As I write this, it's lightly snowing. For the first time in nearly five years, London has softened, stilled. There are many productive ways to spend such a rare, wintry Sunday; for my money, preparing chocolate truffles has to be one of the best.
Making ganache - the truffles’ base - is a sensory thing, almost overwhelmingly so. It’s good to do when everything else is cold and quiet, and the process can hold all of your focus - not because it’s especially difficult, but because it is enormously pleasurable.
You snap shards of chocolate and then watch them collapse into velvet darkness. Every spatula swirl sends up perfume. You mix the melted chocolate with warm cream and let the mixture gloss and chill until it's firm enough to work with (maybe you even squidge the bowl directly into a bit of slushy snow outside so it sets more quickly). Then you scoop out teaspoons of the set ganache and roll it into spheres, quickly, between your warming palms. To finish, you can dust your proto-truffles with cocoa powder, or dip them into a bath of melted chocolate to coat - or you can use both methods, as I did.
These truffles were inspired by Black: one of three fantastic collaboration beers made in honour of Hop Burns & Black’s third birthday. This one, brewed with Peckham's Brick Brewery, is a beautiful, inky stout. Additions of blueberry, vanilla, and lactose have all added to its dessert-like profile, though its roasty, bitter finish makes it moreish rather than cloying. To match it, the truffles are infused with blueberry jam, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla.
This recipe makes enough truffles so that you might make gifts of them and still have a plate left to yourself. I’d recommend ferrying it to the cosiest corner of your flat, cracking open a fresh can of Black and watching the snow come down.
Dark Chocolate Blueberry Truffles, Two Ways
Makes approximately 25 truffles
For the ganache:
150g blueberry jam (I used Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Conserve)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250g high-quality 70% dark chocolate (I used Lindt)
250ml double cream
50g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
For the truffles:
150g high-quality 70% dark chocolate
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
First, place the blueberry jam in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until it is warm and mostly liquid. Add the cinnamon and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 seconds; blend, using an immersion blender or a regular blender, to break down any whole berries in the jam. Set aside.
In a saucepan, add the double cream and the light brown sugar and warm over medium-high heat. Stir well to combine and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Boil for approximately one minute, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch on the bottom. Remove from heat and let stand for one minute. Add the vanilla bean paste and stir to combine.
In a large, heatproof bowl, break up the dark chocolate into small pieces. Pour over the double cream and the liquefied blueberry jam (note: you may need to return the jam to the stove on low heat for a minute so that it's pourable, as it will quickly solidify). Stir well until the chocolate is all melted. Whisk to remove any lumps. Cover and chill for at least two hours, or until the ganache has set.
Once the ganache is firm enough to work with, start to roll your truffles. With a teaspoon, scoop out a small amount of ganache and delicately and quickly roll between your palms until it forms an even sphere. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat. You'll want to do this as quickly as possible so the ganache doesn't soften too much; it may start melting in your hands, in which case you should pause to wash and dry them well.
Once the ganache balls have all been rolled, cover loosely with cling-film and chill again
for another 30 minutes to help set.
Now, you’re ready to finish preparing your truffles. To make the truffles that are coated in a dark chocolate shell, you'll need a thermometer to ensure the melted chocolate is properly tempered (otherwise, it will turn blotchy or chalky as it cools). First, prepare a double boiler: heat a saucepan of water until simmering and place a second bowl on top of the pan (it should fit neatly, so there are no gaps, but its bottom should not touch the water).
Add two-thirds of your chocolate and stir constantly until it's completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pot of water. Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until melted. Check the melted chocolate from time to time with a thermometer; you want to let it cool until it reaches 31-32 degrees C (88-90 degrees F)—mine took approximately 10 minutes to drop to the right temperature. Once it is at temperature, add one ganache ball and toss quickly with a fork until evenly coated in chocolate; remove to a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat until roughly half of your truffles have been coated with chocolate (if the temperature of the melted chocolate drops too much, you may need to quickly reheat it).
Leave your truffles to set for 10-15 minutes.
To make the truffles that are coated in cocoa powder, put the cocoa powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. With a fork, add one ganache ball at a time, tossing lightly, until evenly coated in the cocoa powder mixture. Set aside, shaking off any excess, and repeat until all have been coated. If you want to use one method over the other, simply double the quantity of the chocolate or the cocoa powder and cinnamon, respectively.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can or two of Brick x HB&B Black while you still can.