Friday, June 3, 2011

Berbere-infused Robert Linxe Truffles

These truffles are a testament to my affinity for chocolate. I started them at 9 p.m. on a school night, after finishing the berbere paste and the nit'ir qibe for my Ethiopian dinner.

I didn't need to make truffles. My friend Thomas was making an amazing birthday cake that I knew would be the perfect end to the meal. But as soon as I read about truffles filled with a chili-chocolate ganache, it was all over. The dinner just HAD to have Ethiopian spiced truffles, and, despite the fact that no one knew to expect them, I was certain the meal wouldn't be the same without them.

Deb brought her own addition to Robert Linxe's truffles by suggesting a great way to organize yourself while making the truffles. The addition of Berbere spice paste is my contribution. Only the tiniest amount of Berbere is included in the ganache, however it contributes a complex depth of flavor to the truffles.

Initially, you almost don't taste the berbere spice blend. But then it's there, lingering behind after the initial chocolate taste fades. It's not hot, but it gives just the right amount of spice.

Note: If you want to photograph the truffle-making progress, recruit help. Trying to photograph the process while my hands looked like this was not easy. My camera was covered with chocolate by the end.

Robert Linxe's Chocolate Truffles with Berbere Spices
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Robert Linxe's Bon Appetite recipe

The Berbere spice paste was definitely evident in the truffles, but it wasn't overwhelming. You could leave it out if you didn't have any lying around. I think it's worth it to buy a higher-quality cocoa powder. The Valrhona cocoa powder I got at Brooklyn Larder had a complex, smoky quality that contrasted nicely with the Berbere.

11 ounces chocolate (Linxe calls for 56% Valrhona chocolate; I used 70% Schaeffer Berger chocolate)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Berbere spice paste
Valrhona cocoa powder for dusting

Finely chop 8 ounces of chocolate, and put it in a bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. A small pan keeps the cream from evaporating, and a heavy pan keeps the cream from scorching. Whisk or stir the cream while heating it. Linxe boils his cream three times, which I also did, to make the ganache last longer. Boiling it three times causes more cream to evaporate, so you should add a little more cream to start with. I added an extra tablespoon or two of cream to compensate.

Pour the heated cream over the chocolate. Then, use a whisk to stir the cream and chocolate together in concentric circles, starting in the center and working your way to the edge. Do not beat the cream or you will incorporate air into the ganache. Continue stirring gently until the ganache is smooth. Carefully add the berbere spice paste (if using), whisking to combine.

Let the ganache stand at room temperature until it is thick enough to hold its shape, about an hour. I let my ganache sit for almost 1.5 hours, and probably could have let it sit a little more, but it was getting late and I was getting impatient.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon the chocolate ganache into a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch opening or tip. Pipe the chocolate into mounds about 3/4-inch high and 1-inch wide. When piping the truffles, finish off each mound with a flick of the wrist to soften and angle the point.

Freeze the chocolates until firm, about 15 minutes.

While the chocolates are freezing, prepare the counter for dipping the chocolates: First, melt 3 more ounces of the same chocolate in a small bowl. Fill a small bowl with cocoa powder and place it next to the melted chocolate. Then, place a small metal sieve or sifter on the counter. Finally, line another cookie sheet with parchment paper and place it at the end of the counter.

Remove the chocolates from the freezer. Put on latex gloves. Spread some melted chocolate on your hand. Pick up a chilled truffle and rub it on your hand lightly to coat led truffle and rub it to coat it lightly with chocolate.

Immediately toss each truffle in the unsweetened cocoa powder. A fork works best to toss the truffles. Shake the truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cocoa. I found that after a few minutes of working with the frozen truffles, I had to return them to freezer to firm up since they were starting to warm up and lose their shape.

Store the truffles in the refrigerator. Remove the truffles about 30 minutes before serving and allow them to return to room temperature. The truffles will keep for about three weeks (particularly if you boil the heavy cream three times!).

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