Salted Chili Chocolate Truffles

Holy crap, it’s 2012! Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a fun New Years Eve involving lots of good food and champagne, like I did.

I’m starting this year’s blogging with a Victorian moral tale. Yes, there is a Rash Person who makes foolish choices. The consequences are severe and immediate. Yet, humbled by her thoughtless hubris, she sees the error of her ways. She does not give up. No. Through hard work and perseverance she is able to overcome the obstacles her actions have placed in her path, even though at first they seemed insurmountable. Our story concludes with our heroine in a Methodist church, basking in the warm cheer of good friends and celebrating her newfound piety. (Okay, maybe the church part didn’t happen.) Our story concludes with our heroine, slightly tipsy, sitting at a dinner table in Camberwell happily watching her friends enjoy her salted chili chocolate truffles. Later there was a bonfire and more champagne.

So here’s the story. I’ve been obsessing, mildly, on chili and chocolate. My favourite confectionery in the world, bar none, is Theo Chocolate’s Ghost Chile Salted Caramels. They are utterly extraordinary: the first taste sensation is the salt crystals against the slightly bitter dark chocolate. Then the smooth soft caramel sort of spreads itself on your tongue, and then, as the fat dissolves, there is a slow hot breath of chili at the back of your throat.

So when I was invited to a New Years Eve party, I decided to make chili chocolate truffles. Truffles are very, very easy to make. Much easier than making a soft butter caramel and enrobing it in perfectly-tempered dark chocolate. Truffles are just a ganache that has been cooled, rolled into balls, and then (traditionally) dusted in cocoa powder so they look like real truffles, i.e., the kind pigs snuffle out in French and Italian woods. A ganache, in its purest form, is simply cream mixed with melted chocolate. But most online recipes for chili chocolate truffles frustrate me. They just don’t have enough heat. Maybe there’s a timid ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, which is mixed into the chocolate ganache and doesn’t do more than gently tickle your tastebuds with the suggestion of heat. So I thought: why not bump up the chili? And then enrobe the truffle in dark chocolate, and sprinkle on more chili and a few grains of salt to throw the flavours into contrast? So far so good.

But then I thought, why do we scald cream for ganache? The chocolate does melt better and more smoothly if you add the hot cream to the chocolate (or the chocolate to the hot cream) rather than melting the chocolate first and then adding the cream. But I had bought Jersey cream. What if scalding it destroyed its lovely buttery flavour? I rapidly did some online research and found a post on scalding milk that said,

Many older recipes called for you to scald milk . . . Scalding served two purposes, to kill potentially harmful bacteria in the milk, and to destroy enzymes that keep the milk from thickening in recipes. Pasteurization, however, accomplishes both of those goals, and since almost all store-bought milk in Western countries is pasteurized these days, scalding is essentially an unnecessary step.

Done. I wouldn’t scald the cream. So I chopped the chocolate and melted it in a double boiler. Then I added the cream, mixing all the while.

And then . . . my ganache broke, meaning the fat separated from the solids and it turned into a grainy mess. Disaster!

I mixed more vigorously, which just made matters worse. This “ganache” was disgusting, and unusable. Understand, I had just melted about a pound of excellent quality dark chocolate. The thought of simply throwing it away pained me. I put the whole bowl in the freezer, then pulled it out and mixed again. Even worse. Back to the internet for more research. A lot of people said if your ganache breaks, you should give up and start over. That answer was NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I continued looking. Then I found a website on how to rescue a broken ganache.

Chocolate tempers at 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit (31-32 degrees Celsius). Essentially, by adding the cool cream to the warm melted chocolate I had wildly destabilized the molecules. I had to restore the equilibrium. This website said I should heat half the ganache to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and cool the other half to 60 degrees, and then slowly combine them. The mixture would return to 90 degrees, and equilibrium would be restored. I followed this advice, grunting and whisking furiously away at my chocolate. Still nothing doing. The temperature wasn’t right, or maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I spread the mixture into a flat dish, put it in the fridge for several minutes, then pulled it out and whisked again. Something miraculous began to happen. The stubborn granules began to get smaller. I continued to whisk, muttering “ah” and “yes.” Then . . . success! I could see the transformation happening, as the fat slowly incorporated into the chocolate and ultimately (with about ten more minutes of vigorous whisking) my ganache was restored to silky smoothness.

So there are two morals to this story. First, it is possible to rescue a broken ganache. Second, do as I say, not as I do.

Ingredients

400 grams (about a pound) excellent-quality dark chocolate (I used a mixture of Valhrona and Green and Black)

250 grams (about a cup) cream

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper

250 grams couverture chocolate (high-quality cooking chocolate that has a higher percentage of cocoa butter (32-39%) – check the wrapper of the cook’s chocolate that you buy)

Red chili flakes, pounded into bits (or you can use a spice shaker to filter out the large pieces – my method)

Fleur de sel

(You will also need toothpicks or bamboo skewers.)

