A bonafide chocoholic, I always look forward to February 14th when I can savor (without guilt) homemade chocolate creations. This year, rather than baking a flourless chocolate cake or fudgy brownies, and instead of whipping up chocolate panna cottas or crème brûlées, I am preparing dark chocolate praline truffles. These tempting treats, which take only minutes to assemble, will also keep well in the fridge for a week–if they last that long.
I am crazy about praline, a crunchy combination of nuts and caramelized sugar. Praline (the name also refers to the round patty-shaped candy made with pecans from Louisiana) is neither difficult nor time consuming to make. Nuts and sugar are heated together in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and then turns brown and caramelizes. Next, the mixture is spread on an oiled surface to cool and harden. The resulting, brittle-like sheet can be broken into pieces and eaten as candy or ground and used as a powder as it is in the following recipe.
The truffles themselves are a classic mixture of chocolate, cream, and butter plus a hint of espresso heated together until smooth and shiny, then chilled. After the chocolate is firm, spoonfuls of the mixture are scooped out, shaped into balls, and then rolled in praline powder. The crispy sugared nut coatings are a delectable contrast to the creamy, smooth interiors.
A recipe yields about two dozen truffles, so along with sharing them with my spouse, I am planning to pack little bags filled with a half dozen to give to good friends. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!
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Dark Chocolate Praline Truffles
Vegetable oil for oiling baking sheet
1/4 cup chopped blanched, slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar
8 ounces dark chocolate 70 to 72%, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
4 teaspoons powdered instant espresso coffee
1.For praline, coat a baking sheet generously with cooking oil and set aside. Combine the almonds and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves, 2 or 3 minutes or more. Continue cooking and stirring until the sugar caramelizes and turns a rich golden brown and nuts take on a slight golden color as well, only a few minutes more. Carefully, pour the hot mixture onto the oiled baking sheet, spreading evenly with a metal spatula or knife. Let cool completely.
2.Break brittle into chunks and place in a food processor. Process, pulsing, until mixture becomes a coarse powder. (If you don’t have a processor, chop the caramelized nuts coarsely with a large, sharp knife or use a mortar and pestle to pulverize them. Do not use a blender as the hard caramel pieces could break it.) Remove and store powder in an airtight container in refrigerator. (Praline powder can be made a week ahead.)
3.Place chocolate, cream, butter, and espresso powder in the top of a double boiler or in a heat- proof mixing bowl set over (but not touching) a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until the chocolate and butter have melted and mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes or longer. Remove from heat and transfer to a shallow bowl or a pie plate. Cool, then refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or longer.
4.When ready to shape truffles, spread the praline powder on a dinner plate and have another dinner plate ready. With a teaspoon scoop a generous spoonful of the chocolate mixture into your hand. Shape it into a ball and roll in the praline powder until coated on all sides. Press the powder into the chocolate with your fingers. Continue until all chocolate has been used. You should get about 24 truffles. Cover the plate of truffles with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Then transfer truffles to an airtight container. (Truffles will keep well for 5 days in the refrigerator.) Makes about 24 truffles.
Cooking tip:Any leftover praline powder is delicious sprinkled over scoops of vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2023