Here is a beginner’s guide to throwing a successful dinner party and feeling more like an adult than you ever have since you turned eighteen.
Step one: invite a maximum of five people, all of whom you like and all of whom know at least one person at the party who’s not you. Step two: center your meal around a baked pasta dish that you can assemble the day before and bake a half hour before your guests arrive. Step three: make a salad and dress it with a vinaigrette, which you can shake up in a jar if you don’t have a whisk. Step four: serve ice cream for dessert alongside these truffles and trust that the apparent fanciness of homemade truffles will wipe from everyone’s memory literally anything that happened to go wrong during dinner.
Good homemade truffles take barely any effort, but they’re always impressive. They have transformative powers. What is essentially just chopped chocolate melted with cream becomes about three hundred percent more elegant once it’s been tossed with cocoa powder, and suddenly you’re the kind of person who breaks out homemade chocolates on special occasions and convincingly plays the role of Totally Competent Adult.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that if you use anything other than super-expensive, super dark chocolate, everything that you do will be a disaster and you’ll never be a successful truffle-maker. The truth is that if you like how a type of chocolate tastes in bar form, you’ll like it as a truffle, so go as expensive or as cheap as you like. My only suggestion is that you go for chocolate bars without anything in them (like nuts or dried fruit) and that you stay away from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, which is delicious on its own, but so low in actual cacao that if you melted it with cream I’m pretty sure it’d never firm up again.
This truffle recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan, with just a few tweaks from me to make everything even easier. This mostly means that I skip over the traditional rolling-of-chocolate-between-the-hands-to-make-round-chocolates, partly because it’s 90 degrees out and partly because that always seems to take so much time. I just slice my chilled chocolate into cubes and toss it in a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar. If you’d like to do it for more traditional looking truffles, though, be my guest. It is, as they say, your (dinner) party.
barely adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi
6 ounces good chocolate, semi-sweet (or at least a darker milk chocolate, like Lindt)
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) heavy cream
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (this is not the same thing as cocoa mix)
- Chop up the chocolate as finely as you can — the biggest chunks should be the pea-sized. Transfer the chopped chocolate to a medium-sized heatproof bowl.
- Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, going all the way up the sides and along the bottom. Set aside.
- Heat up the cream in a small pot over a low flame, swirling occasionally. Add the salt and vanilla extract and take the cream off the heat once bubbles appear along the side of the pot and the cream is steaming.
- Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let it stand for about a minute.
- Then, with a whisk or a rubber spatula, slowly stir the chocolate mixture from the middle outwards in little circles. At first, it will look like it’s curdling and not coming together, but keep working. As the heat from the cream melts the chocolate, it will come together from the center outwards. Once this happens, stir in larger circles to encourage all of the chocolate to melt evenly.
- Mix the chocolate just until it’s all combined, then add the corn syrup and stir again.
- Add the softened butter and mix again until the chocolate is uniform and shiny.
- Scrape the chocolate mixture into the plastic-lined loaf pan, then press a sheet of plastic wrap against the top of the chocolate to cover completely. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight.
- Once the chocolate has chilled, remove the plastic wrap and turn it out onto a cutting board. (I cover mine with a sheet of wax paper to minimize the mess.)
- Use a sharp knife to cut the chocolate into rectangles and then into one-inch cubes. It helps to periodically dip the knife in hot water and wipe it dry every few cuts, especially when doing the cubes. Cover the chocolate cubes with plastic wrap and put them back in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Push the powdered sugar and cocoa through a sieve into a medium bowl to get rid of any lumps, then whisk to combine.
- Take the chilled chocolate cubes out of the fridge and pat down any sides that sticking out so the cubes are roughly even, then toss to coat in the cocoa-sugar mixture. Set the finished truffles on wax paper to keep them from sticking.
- The truffles will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for two weeks, but there’s no way they’ll last that long. If you do refrigerate them, take them out of the fridge at least fifteen minutes before serving and dust them with cocoa again if it’s been absorbed.