I feel weird about Valentine’s Day. Most people seem to hate it when they’re single and love it when they’re in a relationship, but I’m the opposite. When I was a little girl, I really loved making Valentines, and my mother always gave us sweet presents in the morning before school. When I was a bigger girl and single, it seemed like a fine occasion to wear red or pink and drink margaritas with my friends. But when I’ve been in relationships (and now that I’m married) it just feels weirdly forced and inevitably disappointing. I don’t really want to celebrate it (and goodness knows Andrew doesn’t want to celebrate it), but I end up feeling cheated when we don’t. For some reason I can’t just pretend it isn’t going on. My most passive aggressive self emerges, and everyone has an unpleasant evening. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.
I decided to try to avoid the ordeal this year by making chocolate truffles. I’d get to make something I’d never made before, Andrew would get the chocolate dessert he claims I never make him, and it would feel celebratory in a low-key, at-home way. My reserves of bitterness prevented events from unfolding quite so smoothly (sorry, patient husband!), but—the truffles were very good, and I look forward to making them again. When I do, I will make them much smaller—I think I’d prefer them the size of two small bites—and might experiment with different flavors. They are much easier than pie and one of the nicest textures you could hope to sink your teeth into, a more voluptuous shot of pure chocolate than you get from a shattery bar.
Makes 20 truffles (or 36 small truffles, the size I would prefer)
This is Ina Garten’s recipe from Barefoot in Paris. I made a few adaptations: she uses half bittersweet chocolate and half semisweet, but I used all Valrhona 70% Guanaja. And she includes Grand Marnier and coffee, but I skipped them because I wanted very straightforward chocolate flavor (I increased the amount of cream, in case more liquid was necessary, which seemed to work out fine).
Chop finely and put in a bowl 7 ounces good bittersweet chocolate.
Heat 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cream in a small saucepan until it boils. Immediately pour the hot cream through a fine strainer into the bowl of chocolate. Use a wire whisk to stir the cream and chocolate until the chocolate is completely melted. (If the chocolate doesn’t melt completely—mine did—put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir just until it melts.) Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cover and chill 45 minutes to an hour, until pliable but firm enough to scoop.
With 2 teaspoons or a 1 1/4 inch ice cream scoop, make dollops of the chocolate mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (When I do this again, I’d like to use a 3/4 inch ice cream scoop or melon baller.) Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm enough to roll into rough spheres (I waited 30 minutes, which was a mistake—the dollops were too hard to roll; it wasn’t a disaster, but I would have preferred spheres to lumps). Roll the spheres in cocoa powder and chill.
Ina says truffles are best when they’re allowed to set overnight in the refrigerator, but they are also pretty good right away. If you like, roll in powdered sugar before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature. I think they’re best about 15 minutes out of the refrigerator, still cool but a little softened.