A few weeks before last Christmas, my girls and I were chatting like we do and the subject of what our favorite holiday was came up. I figured it was a no-brainer, Christmas of course, for all three of us. After all, the excitement was in full swing; decorations had gone up, lists had been made, Santa had been seen. Hailey and I were quick to declare it the best holiday ever and I expected Ella to chime in but she surprised me and asked: “What’s the love day called again?”. Valentine’s day is her favorite holiday. I shouldn’t have been surprised because she’d expressed this before but that was right around last Valentine’s day and I figured, being a six-year-old, it was simply the freshest holiday in her memory. She stuck to it though, even in the midst of Christmas hype.
The thing Ella loves about Valentine’s day is simple. To her, it’s a day devoted to telling everyone in your life how much you love them and what you love about them, and that’s the most important thing you can do. She started on her class Valentine’s over a week ago and made a point of picking one quality for each classmate then thanking them for being funny, kind, a friend, silly, smart, polite, whatever stood out to her. I had zero input except to ask her if she’d like to decorate them a bit more. She gave me a condescending glance, the words being far more important to her than the decorations, so I backed off.
When I was in first grade (and every other grade for that matter) I was so painfully shy the thought of personally thanking a boy in my class for being kind was beyond unthinkable, but she’s ever so sincere about it. I’d like to take credit for raising such a thoughtful child but nature wins over nurture here. Her twin sister told me she wasn’t going to make Valentine’s for the class because she didn’t have to and has only shown interest in participating in the last twelve hours because she found out she gets to decorate a box to take to school to collect her Valentines. I’ll be surprised if she puts as much as her classmate’s names on her cards (the first grade me could relate to that).
I really like Ella’s take on the day. It’s not about romantic love, it’s not about high expectations, it’s just “the love day” and an opportunity to express how you feel.
Of course, in our house, it’s also largely about chocolate which is, truth be told, the only reason I liked Valentine’s day when I was young. My dad used to get my sister and me little heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and nothing could have made us happier. This truffle recipe is the one I used at the restaurant years ago and they are truly decadent. You will be amazed at how easy they are!
Dark Chocolate Truffles
(makes 12 – 14)
*8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee extract
(or you may use 1 ounce of your favorite liqueur, Gran Marnier, Peppermint Schnapps, Kahlua, Amaretto, Hazelnut, etc. in place of the vanilla and coffee extracts)
*8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
*Please use good quality chocolate such as Ghiradelli (widely available), Scharffen Berger or Guittard.
Place 8oz semi-sweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over, not in the water and add the heavy whipping cream. Allow to melt over medium heat and stir until smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.
Stir in vanilla and coffee extracts or your favorite liqueur. You’ve just made a ganache.
If your double boiler has annoying grooves in it as mine does, transfer mixture to a large bowl before beginning the cooling process.
(Optional step to speed things up) Place your pan or bowl over a larger pan/bowl filled with ice water and stir, scraping sides, with a rubber spatula until it cools completely and begins to thicken.
Whether or not you did the last step, place ganache in the refrigerator until it hardens up enough to scoop into balls.
Before scooping fill a bowl with hot water to dip a small ice cream scoop or melon baller in.
Scoop out balls onto parchment or waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least another 20 minutes.
Chop 8oz chocolate or use baking chips.
Place 4oz in the double boiler over not in water and allow to melt completely on medium heat.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining 4oz chocolate until fully melted. The chocolate should be just about body temperature (95 -98 degrees)
*I’m not going to get all technical about tempering chocolate here because I want you to relax and enjoy your life. If you follow my instructions above and don’t let the chocolate get too hot you should be fine. Remember, the toppings will hide any imperfections and if you refrigerate the truffles it will help keep a nice texture.
Prop the pan the on the edge of a plate or use a dishtowel to tilt it and allow for a deeper pool of chocolate.
Remove the balls of ganache from the fridge. Before dipping, roll each ball in your hands quickly, squeezing a bit to make sure it won’t fall apart when dipped.
Dip it into the chocolate until completely covered, using a fork to turn it and lift it out.
Place on parchment or waxed paper and top with whatever you like. If using chopped nuts, roll the whole truffle in a small bowl of them for best results.
Allow them to cool at room temperature or, if it’s warm in your house, in the refrigerator.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Keep it simple and sweet…
“Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will.”