Thank you Passionate Cook for hosting this event.
Since Mexico is widely credited with bringing chocolate to the world, I thought I would head south of the border for the inspiration for my truffles. These are not your mama’s truffles in the sense that they are very boldly flavored. One of the characteristics I love best about chocolate is how it comes alive when paired with pungent spices. Especially when chocolate is in a form where the texture is dense and creamy, like in a truffle, it seems to marry well with a little heat.
For these truffles I used El Ray extra bitter 73.5% cacao, because my husband and I are total dark chocolate fiends. When I make them to give away, I will still use the El Ray chocolate, but I will use the 60% cacao version. The reason I selected that particular brand of chocolate is that while it has a nice opening and a lingering earthy finish, it is relatively flat in the middle. I thought this would create a lot of space for the aggressive flavors I had planned for the dish. In the past, when I have used Callebaut and Valrhona for projects I have found that the taste of the chocolate is so dominant that I have a hard time introducing other flavors.
When you bite into this truffle, your mouth is filled with a luscious creaminess. The dense chocolate melts over your tongue, amplified by the robust earthiness of coffee. Your nose is tickled by the faint background of cinnamon and almond. While the truffle melts away your mouth experiences a gentle heat, a tickling of your taste buds introduced by the cayenne pepper and the hints of liquor. This fades away into a delightful finish, which is full and round while the chocolate, coffee, and cayenne pepper all compete to be the last flavor you remember.
All silly poetry aside, these are delightful. I rolled them in ground almonds, unsweetened coco powder mixed with paprika, and unsweetened coco powder mixed with confectioners sugar to give three different looks. In the future, when I make them with other chocolates or sweets, I will just use the almonds, in keeping with the theme.
Mexican Chocolate Truffles
8oz good quality dark chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 tsp finely ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
2 tbs kahlua or other coffee flavored liquor
1 tbs unsalted butter
ground almonds or unsweetened cocoa powder for rolling
Finely chop chocolate. (I find that a serrated knife works best for this.) In a small saucepan, bring cream, cinnamon, cayenne, almond extract, vanilla extract, and salt to a simmer. When bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan, remove from heat and let sit, covered for a few minutes. Add the chocolate, and let sit for three to five minutes for the chocolate to begin melting. Stir until chocolate is smooth and well combined.
If the chocolate is not melting, heat gently. If the chocolate gets oily/chunky looking, which happens to me from time to time (including this time) add a small amount of cold cream and continue to stir until the chocolate re-combines. (Fortunately, in my truffle research, I ran across that advice on the Epicurious website in a recipe by Jacques Torres. He indicated that the chocolate seizes like that because it has become shocked by the temperature difference.)
Once the chocolate is smooth, stir in the kahlua and the pat of butter. Pour into a dish (I used a nine inch glass pie pan), and chill covered for several hours or overnight. When you are ready to roll, scoop small amounts of chocolate (I used a small melon-baller dipped in hot water) and roll them with your palms until they are rough balls then roll them in your topping of choice. I like to store them in the refrigerator, and take them out several hours prior to serving.