handmade gift: pierre herme chocolate-caramel truffles

Valrhona chocolate, originally uploaded by mikefranklin.

these are the best chocolate truffles i've ever had, and the easiest to make. make them with good chocolate, and they'll taste like the best rolos you've ever had.

from chocolate desserts by pierre herme

1 cup (250 g) heavy cream
10 oz. (285 g) bittersweet chocolate (around 70%), finely chopped
6 oz. (170 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 1/2 T (1 1/4 oz.; 40 g) butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
pinch of sea salt
dutch-processed cocoa powder (valrhona is the best!)

1. bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan and keep it hot. mix the chocolate together in a heatproof bowl that's large enough to hold all of the ingredients; set aside.

2. working in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt about 3 T of the sugar. when the sugar starts to take on color, stir it with a wooden spoon and add another 3 T of the sugar. stirring constantly, caramelize this new batch of sugar, then add another 3 T. continue until all of the sugar has been added and it turns a rich amber color. lower the heat and, still stirring, add the butter and salt. the caramel will bubble and froth--just stir in the butter, then, still stirring, stand away from the pan and add the hot cream in a slow, steady stream. the caramel will froth even more fuiously--just keep stirring until it is smooth. when the caramel settles down and is smooth, remove the pan from the heat.

3. pour about one-third of the caramel into the center of the chocolate and, working with the wooden spoon, gently stir the creamy caramel into the chocolate in ever-widening concentric circles. when the ganache is smooth, add half of the remaining caramel, blending it into the chocolate in circlesm then finish with the rest of the caramel in the same manner. pour the ganache into a baking pan or bowl. put the pan in the refrigerator and, when the ganache is cool, cover it with plasic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours.

4. when you are ready to shape the truffles, spoon a generous amount of cocoa powder into a bowl, and set out a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator and scoop up a scant tablespoonful of ganache for each truffle; put the dollops of ganache on the paper-lined pan. dust the palms of your hands with cocoa powder and, one by one, roll the mounds of ganache between your palms to form rounds. don't worry about making them even--they're supposed to be gnarly and misshapen. as you shape each truffle, drop it into the bowl of cocoa powder, toss it in the cocoa so that it is well coated, and then very gingerly toss it between your palms to shake off the extra cocoa. as each truffle is finished, return it to the parchment-lined pan.

makes about 55 truffles

keeping: if the truffles are no too soft, they can be served as soon as they are coated, or they can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, covered and away from foods with strong odors.

since these are pretty delicate, you'll have to give them away quickly. but you'll have friends for life. trust me.

where to shop:

country cheese shop on hopkins--so much chocolate to choose from
spun sugar--chocolate, wrappers, boxes
whole foods--chocolate
japanese dollar stores like ichiban kan (there's now one in el cerrito) and daiso also have lots of sushi papers you can use for truffles.
paper source--a great selection of boxes and ribbons

chocolates i love:
el rey
cocoa barry