then I am reminded of that wonderful day over 7 years ago.
It has been awhile since I made these, so I decided to surprise my husband for Valentine’s Day this year by using the same recipe I did for our wedding. It’s no secret that we don’t get out much since having kids, so with most of our dining done at home I like to surprise him when I can with something romantic and homemade. And I find chocolate truffles to be incredibly romantic – besides the obvious fact that they remind me of my wedding.
Store bought chocolate truffles can be very expensive (browsing the section at Whole Foods the other day I saw they charge $1.49 per truffle!). These cost a fraction of the price (averaging less than 30 cents per truffle), are ridiculously easy to make, and look and taste just as elegant as anything you can buy at the store.
So why not surprise your loved one this Valentine’s Day with this delectable treat? I’ve even paired them with wine for you.
The most important ingredient in these, and one not to skimp on, is the quality of chocolate. With so few ingredients it is vital to use a good quality chocolate because that is what the end result will taste like. They need not be the most expensive, just good quality (and one you love to eat alone). For these I used Ghirardelli simply because it reminds me of San Francisco (where my husband and I got married), and the quality is good. I’ve used Trader Joes Pound Plus bars in the past and they work just as well.
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (you can use bittersweet chocolate too, but my husband prefers the flavor of semisweet, so go with what style you like better)
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other orange flavored liquor)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Cocoa powder
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Caramel and sea salt (what could be better than that?)
- Finely chopped or ground toasted nuts
- Melted chocolate
- Finely chop the chocolate with a sharp knife then place in a large stainless steel or glass bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, just until it starts to boil.
- As soon as the liquid starts to boil immediately pour it into the bowl over the chocolate.
- Add the Grand Marnier and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer for at least an hour (or in the refrigerator for several hours), until the mixture is firm.
- With a melon baller (or a small spoon), scoop out small spoonfuls of chocolate and roll them into small bite-size balls. Work quickly here because once you start rolling the chocolate with your hands they will start to melt in your hands.
- Roll the balls into the cocoa powder or confectioner’s sugar (or other toppings of your choice). Place on baking sheet or tray, cover, and transfer to refrigerator.
Pairing wine and chocolate can be tricky. In general, you want to find sweetness levels that compliment each other. It’s also recommended that you find a wine that is just a touch sweeter than the chocolate. This can be hard to gauge.
Since I used dark semisweet chocolate, I wanted a wine that had complimenting flavors: a rich texture and body, chocolate notes, dark berry fruit, and a touch sweet. I tried the truffles with several different styles of wine to find a good match.
The standout pairing with these truffles is with a Ruby Port. Ruby Ports typically possess more ripe berry fruit and are moderately sweet compared to other styles of Port. You can go with a traditional Ruby Port from Portugal, or try a port style wine made elsewhere in the world.
The Yarden 2T port-style wine by Golan Heights Winery, made from two traditional Portuguese varieties (Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao) was a fantastic pairing, elevating the flavors of both the wine and the truffles. If you can’t find the wine, or find the price tag a bit high (at $50), then seek out a Ruby Port from Portugal. You can find some excellent examples for around $20 or less.
We also tried the truffles with a 20 year Tawney Port, just to see the results, but I would shy away from that. The flavors of the Tawney are exquisite and delicate on their own, and are overpowered by the richness of the chocolate. Therefore stick with a Ruby Port with truffles. Leave the Tawney for nuts or cheese.
If you are not craving a port style wine, then Zinfandel can be a nice match for these truffles because they tend to be lush with rich dark berry fruit and a hint of sweetness, which all work to compliment the chocolate.
Two wines that paired well were the Federalist “Dueling Pistols” Red Blend (blend of 50% Zinfandel 50% Syrah) from Dry Creek Valley, California, for around $35. It also went equally well with the Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Vine Vintners Blend, also from California, for only $10 (in fact I think the truffles actually make this particular wine taste better than it is on its own!).
Regardless of which wine you chose for your chocolate, Port style or Zinfandel, or other, you are sure to impress your valentine with these truffles. As for me, it’s a win-win situation–chocolate, wine, and a reminder of the most romantic day of our lives.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners.
She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Connecticut with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.