Method

Finely chop or grate 400 grams of chocolate and transfer to a bowl. Add the two tablespoons caster sugar. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, scald the cream (heat it to just before boiling) and then pour it over the chocolate (or, after you remove the cream from the heat, slowly add the chocolate to the cream), stirring all the while, until chocolate is thoroughly melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cayenne pepper, then pour the lot into a shallow dish, and transfer to your refrigerator to cool for a minimum of one to two hours, or until the ganache is set.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a melon baller, ice cream scoop, or spoon, scoop out the ganache by about double tablespoonfuls and roll it between your palms into balls. If the ganache gets too soft to work with, simply return it to the refrigerator for a few minutes. Place the balls on the parchment paper and return to the refrigerator to cool for about an hour.

Line another baking sheet or board with parchment paper. Melt the couverture chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water until smooth. Then, using two toothpicks, swirl the truffles in the chocolate until covered and transfer to the parchment lined sheet. (Don’t let them touch one another.) You can use one of the toothpicks to smooth chocolate over the little toothpick hole in the top. Sprinkle each truffle with a few flakes of chili and a few grains of fleur de sel. Allow to cool for at least an hour at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill until the chocolate is hardened.

Makes about 40 one-and-a-half to two inch truffles.

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33 thoughts on “Salted Chili Chocolate Truffles

  1. Well done you for persevering. I am always pushing the boundaries of cooking with chocolate too….. there is nothing like a bit of money loss or the need to use those ingredients cause you cant go to the shops again type motivation! And brilliant combination. Happy New Year

    • So humiliating to break my ganache. I hate it when I do stupid shit in the kitchen. But YES there was a happy ending, and the truffles were delicious. A nice smoky heat, but not overpowering, and delicious with the salt. Happy New Year to you Tania!

  2. Love the writing, particularly this bit, “The stubborn granules began to get smaller. I continued to whisk, muttering ‘ah’ and ‘yes.’ Then . . . success!” These sound delicious, I love chili and chocolate and haven’t tried the Theo’s chocolates you mention, but Tango’s El Diablo has long been my favorite Seattle dessert and I regularly put cayenne in my cocoa. As for your truffles, they sound delicious and I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll have some on hand for your birthday shindig in the states, as celebrating the wonder that is you is a far more worthy occasion than New Year’s eve . 😉 xoxo

    • Thank you Kelli! Coming from you that’s a huge compliment! It used to be that you could only get the Theo ghost chile caramels at the Theo factory but now they sell them in the Madison Market and Whole Paycheck. They are, simply, AMAZING.

  3. Happy New Year! Your truffles sound lovely — lots of heat for me too, please! 🙂

    Just a thought on truffle making: I think there’s another point to scalding (full rolling boil) the cream — it makes it hot as hell. When you pour it over the chocolate the temperature should immediately drop to just above the splitting range (anything under 35’C, which is when chocolate crystals start to form), which gives you time to agitate the chocolate and cream together to form an emulsion. If your ganache does start to split, you can warm over a water bath (but not over 40’C) to bring it to a good temperature to stir together again.

    • I know, exactly! It’s not worth cooking with chocolate unless you use the good stuff. Thank you very much for the nice comment, and thanks for stopping by.

  4. I would love these — without the salt. I love dark chocolate and chile (and caramel for that matter), but I don’t want any salt in my sweets, thank you. I know many people like salted caramel and chocolates with sea salt or fleur d’sel. I belong to a different gene pool, apparently.

    • Fortunately the salt is an add-on at the very end so you can do this without. I do love salt and desserts. (Trendy, I know, but it tickles my tastebuds!)

  5. Oh god, I wish I had never seen these, now I have to make them and eat far too many of them. That ganache tip is great, its happened to all of us, never knew it could be fixed.

    • I also didn’t know it was possible to repair a broken ganache — it was sheer desperation! (The party was only about four or five hours away.) Do let me know if you try this recipe, and please let me know what you think. And thanks for visiting!

  6. Lovely recipe, images and story.Went on a chocolate making day recently. Was told that boiling cream prolonged the shelf life of the truffle.Also chocolatier showed us how to coat truffle by:
    putting on latex gloves, pouring a little melted choc in palm of one hand, dipping and removing truffle with other hand. Was very quick and easy.

  7. Hi Susan – Decided to have a go at making your truffles, 1st time ever, as they sounded lovely. Just made the ganache and it broke!!! Was able to rescue it though following the method you used, phew!! Thanks a lot for a great recipe and really helpful advice.

  8. Found your blog while searching for a fix to my “broken” ganache this evening. Thank you!!! I basically just pulled from the heat and whisked like heck until it magically came back together. I got such a great work out from whisking that I didn’t feel bad at all about eating it later!
    I’m so glad I didn’t follow all the other advise to toss it and start over. Thanks again!

    • That is so great! And your comment made me laugh. It’s true, whisking the ganache is one heck of a workout. Thanks so much for letting me know this worked for you!

  9. Pingback: Chocolate Bliss | Lady in Transition

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