project wedding dessert bar: part 10 (chocolate cognac truffles)
** I wrote this 2 days before the wedding, thought I’d have time to type up the recipe before the wedding, was threatened by the blue screen of death on my laptop, Jay fixed it, and then (inevitably) got wrapped up in other pre-wedding matters. **
It’s almost 4 a.m., and I’m wide awake. I’ve been too excited about the wedding to sleep soundly. As a result, I’ve been running mostly on adrenaline since the sleepless nights began this past Sunday.
In my sleep-impaired state, I’ve decided to deviate from my original plan to share dessert bar recipes in the order that I make them. So I’m hopping ahead of part 8 (toffee) and part 9 (caramels – fleur de sel, and spiced bourbon), which I promise to share at a later time (most likely post-wedding; turns out I still have cookies to bake off, chickpeas to crisp up, and s’mores brownies to figure out … not to mention memorizing the vows I wrote and learning new moves so our first dance isn’t entirely awkward and reminiscent of junior high school slow dances).
Instead, I would like to share these chocolate cognac truffles, which are decadent but not too fussy – especially if you can rope someone into helping you form them into balls. It’s probably best to start with a more uniform selection of chocolate, but these truffles were admittedly an afterthought composed of leftover chocolate from other dessert bar projects. Hence the haphazard selection, including semi-sweet, bittersweet, and 100% chocolate.
The most important thing is to use chocolate you actually enjoy the taste of, which I made sure to do even if my particular combination was quite … diverse.
The second most important thing is to chop the chocolate into small, uniformly sized pieces. This helps ensure quick, even melting.
Beware that, when chopping chocolate, a mess is unavoidable. There will be chocolate slivers everywhere, waiting for you to accidentally put your hand down and then seizing the opportunity to create a melted mess.
I like to keep a wet rag on hand to wipe up the chocolate slivers, lest they creep onto my fingers, bowls and seemingly everything else within reach.
After a quick wipe-down, pour out some cream.
Now it’s time to scald the cream, which means just barely bringing it to a boil. I did this in the microwave (being careful to check every 30 seconds or so to make sure it didn’t over-boil), but a small pot on the stove would be more traditional.
Immediately pour the just-barely-boiling cream over the bowl full of chopped chocolate, and let it sit for a minute to allow the chocolate to start melting. Maybe use that minute to wipe down the inevitable chocolate slivers that had somehow escaped notice earlier.
Gently stir the melting chocolate with the cream. I preferred using a spatula; just don’t use a blender, mixer or anything that will mix a lot of air into it, as this will mess up the texture.
Just keep stirring. Just keep stirring. Just keep stirring, stirring, stirring. What do we do? We stir, stir, stir … at least until it looks uniform and chocolatey.
Then add rich, creamy butter to smooth things out. Make sure the butter is room temp (or fake it in the microwave), or else it won’t melt in!
More stirring, until the butter is melted and evenly distributed.
Then give me a generous pour of cognac …
… for the truffles, of course. Not to drink. Although I won’t tell if you sneak me – or yourself – a sip or two, so long as you pour the rest into the ganache.
After a few stirs, pour the cognac ganache into a shallow dish, which will make for easier scooping. But before starting the scooping endeavor, refrigerate the ganache to harden it up a bit, which will make it a tad harder to scoop but much easier to form into a ball.
Scoop the chilled ganache into small balls. Your hands will get messy. Embrace the mess. The sooner you get over it, the faster you’ll scoop out the ganache and form it into cute little balls. And there’s a lot of scooping to be done still.
Eventually, you’ll reach the bottom. Emphasis on “eventual.”
At this point, the chocolate balls will be looking a bit soft. So let the rolled ganache chill out a bit in the fridge to harden back up.
After some chill time, roll the balls in cocoa powder, ground pistachios or other nuts, toasted coconut flakes, powdered sugar, or whatever else your heart desires. FYI: Cocoa powder and powdered sugar are the easiest coating agents.
But I vote for adding a little color with nuts. Pistachios are especially great for fall, Halloween, and even Christmas. You could even add some red sprinkles (or orange for Halloween!) to the pistachio mixture for a super festive look.
These babies can be stored for a month at room temperature, a few months in the fridge, and I’ve even heard they stay for a few months in the freezer (although I haven’t tested the freezer version).
Or put them on a beautiful vintage glass dessert tray at your wedding and watch one of your aunts down them by the handful. True story.
Chocolate Cognac Truffles
Made 15 dozen, but could easily be divided to make a much smaller batch
Be sure to use room temperature butter or it will not melt properly into the ganache.
2 lbs. bittersweet chocolate (or mixture of dark chocolate you have on hand)
2 c. heavy whipping cream
3/4 c. (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. cognac
3 c. cocoa powder (unsweetened, preferably Dutch process), powdered sugar, finely ground nuts, toasted coconut flakes or other topping of choice
Chop chocolate into small, similarly sized pieces. Transfer into large glass bowl.
Scald the cream by just barely bringing it to a boil on the stove or in the microwave (took me about 3 minutes in the microwave). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for 3 minutes. Once chocolate has started melting, slowly stir until smooth.
Add butter and cognac, and stir until well incorporated. If you have a large but shallow container, transfer the ganache into that for easier scooping later on. Cool ganache for at least one hour in the fridge. Do ahead: I prepared things to this point, allowed the ganache to cool completely, and then covered it with plastic wrap and saved the scooping for the next day.
Remove ganache from fridge, and roll into decidedly imperfect balls about 3/4- to 1-inch in diameter, using a melon scoop, teaspoon, or regular spoon. Place balls on a tray as you roll, and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to re-set the ganache.
Pour cocoa powder or other finely ground topping of choice into a shallow bowl or container, and roll ganache balls in the topping until well coated.
Store in airtight container at room temperature up to a month (assuming your home isn’t 80 degrees F like mine was when I made this – so I stored mine in the fridge lest they melt), or for up to 3 months in the fridge. I’ve also heard they can be frozen for even longer lengths of time, but haven’t tested that myself (if you test that, let me know!).