Monday, February 21, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Truffles

Trio of Truffles
So I mentioned truffles in my last post. Yes, I was crazy enough to attempt two desserts for Valentine's Day. The truffles didn't quite get finished that night due to needing time to chill, form into balls, and cover. But the cookies went over very well, so all was well.

I had never made truffles before, and as much as they sound fancy and intimidating, I found in my internet research that the recipes looked exceptionally simple. There was even one on the back of the Ghirardelli chocolate bag (we all know much I love those recipes!), and I thought I missing the other half of the recipe, it was so short. So I chose two favorites - a more simple one from Vanilla Garlic, and a more complex one from Two Sisters.

Let me say that all truffles are essentially the same - a heated cream that is then poured over chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips), mixed until smooth and chilled, and magically becomes the tasty treat called ganache. The details are in what gets added to the ganache, and how you finish the rolled balls (sprinkles, dipping, rolling). So it would be very easy to add just a key ingredient into the ganache or choose a variety of toppings to easily get a variety of these guys to match any mood or time of year. The other thing is that you can change the type of chocolate for the ganache, and add variety that way too.

Here's the Vanilla Garlic recipe:
Dark Chocolate Bacon Truffles
Makes about 30 truffles

1/4 cup + 7 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of fine chopped bacon
8 ounces of 60% or 70% chocolate (chips or well chopped)
cocoa powder for rolling

1. Cook some bacon in a skillet until well cooked, but not burnt. Place on some paper towels and press, being sure to soak out all extra grease. Dice into small pieces until you have a 1/2 cup.

2. Place heavy whipping cream in a small, heavy saucepot over medium heat and bring to just under a simmer. Take off heat.

3. Sprinkle in chocolate and cover for 5 minutes, allowing the chocolate to melt in the hot liquid. Stir gently until combined. (This is called a ganache.) Fold in the chopped bacon.

4. Pour into a bowl and cover. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

5. Using your hands dusted in cocoa powder and a teaspoon roll out balls of chocolate about 1/2-1 inch in diameter. Roll in cocoa powder and place on a plate. Store in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.

*It's much easier to roll these with very cold hands. I put a jar or two of water in the freezer when the ganache is cooling. Bring them out when you are rolling. If your hands get too warm, hold the jar and chill your hands so the chocolate doesn't begin to melt.

For the record, I much prefer dark chocolate over milk. So I used half semi-sweet chips and half 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips. And I cooked mainly from the Two Sisters recipe, meaning that I heated the heavy whipping cream in the same pan the bacon cooked in, and had the bacon bits in the cream as it was heating. Where I made the mistake of deviating from their recipe was where I did not strain the bacon bits out when I poured the cream over the chocolate. It made it much more difficult to whisk the chocolate and know when it was smooth.

melting chocolate with bacon fat
If I were to do it again, I would heat the cream in the pan the bacon was cooked in (still retaining some of the fat and bits from the bottom of the pan), but kept the bacon bits out and folded them in after the ganache was smooth. This is how the Vanilla Garlic recipe says to do it. This also would have given me a chance to do a finer chop on the bacon, as it is much more difficult to chop bacon when it's raw than after it's nice and crispy, and you definitely want a fine chop in the truffles

The Two Sisters recipe also makes a lot of truffles! So if you want to start small, go with the measurements from Vanilla Garlic, or at least halve (even quarter!) the Two Sisters recipe.

Now, I obviously have a curious nature, and wasn't sure which topping version I wanted to do. So I figured I'd ask the hubby what he wanted. He wasn't much help, and I ended up doing 3 (well, technically 4) different topping versions. But all the truffles had hints of bacon at least, in the ganache. The first version was rolled in cocoa powder, like the Vanilla Garlic folks. The next version was dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate. I also had a version dipped in a melted mixture of semi-sweet chocolate and bacon fat. That's the version I also sprinkled bacon brickle onto some of. (Those followed the Two Sisters recipe, just one I put the brickle on and one I didn't.) The version without the brickle was my favorite of the truffles. It's one of those things where it's hard to figure out exactly what makes it taste so good, but it's got to be the bacon fat, because the truffles dipped in just plain melted semi-sweet chocolate just don't have that something.

Dipped, with bacon brickle
As to the bacon brickle itself, mine definitely did not come out looking the way the picture in the Two Sisters recipe did. So perhaps it's because I used plain white sugar instead of turbinado sugar, but it just didn't caramelize very much. But I don't think the truffles needed it anyway. They're rich enough on their own, and if I wanted the crunch, I probably would pick a crushed almond to sprinkle over it or roll it in instead. I just didn't like the added sugar flavor. I should also mention here that I do not like maple flavor, and I think that's what the recipe was going for, so it's really no wonder I didn't love the brickle.

The version of the truffle rolled in cocoa powder was definitely the easiest to do, and many people said it was their favorite. But I didn't have unsweetened or dutch-processed cocoa powder on-hand, so I used dark chocolate Ghirardelli hot chocolate powder, which has added sugar, and I would have much preferred a more bitter outer coating. I like my chocolate dark and headed more towards bitter anyway, though (just like my coffee!), so I can see how some people liked the added sweetness.

Side note: as a kid I did not realize that "Baker's Chocolate" meant unsweetened, and tried to sneak a piece out of the cabinet. Let's just say that was a lesson learned in the sneaking desserts book, although I had to learn it all over again with the "Unsweetened Hershey's cocoa powder" that they decided to package almost exactly the same as the hot chocolate powder! Yuck!

See the pretty sheen of the bacon fat & chocolate?
I really like how the chocolate-dipped truffles turned out, though, with the dualing textures of a bit of a crunch on the outer shell and the softness of the ganache on the inside. And a great tip I found in my searches was to use a fork to dip the truffles in the melted chocolate, and even better if you use a plastic one and break out one or two of the tines so the excess chocolate drips off easier and faster. Oh, and make sure you chill the balls first, or you could have lots of melty chocolate, and all that hard rolling work you did before would be right out the window.

The trick to forming the truffles was chilling the ganache just long enough that they'd hold their shape, but not so long that you couldn't form the balls at all. I think 2-4 hours would be the perfect timing. Overnight was definitely too long. In fact, I tried to bring them to room temperature and it took hours, to the point that I just melted the ganache all over again in a double-boiler, and then chilled the ganache in its glass bowl for an hour or so. Then I started dropping spoonfuls of ganache onto SilPats and waxed paper on cookie sheets and chilling them for a few minutes before rolling them into balls.

rolling the truffles is messy!
I did not use the Vanilla Garlic tip about keeping my fingertips cold with the glass of water, because I had such trouble with my ganache being so cold to begin with that I couldn't roll it into balls. When I finally got the ganache to the perfect temperature, I used a rounded measuring 1/2 tablespoon (or a teaspoon would have worked too) to scoop out the ganache and roll it from there onto the SilPat or waxed paper. I used my fingertips to do all the rolling since they melted the chocolate better and made it easier to work with, but by no means is the process refined or clean. Expect to get your hands dirty and have fun with it! It's not clean or pretty forming those balls, but in the end, that smooth center to bite into is definitely worth it!

That's it! It probably took you longer to read this post than it would have to make your own!

1 comment:

  1. I've made truffles before and they did come out delicious, though it's quite a messy process! Yay for you for trying so many different toppings. :)

    I had the exact same experience with baker's chocolate as a kid. Heh. :)