Christmas fairs are well underway, colourful lights are guiding our journeys home, and for some, the Christmas baking has already begun. If you would like to try something new this year and add to your baking repertoire, here is one of my favourite Christmas recipes, Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles- a tried and true recipe courtesy of a holiday Chatelaine magazine sometime back in the ’80’s.
Out of all the recipes we have to choose from, this one makes the cut every year. Being gluten-free, it is a very inclusive dessert and a crowd-pleaser to be sure, and one that we have doubled in quantity the last few years to ensure that, after adding it to dessert plates for friends and neighbours, that there are still numerous truffles left for the family to enjoy.
Truffles are generally gluten free, and these are no exception. Instead of using a chocolate ganache in the tasty centre however, there is a creamy butter and hazelnut filling surrounding a whole, roasted hazelnut, which can be sourced or grown locally in the Okanagan and in most of southern Canada. The hazelnut flavour can be intensified even further, either by roasting the hazelnuts before grinding (they will need to be cooled first), or by adding some Frangelico liqueur, but neither method is necessary; we generally leave the hazelnuts raw and only occasionally add the liqueur.
Every year, we harvest hazelnuts produced from our own trees and use them both in seasonal baking and in breakfast every day. We keep close tabs on them in the fall to make sure we harvest the fallen nuts within 24 hours, before the squirrels do. It is a tiny bit of effort in exchange for great rewards in cost-savings (nuts are expensive!) and nutritional benefits.
You might also like my recipe for Hazelnut Chocolate-Orange Biscotti – it too is gluten free, and another Christmas favourite that has received great reviews from my cooking class students over the last few seasons. Enjoy!
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Doubling this recipe is recommended as these truffles will go fast
1 cup peeled hazelnuts, ground or finely chopped
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
2 tbsp Frangelico liqueur (optional)
36 whole toasted hazelnuts (to toast: 325°F oven on a light-coloured baking tray (not black) for 8-10 minutes- let cool for five minutes before rubbing the loosened skins off the nuts)
100g (50g more if using the “cheater’s guide to tempering chocolate”- see below), 60-70% great-quality chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate for dipping
- Blend together the 1 cup of ground hazelnuts, icing sugar and softened butter. Add liqueur (opt) and stir to mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- When mixture is chilled enough to work easily with your hands, roll a small amount around a whole hazelnut. Drop onto waxed paper and chill in the fridge while melting the chocolate.
- To make the dipping chocolate, either melt it in a double-boiler or, if you would like to properly temper the chocolate, you can use the “cheater’s guide to tempering chocolate” here or follow the additional instructions below*.
- Dip the truffle centres into the chocolate using a fork, coat the truffle in chocolate, and lift out with the truffle as far on the end of the fork tines as possible, tapping the fork on the side of the bowl to release the excess chocolate so that it won’t pool on the wax paper.
- Return each dipped truffle to the wax paper and let solidify at room temperature- unless the room is unusually hot, and then you can place the tray briefly in the fridge for a few minutes.
- Place each truffle for gifting in a tiny fluted paper cup. Small cardboard gift boxes are sold at Michaels’ and are great for gifting chocolates when lined with wax or parchment paper. Wrap with a ribbon, et voila!
*How to Temper Chocolate:
To temper chocolate, you will need a candy thermometre or an instant-read thermometre
- A good ‘temper’ means that the chocolate is shiny, has a good ‘snap’ to it when broken, and hardens consistently. There are 3 stages involved in creating a good temper for your chocolate:
- Increasing the temperature so the chocolate melts but doesn’t burn
- Cooling the chocolate to around 25-27°C so that it begins to crystallize
- Bringing the temperature back up to a usable or ‘working’ temperature so that you can dip your beautiful chocolates
Here’s how we do it:
- Melt the chocolate slowly in a stainless steel bowl over simmering (not a rolling boil)
- Stir constantly with a rubber spatula scraping down the sides of the bowl often so that the chocolate melts evenly
- When the temperature reaches anywhere from 42-45°C (chocolate burns at 50°C),remove the bowl from the heat and stir until the chocolate cools to 29 degrees.
- Stir constantly for another 10 minutes to lower the temperature further to 25/26°C (when the chocolate reaches a thicker, muddy consistency then this is a good sign) – this can also be achieved by ‘working’ the chocolate- moving it back and forth- on the counter, or on a granite or marble surface, using a pastry cutter/bench scraper until it reaches a thick, muddy consistency
- Gradually bump the temperature of the chocolate up to 30-32°C by placing the bowl quickly on and off the simmering pot of water, and maintain this temperature throughout the dipping process (this will require some watching).
Those are the basics to tempering chocolate! It really is quite a fun and almost meditative process- as is any craft. I hope you enjoy the process and the delicious end results!