Happy Valentine’s Day, internet!
There are still a lot of times that I miss working at the Chocolate House of Ann Arbor, especially around Valentine’s Day. It was fun watching couples come in and decide which chocolate they wanted to spoil themselves with, or see individuals come in and ask for our opinions on what their partner would like best. I’ll never forget one night when this poor schmuck ran in, literally, to the shop and said to me, “I *need* some chocolate, I’ve fucked up real bad!”. My heart went out to the poor guy. I don’t know how exactly he ‘fucked up real bad’, I’m hoping that he didn’t cheat on his lady, but I wanted to help him out. I sent him back to his ladylove with a bag full of chocolate covered strawberries and house-made peanut butter cups and various truffles.
My all-time favorite times at the Chocolate House were in the late afternoon when the shop was calm and I could really get into the chocolatier zone. Melting chocolate at 15-30 second increments so that it wouldn’t burn in the microwave, rolling ganache into little balls and tempering dark chocolate to dip them in. It was almost like meditating. My mind would focus on nothing as my hands did all of the work on auto-pilot.
Sadly, I’ve hardly made any chocolates since the shop closed. I wanted to go big for this year’s Valentine’s Day, so I called up my manager from the Chocolate House (who is also now my media director for this blog!), Jessica Hallon, and asked her for her latest truffle recipe. She knows that I’ve gone lactose-intolerant and can’t enjoy the original truffle recipe with heavy whipping cream. Jess has perfected a truffle recipe using almond milk! I was so stoked to give it a try.
I started by melting 1 lb. of chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. To melt chocolate properly in the microwave, so that it won’t burn, put the chopped chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring gently between intervals – even if it doesn’t look like any of it has melted yet! If the chocolate doesn’t get stirred around, it will overheat, clump up and start to burn. And burnt chocolate tastes and smells like feet.
If after a few intervals of 30 seconds, you see that most of the chocolate has melted, but there are still some small chunks of chocolate. Give it another 15 seconds in the microwave and then just keep stirring it until all of the chocolate melts together.
Once the chocolate is smooth and delicious, heat up 1/4 cup almond milk for 15 seconds in the microwave. You want the almond milk to be warm but not boiling. If you just added cold almond milk to the melted chocolate, the mixture would freeze up because of the sudden change in temperature. The chocolate is essentially getting ‘shocked’ by the cold milk, which we don’t want. You also don’t want the almond milk so hot that it will burn the chocolate when it makes contact. About 15-30 seconds in the microwave is perfect, you want it to be a little steamy.
I poured the almond milk into the melted chocolate mixture and mixed it together gently. You want to be gentle with the chocolate, you’re not tenderizing meat here. Once the almond milk was completely incorporated into the chocolate, I noticed that the texture completely changed. When using heavy cream for truffles, the ganache will get very thick and remain pretty smooth. When I added the almond milk, the ganache looked a little oily, but was still soft. Jess’s words were that at this point, I should have a ‘shiny chocolate marvel in my bowl’. It was certainly shiny…I was a little nervous, but I decided to stick the mixture in the fridge anyway and see what I got out of it.
After 25-30 minutes of chilling, I pulled the cooled mixture from the fridge and started rolling it into balls with my hands, about the diameter of a quarter. I set the little balls of ganache onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Once I had rolled all of the ganache, I set the cookie sheet back in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so. You want the chocolate to stay cold as you’re working with it so that everything stays clean, the ganache won’t start to lose its shape or melt once you dip it in the chocolate coating.
I melted another 1/2 lb. of chocolate for the coating with the same process as above, except that I had to temper the chocolate first. Tempering chocolate is the time-temperature process used to manipulate fat in the chocolate to develop the correct fat crystal type and size. What that really means is that you take extra care and time to chop the chocolate very, very finely so that when it melts and sets, you don’t get those strange, discolored, bubble-looking things over your truffles.
I dropped the rolled ganache into the melted chocolate and used a fork to roll the ganache around and cover it completely. Once the ball of ganache was covered, I tapped the fork on the edge of my bowl so that the excess chocolate would fall through the prongs of the fork. This way, when I dropped the coated ganache onto the cookie sheet, the chocolate would not pool around the bottom and give the truffle a flat base. You can also use a spoon for this, but I’ve found that a fork does a good job of losing the excess chocolate. And if the chocolate does pool around the base of the truffle on the sheet, you can use a knife to cut it off once the truffle is completely cooled.
After coating reach truffle, drop them onto the cookie sheet one and gently press some chopped or slivered almonds onto the top. Repeat for each truffle, and put them back into the fridge to set when you’ve coated each one. If you have any chocolate left over, you can totally drizzle it over the truffles and get fancy with it!
Like I said, I was nervous for these truffles because I wasn’t sure if my ganache had turned out right. Even if it wasn’t right though, these still came out excellently! I brought the batch into work today and got great feedback on them! These almond truffles were still just as soft, rich and creamy as their full dairy counterparts. And they looked like I’d spent all day on them! Really it was only 2 hours, max.
So if you want to treat the object of your affections with some to-die-for chocolates, or you’re another poor schmuck who’s “fucked up real bad”, make these almond truffles and you’ll impress your love, and hopefully get out of the doghouse in time for Valentine’s Day.
Recipe for Almond Truffles – from the lovely Jessica Hallon
1 ½ lb Dark Chocolate
¼ cup Chocolate Almond Milk
½ lb Chopped Almonds
1 large spoon
Begin by separating ½ lb of the Dark Chocolate and put aside for coating later.
Break the rest of the chocolate into small chunks then put the chocolate into a microwaveable bowl and heat it up for 30 sec. then stir, then put back in the microwave for 15 sec increments. It usually takes a total of 45-55 seconds. It is key to remember to stir the chocolate between increments and with gentle stirs.
Heat up the almond milk in 15 sec. increments, it usually takes a total of 45 seconds, heating the milk in increments helps to keep the milk from overheating and boiling over.
Stir the almond milk into the melted chocolate with gentle strokes more like a folding motion. Once the milk and chocolate are thoroughly mixed together you should have a shiny chocolate marvel in your bowl.
Place the bowl of chocolate/ganache in the refrigerator for 5 min, While that is cooling off, put 1-2 cookie sheets on your kitchen table or counter and line with parchment paper. Take the chocolate/ganache out of the fridge and with a big kitchen spoon scoop out spoonfuls of the chocolate onto the parchment paper leaving 1 inch in between each dollop. When you are done scooping it out place the cookie sheets in the fridge and leave in there for 20-30 min.
Put out another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper on the table/counter. Grab the chopped almonds in a bowl and bring out the cookie sheets from the fridge and roll the dollops to make them as round as possible, Do not worry about them being perfectly round.
Then melt the remaining chocolate in 15 sec. increments until it is thoroughly melted. With your fork, dip the ganache in the melted chocolate and place them on the unused cookie sheet. I personally recommend you dip 3 at a time then sprinkle the chopped almonds but you can do it one at a time just make sure the coating does not harden and you are still able to place the chopped almonds on top. Then set aside and let the chocolate set and feel free to drizzle some chocolate on top of you have any left over.