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The (Ginger-Cognac) Truffle Shuffle!

The Stuff I used. Mostly!
Jen and I were pretty much on the same page vis-a-vis Valentine's Day. Granted, it helped that she was in town not for the "holiday" (I'll keep my feelings on contrived holidays to myself), but rather, primarily for a family celebration. But either way, we both independently chose to exchange gifts that reflected a gift of time and effort, not of shininess (or whatever). 

My gift to Jen was homemade chocolate truffles. I'd never made such a thing -- if you haven't noticed, I'm not hardcore into dessert-making. So I suppose that part of this gift was developing a skill she'll be able to take advantage of more than once. 

I kind of like this take on V-Day -- I think I've always tried to be a little subversive about the holiday by doing something simple, but in a way that reflects effort and thoughtfulness. 

The recipe I found called for:

-8 oz. of high quality bittersweet chocolate
-4 oz. of unsweetened chocolate
-1 (12 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
-8 T. unsalted butter

Clearly, it was in the last two ingredients that my creativity had room to shine. The recipe offered suggestions for "flavoring"; most involved a few tablespoons of a flavored liqueur and some essence of the corresponding flavor (i.e. 6 T. Grand Marnier and 1 T. orange zest). 

Never wanting to rely completely on a recipe, I thought and thought and thought. Finally, it hit me -- among my favorite liqueurs is Domaine de Canton, a ginger cognac delicacy (great in champagne or with a splash of whisky). Add to that a little fresh-grated ginger root, and I figured we had a solid start on our hands.

I started by coarsely chopping my chocolates. For the bittersweet, I'd opted for a solid Godiva; for the unsweetened, I used Baker's, which (usefully) comes packaged with each one ounce segment individually wrapped. 


Next, I went at the ginger, peeling the root then finely grating it. I wanted to prep this stuff first because, as anyone who's worked with melted chocolate knows, it can be fickle and require a lot of attention. Hah. Anyways, I wanted to have everything ready.

Once I was set to proceed, I threw the chocolates into a small saucepan over low heat with the butter (cut small) and the milk. The key here was to stir or whisk constantly to avoid burning the chocolate; I could have sped the process up by using a double boiler, but I don't own one and I was too lazy to MacGyver one up.

Still lumpy.
After my chocolates melted, in went the liqueur and the ginger. I transferred the mixture into a large bowl, and into the fridge everything went to set, theoretically for two hours.

For anyone trying to do this at home, this whole "getting cool" part did NOT take two hours, it took approximately forever. Since I was in a rush, I used the freezer for part of this process and the chocolate STILL wasn't where it was supposed to be. Whatevs, time, she was a wasting.

When it was time to start up again, I prepped my coatings. I had put together three options -- toasted walnut, unsweetened cocoa, and cinnamon. Only after I tasted the mixture did I realize it would be a crime to introduce a new flavor at this late stage. And it would be rookie. So, I whisked the cocoa with a half teaspoon of ground Chinese ginger, and put this into a largish cereal bowl.

Using a scoop, I began the awesome and messy process of molding about a tablespoon at a time of the chocolate into a ball, then tossing it with the coating. After about 30 minutes of this, I had FORTY TRUFFLES.

Oh, also: MESSY, right?
What the hell was I going to do with forty truffles? "Here, Jen: a satchel of truffles. A saddlebag of truffles. A... lot of truffles." How romantic, right?

Instead I gave her a pretty little bag of six (because truffles are the sort of thing that should be given in numbers to savor, not chow, right?). I scored brownie points by giving the rest to her family. POINTS.

Here is the ALMOST final product: 

I say "almost;" in a stroke of creativity I decided to roll them in my palms once more before wrapping, which had the effect of knocking off excess coating and smoothing the ovoid shape a tad. Sadly, I didn't photograph the product after this additional step. But trust me, they looked awesome.

Final thoughts: This was fun. And really not that expensive, which makes me feel dumb for buying 4 or five dollar truffles in the past. And there's room for endless creativity, which is pretty fun -- I might even say this would make a fun date activity. All around -- a keeper!

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