Rediscover chocolate at its best

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Handmade truffles from Grimaldi's of Minden.

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Handmade truffles from Grimaldi's of Minden.

At this time of year, chocolate has a way of showing up on a lot of "Things I'm going to give up" lists. Many of us credit chocolate for those extra pounds that show up during the holiday season.

Before we launch into how to make some delicious chocolate candies at home, let us look at some data that will not only justify our indulgence in chocolate, but recommend it as part of a heart-healthy diet.

On Nov. 4, 2007, the Washington Post published an article stating "Chocolate lovers, take heart: A Japanese study finds that flavonoid-rich dark chocolate can improve coronary blood flow."

Victoria Laine, who teaches courses on healthy food preparation, has written a book, "Health By Chocolate." She states that "studies have found that chocolate protects against heart disease and probably some cancers, while boosting mood and energy."

I must in all good conscience state that both these sources are talking about dark chocolate ... 70 percent dark chocolate.

So, what does all this mean you might ask?

What this means is that all of us need to cultivate a taste for high percentage chocolate.

The best news is that this is an exciting time to begin exploring the world of chocolate. Chocolate is now classified by varietals, by estates, and by regions of origin. Thus we discover that all chocolates are not created equal.

In Carson City, there are two places with enough variety to offer a beginning foray into the world of chocolate, World Market, and just recently, Raley's Supermarket.

Now that we have established the benefits of chocolate, and where to get some good quality chocolate, let's make some truffles with it.

A truffle is, in its simplest form, a chocolate ganache center with some type of exterior coating. Chocolate ganache is simply chocolate melted and mixed with cream and allowed to cool.

In Germany, a chocolate candy cannot legally be called a truffle without this formula as its base: The exterior coating can be provided by dipping in chocolate, or by using cocoa powder, ground nuts, coconut, grated chocolate, or just about anything else you can think up. Some avant guard chocolatiers even use various chili powders or other spice combinations.

As dipping chocolate has precise temperature requirements, I recommend using either cocoa powder or grated chocolate if you desire an all chocolate truffle. Other suitable (and easy) coatings include ground nuts and flaked coconut. To toast coconut, spread on a cookie sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes turning once or twice. The procedure is the same, just alter the ingredients to make the kind of truffles you want.

Seventy Percent Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 45 truffles.

8 oz 70 percent chocolate, chopped

9 oz heavy whipping cream (1 cup plus 2 T.)

1 cup favorite coating

corn starch for rolling

Put chocolate and cream in a microwavable bowl and put in microwave for 30 seconds. Wait 30 seconds and do it again. Stir and repeat, until chocolate is well on its way to melting and incorporating smoothly with the cream.

Don't get the mixture too hot. This could scorch the chocolate. Heat only enough so the chocolate will incorporate with the cream.

Set aside, stirring frequently until all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth mixture. Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator until firm enough to roll into balls, about four hours. Do not stir during cooling as this triggers some unpleasant side effects such as breaking or hard setting.

Put some corn starch in a bowl and coat your hands. Re-coat as needed.

Scoop some ganache onto your work surface and pinch off small amounts (1/3 to 1Ú2 ounce) and roll into balls. Drop these into your choice of coatings, rolling to coat thoroughly. Place on a cookie sheet and repeat until all ganache is rolled.

Milk Chocolate Truffles

10 oz good quality milk chocolate

6 oz heavy whipping cream (3/4 cup)

1 cup favorite coating

Corn starch for rolling

White Chocolate Truffles

12 oz good quality white chocolate

4 oz heavy whipping cream (1/2 cup)

1 cup favorite coating

corn starch for rolling

To flavor with your favorite liqueur, substitute 1 oz (2 T.) liqueur for 1 oz of the whipping cream.

• Brian Wilkin is the chocolatier for Grimaldi's Fine Chocolates and can be reached at 846-7567.


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