Ok. I know these may look less like something you would want to eat and more like, well, let's face it, a pile of poo, but trust me- you want to eat these. Robert Linxe is famous for his outstanding truffles, and unfortunately it's taken me until now to learn that Gourmet *moment of silence* printed the recipe with his little secret almost ten years ago. TEN YEARS. It's embarrassing how far behind the curve I am on this one. This was a fun recipe to make, and infinitely adaptable. I steeped some peppermint leaves in the cream for half an hour and added some homemade peppermint extract (the mint cream alone wasn't strong enough for my taste), but I imagine these would be great with anything from almond to hazelnut to Kahlua. Linxe's secret is that he pipes the ganache centers onto a parchment lined tray and then freezes them, then rolls them in a smear of melted chocolate in his hands to create a thin shell, then rolls them in cocoa powder (giving them the appearance of real truffles, straight from the ground. Cute, eh?). Once set, that thin coating of chocolate turns into a shell that lightly shatters as you bite into them, giving way to smooth ganache. I know you know this already, but make sure to use high-quality chocolate (he recommends Valrhona, but Scharffen Berger or Callebaut work well, too) since it's the star of the show here. It may seem expensive to use the good stuff, but you'll thank yourself in the end.
11 ounces Valrhona chocolate (56% cacao) 2/3 cup heavy cream Valrhona cocoa powder for dusting
Finely chop 8 ounces of the chocolate and put in a bowl.
Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Make sure your pan is small, so you'll lose the least amount of cream to evaporation, and heavy, which will keep the cream from scorching. Linxe boils his cream three times — he believes that makes the ganache last longer. If you do this, compensate for the extra evaporation by starting with a little more cream.
Pour the cream over the chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a wooden spoon.
Then stir with a whisk in concentric circles (don't beat or you'll incorporate air), starting in the center and working your way to the edge, until the ganache is smooth.
Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about 1 hour, then, using a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch opening or tip, pipe into mounds (about 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide) on parchment-lined baking sheets. When piping, finish off each mound with a flick of the wrist to soften and angle the point tip. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 3 more ounces of the same Valrhona and smear some on a gloved hand. Gently rub each chilled truffle to coat lightly with chocolate. The secret to a delicate coating of chocolate is to roll each truffle in a smear of melted chocolate in your hand. Linxe always uses gloves.
Toss the truffles in unsweetened Valrhona cocoa powder so they look like their namesakes, freshly dug from the earth. A fork is the best tool for tossing truffles in cacao. Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cacao. Store truffles in the refrigerator.