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Chocolate Truffles can be served as is, or rolled in lots of different enhancements. Here, we used cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, and pulverized freeze-dried raspberries. To make this topping, place any freeze-dried berry in your blender or food processor and whirl until very finely ground.

Food and Drink / Column

Top treats for Valentine’s Day

Making chocolate desserts and other delights is simple and memorable

Dorothy Read and her family run the Readmore Inn in Bellows Falls, where she has made these recipes for her guests.

BELLOWS FALLS—As Valentine’s Day approaches, the shops are filled with a staggering variety of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and candies.

Although the satin-and-ribbon trims offer a promise of deliciousness, too often we find treats that are just a little too sweet or way too light on actual chocolate flavor. In my book, chocolate on chocolate is what Cupid’s arrow points toward — and the darker, the better.

With a few rules in hand, making chocolate desserts and other delights at home is not hard at all and produces some memorable results.

But there are a few simple rules to follow.

At the heart of many of these creations is ganache, a basic mixture of heavy cream and chocolate melted together which can be transformed into countless dishes. Form it into a truffle, pour it as a glaze, or spread it as a fluffy frosting — all that differs is the proportion of cream to chocolate and the addition of a few other ingredients. This is a handy recipe to commit to memory. (Don’t worry — it’s as easy as they come.)

Basic ganache

Basic ganache is equal parts of chocolate and heavy cream. That’s it. I use local cream that is not ultra-pasteurized and chocolate without additives and stabilizers for the best results. But in a pinch, a bag of good chocolate chips will do.

Even those who are not a fan of sweet frosting will love this one!

For a simple ganache glaze, heat to simmering but not boiling (it should just start to steam):

¶8 ounces heavy cream

Pour over:

¶8 ounces of cut-up chocolate or baking chips

¶A pinch of salt

Let sit for a couple of minutes. Then, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix it all together until well-blended. You do not want to whip and add too much air.

Set the mixture aside for a few minutes, then pour it over a cake or cupcakes to make a lovely, drippy glaze that remains soft. You can also add to the cream to enhance flavor:

¶1 tsp. espresso powder

If you want to whip the ganache for frosting, let cool a bit, then place in the refrigerator for a half hour, no longer. If I plan ahead, I make it directly in the bowl of my standing mixer to save dishes.

Once cool, begin mixing on low speed. Stop after a half a minute or so, and scrape the bottom of the bowl. Put the speed up to medium/high once you have a little volume.

If you like, add, a little at a time:

¶6 Tbsp. butter

Continue whipping until the ganache develops a nice consistency. The butter adds to the body and the shine, but it is not essential.

Change up the chocolate proportions and you can make truffles; add a couple more and create a decadent double dark chocolate truffle tart for that special Valentine’s Day dessert.

Double chocolate truffle tart

You’ll be asked to make this one again! Just give yourself plenty of time to make this simple-but-decadent chocolate dessert by starting the day before. Actual hands-on time is pretty quick.

You can make this recipe gluten-free by using the basic recipe on Bob’s Red Mill website for the crust. It is simple, and it comes out really lovely.

You can also use a nut-based crust, a regular flour-and-butter-pastry tart shell, a chocolate-cookie crust, or even one you purchase already-made. Bake in a tart shell with removable bottom for the prettiest presentation.

If you like sweeter chocolate, use milk chocolate, or a combination of milk and dark chocolates.

This is the mint version; you can also use any dark-chocolate bar you love. I’ve made this recipe most often with Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper bar, and it is outrageously wonderful! Or, think about the wonderful combination of orange and chocolate and decorate it with candied orange peel.

¶1 baked 8-inch tart shell of your choice

¶10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

¶1{1/4} cups heavy cream

¶1 tsp. instant espresso powder

¶Pinch of salt

¶{1/4} cup ({1/2} stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

¶2 large eggs

Mint glaze:

¶{1/4} cup heavy cream

¶1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

¶18 Andes Crème De Menthe Thins or around 3 ounces other flavor chocolate, chopped

For the tart: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place the chocolate in a stainless-steel or glass bowl.

In a small saucepan, warm the cream, espresso, and salt to a simmer. Gently pour the warmed cream mixture over the chocolate. Let it sit for 1–2 minutes so the chocolate will melt.

Stir gently until it is all incorporated. Drop the butter into the mixture a pat at a time and let it melt.

Strain the eggs through a mesh strainer. (This tart should be smooth and silky, so don’t skip this step.) Add the strained eggs to the chocolate concoction, making sure everything is combined well.

Pour into the baked tart shell and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, it will still look loose in the middle when you jiggle it. Don’t worry; it will set. Cool, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, make the mint glaze and top the tart.

For the mint glaze: Cut up the chocolate and place in a glass bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer and stir in corn syrup. Pour over the chocolate. Mix gently as the chocolate melts.

Pour this mixture over the tart, directly in the middle. It will spread.

Chill for another 2 hours or so.

About a half hour before you are ready to serve the tart, pop it out of the pan and place it on a pretty plate. You can add a dollop of whipped cream, but this dessert really needs nothing else. It is rich, so you can plan on this little baby serving 12 to 16!

Chocolate truffles

I like a mix of dark and semi-sweet chocolate in this recipe, and I sometimes use just the bittersweet. You can use the milk chocolate if you prefer.

If you are avoiding dairy, use full-fat coconut milk rather than the cream, and stick to the dark and semi-sweet chocolates.

Use 3 ounces of cream if you want a slightly firmer truffle, 4 ounces for softer. If you like, add chopped dried fruit to the chips before adding the cream.

¶4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

¶4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

¶3 to 4 ounces heavy cream

¶1 tsp. espresso powder

¶2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

¶1 tiny pinch cayenne

¶1 tiny pinch salt

Bring the cream and espresso powder to a steamy simmer, then pour gently over the chocolate chips. After a couple of minutes, stir to combine. Add the butter, cayenne, and salt, and mix well. Place in a shallow dish and refrigerate for about an hour, until workable.

Remove from the refrigerator and let soften just a bit. Use a melon baller or spoon to dig out the ganache and form into a ball. You will have to roll them in the palm of your hand, and it is deliciously messy. It is a little less so if you wear plastic gloves, but you’ll still want to lick your fingers!

As you roll the truffles, place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. They do not have to be perfectly formed; in fact, they shouldn’t be, since we are trying to mirror the naturally irregular shapes of the savory ground truffles!

You can leave your truffles plain or roll them in any number of coatings: cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, minced nuts, chopped coconut, or pulverized freeze-dried berries.

For the larger toppings, such as nuts, roll immediately so they will stick, then place back in the refrigerator to firm them up. For the finer toppings, freeze the formed balls for a half hour or so before rolling so that the wet surface does not absorb the coating.

Let them come to room temperature before serving.

Makes 24 to 30, depending on how you roll them, with lots of finger licking to go around.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #445 (Wednesday, February 7, 2018). This story appeared on page C1.

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