Every website you look at regarding tempering chocolate tells you that it's really not that hard. They don't lie and say it's EASY, but they're like, "Oh, it's not that bad, you can do it, it's not a big deal." Well, I kind of beg to differ. Allow me to be frank here: Tempering chocolate is big, honking pain in the ass. You can do it, sure. It only requires a candy thermometer and exacting patience. I find it nearly impossible to do any significant amount of dipping before the temperature drops too low to be in temper, then I heat it up, get it too hot, and have to wait and wait for the temperature to drop again. I completely lost it today when I had chocolate covering every inch of myself and my kitchen and realized I needed to temper MORE chocolate to finish up. "That's IT, Greg! I'm buying a @$*#ing tempering machine!!" I declared.
Everything turned out fine, obviously. The truffles are delicious, and the chocolate finely tempered.
The impetus for making these truffles (other than that Greg and I are truffle junkies) is because through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, New Belgium Brewing Company offered me $50 to buy their beer and make new recipes. Well. Like I'm gonna turn THAT down. I love me some beer, and New Belgium makes delicious brews! My first and only thought (at least so far) was to make truffles using their amazingly complex 1554 Black Ale. Then, I thought I'd use their Abbey Ale (a belgian brew) to make peanut brittle to put on top of each truffle. Beer and peanuts! Could you want anything more?
Of course, using the brittle as a topping didn't work, but putting the pieces inside works just as well.
1554 Black Ale Truffles with Abbey Ale Peanut Brittle (a Heather creation)
-8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
-5 ounces whipping cream
-6 ounces New Belgium 1554 Black Ale
-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped small
-Broken pieces of Abbey Ale Peanut Brittle (recipe to follow)
-12-16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely (for tempering)
-At least 2 chocolates molds
1. In a small, heavy saucepan, bring beer to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring often to prevent the beer from boiling over. Reduce to 4 ounces.
Important Note: A normal truffle recipe should be 6 ounces cream, 3 ounces other liquid (like fruit juice or beer). To get increased beer flavor, I changed the amounts. This resulted in a truffle that was too soft to stand up on its own in ball-form (impossible to roll!), and too soft to be covered with tempered chocolate. If you use these measurements, you will need chocolate molds to create a more structured candy with a soft filling. If you don't have chocolate molds (or don't have any desire to buy them), you should go with 6 ounces of cream, 3 ounces beer.
2. Add cream and butter to the saucepan. Whisk quickly until butter melts.
3. Put chopped chocolate in a bowl. Add the beer-cream mixture to the bowl and let sit for a few minutes so the heat helps melt the chocolate for you. Whisk until all melted. Pour into a 13x9" pan and refrigerate overnight.
4. Temper the bittersweet chocolate. You temper by putting water in a saucepan and bringing to a simmer. Put 3/4 of the chocolate in a glass or metal bowl that fits in the saucepan. Melt the chocolate, and using a candy thermometer, wait until it reaches 115 degrees. Remove the bowl from the pan, stir, and wipe the bottom of the bowl. Rest it on a towel. Using a rubber spatula, stir fast to make the chocolate shiny. Slowly add the remainder of the bittersweet chocolate, stirring to melt and bring the overall temperature down. When the temperature reaches 90-91 degrees, it is in temper. Keep it at this temperature as long as you are coating things. You may need to briefly place it back on the saucepan.
5. Dip a pastry brush into the tempered chocolate and brush the inside of each mold evenly. This creates the shell of the chocolate. Once all the molds are coated, place in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes. Remove and put approximately 1/2-1 teaspoon of the refrigerated filling in each mold. Place a piece of brittle in each mold, pushing down lightly. Pour tempered chocolate on the top of each filled mold and level with a bench scraper or similar. Put in freezer for another 10-15 minutes, or until hardened. Pop out of mold and enjoy!
Abbey Ale Peanut Brittle (recipe slightly adapted from the Los Angeles Times)
-1/2 cup New Belgium Abbey Ale
-1 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon light corn syrup
-1/4 teaspoon salt (sea salt could also be good!)
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla (you get more beer flavor if you omit this)
-1/2-3/4 cup chopped, unsalted peanuts
1. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and grease lightly.
2. In a heavy pot or dutch oven, combine beer, sugar, and light corn syrup. Bring mix to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a good simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure that it doesn't boil over. Using a candy thermometer, cook until mixture reaches the "hard crack" stage of 310 degrees. Remove from heat.
3. Immediately stir in salt, vanilla, and nuts. The mixture may steam, so be careful to avoid steam burns. Quickly pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and spread as thinly as possible. Cool completely (fortunately, it doesn't take too long!) and break into pieces.
Verdict: The flavor of these truffles (and the peanut brittle) is totally awesome. They are rich and deeply chocolatey, with a complex hit of the 1554 beer. The Abbey Ale brittle is the perfect complement, allowing for a salty, crunchy peanuts to ease the richness. Using these awesome New Belgium beers elevated ordinary truffles and peanut brittle to a very naughty place.