Nothing says love on Valentine’s Day quite like sweets, particularly chocolate, which can make it a mine-field for the low-carb devotee. But here’s a solution that may surprise you: truffles!
My all-time favorite recipe for classic Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles comes from Alice Medrich’s wonderful book A Year in Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts(Warner Books 2001).
I sometimes make batches of these delicacies to take as a hostess gift to dinner parties instead of wine, since just about everybody loves a luscious chocolate truffle.
And besides, good cocoa is a health food (see here) filled with active flavinoid compounds, such as epicatechin, which according to some researchers may be protective against the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
But what about the sugar content?
I confess that I’ve always felt a little twinge of guilt, in light of my own dietary dictums, being the bearer of temptation by bringing truffles, assuming them to be too carby for anybody’s good. So one day last fall, I got out the recipe and ran it through my food processor nutritional calculator to see exactly what kind of damage I might actually be doing to my friends.
I was astonished when I discovered that these classic truffles, made exactly according to Ms. Medich’s recipe without any carb pimping on my part, had a mere 3 grams of carbohydrate each. Not nothing, but not much for something so decadent and satisfying. So I set about last December to make boxes of a couple of dozen Handmade Classic Truffles as Christmas gifts for many of our friends and family.
I intend to make another batch for Valentine’s Day, for there can be no greater calling than plying your love with good chocolate. If you’d like to join me, here’s my favorite recipe from Ms. Medrich’s most wonderful book. If you’re a chocolate lover, as I confess that I most definitely am, it’s one you may want to add to your cookbook library.
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles
from Alice Medich, A Year in Chocolate
[with photos and commentary by me]
Makes about 30 bite-sized truffles
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsaltd butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/4 cup boiling water
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
Equipment: Instant-read thermometer
To make the truffles, place the chocolate and butter in a 4- to 6-cup heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water over low heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.
Remove the bowl and set aside. Leave the skillet on low heat.
Place the egg yolk in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the boiling water . Place the bowl in the skillet and stir constantly until the yolk mixture thickens slightly to the consistency of light cream and registers between 160 and 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. [I have discovered that on a chilly day, it helps speed this process along to put a square of aluminum foil over the bowl while stirring.]
Remove from the skillet and scrape the yolk mixture immediately over the melted chocolate.
Stir gently, without whisking or beating, just until the egg is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a clean bowl. [I confess I skip this step for the sake of ease.] Cover and chill until firm, 2 hours or more.
To form the truffles, remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator and allow it to soften about 30 minutes if the mixture is very hard. Pour cocoa into a pie plate.
Dip a melon baller or small spoon into a glass of hot water, wipe off the excess water, and scrape across the surface of the chilled truffle mixture to form a rough 1-inch ball. Pinch the truffle into shape with your fingers if necessary; it should not be perfectly round. [They’re supposed to look something like the gnarly savory ‘real’ truffles that pigs root up under French oak trees.] Deposit the truffles into the cocoa [a few at a time.] Repeat with the remaining truffle mixture. Gently shake the pie plate to coat truffles with cocoa. [I usually roll them around a little bit with my fingertips to get them well covered and then pinch them gently into a rounder shape. Sometimes after they sit a bit, I give them an extra roll in the cocoa just for good measure.]
Store truffles, tightly covered and refrigerated, up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 3 months.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!