Salted Truffles

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Truffles are nothing but ganache, which is a basic culinary technique every cook should know. It’s super easy, and super-versatile. Once you master it (which doesn’t take long) the possibilities are endless.  The recipe is nothing new. Here, though, I finish them with a pinch of artisan salt, which has replaced the coating of cocoa powder and drizzles of chocolate that have long been standard.  The sweet-salt burst is unforgettable, and irresistible.

This is just a snippet from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).

Ingredients

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon unrefined salt – try a fine grind Himalayan, Bolivian, or Mongolian rock salt, any good flake salt, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with matcha, vanilla, bourbon, red wine, lavender, rose, sweet spice, or orange

1 cup heavy cream

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place half in a clean dry bowl and set is aside. Place the other half in a bowl along with the butter, vanilla, and ½ teaspoon salt. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate-butter bowl. Shake the bowl so that that all the chocolate is submerged, then set aside, untouched, for 5 minutes.
  1. At the 5-minute mark whisk smooth.   Set the ganache aside to set. You can refrigerate it here is you are in a hurry. As soon as the ganache is firm, form it into small balls, either by hand, or using a 1/6-1/4 ounce ice cream scoop, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill for 10 minutes.
  1. Melt remaining chocolate over a double boiler. Have at the ready a trivet, or something to set the hot pot on, a clean tray lined with parchment paper, and a few sheets of extra parchment paper. Remove the double boiler from the heat and set it on the trivet. Drop chilled truffles into the melted chocolate. Fish them out with a fork, then tap the fork on the edge of the pot, encouraging the excess chocolate to drip back into the pot. Now rub the fork along the extra sheets of parchment to clean the foot, and finally place on the clean, parchment lined tray. Immediately sprinkle with another tiny pinch of salt. Repeat with the remaining balls of ganache. Because the chocolate is not tempered, store these in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I like to serve them in small candy cups, or on a clean, dry salt block.

Variations

Dip-Free – instead of dipping the ganache balls in melted chocolate, you can serve them the original way, rolled in cocoa powder to simulate the dirt on the outside of the truffle fungus.   (Leave it to the French to make dirt appealing.) You can also roll it in powdered sugar, finely ground espresso beans, finely ground toasted nuts, or toasted coconut. You can even mix your salt into these powders for an amazing effect.

Spiced – There are a million other ways to flavor dark chocolate truffles, but with the salt I like to keep it simple. If you are really feeling exotic, though, try adding ½ teaspoon of cardamom, ground toasted anise, or your favorite chile powder.

 

Caramel Corn

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Happy Halloween!

If you have a house full of kids tonight, I can think of nothing better than cramming them full of sugar.

This recipe is a tradition in our house. I usually spread it out when hot, but it makes fine popcorn balls too. Any nut will do, or leave them out completely and add a bit more corn. It’s also fun to add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a sweet and spicy treat.

Also, you can forget the kids … it tastes great with beer!

Air popping makes a better products, as the candy sticks better to corn that is not greased up. But in a pinch, the old microwave will work too. Keep it warm once popped so that it doesn’t cause crystallization when added to the caramel.

INGREDIENTS

1-1/2 cup nuts
2 cups air-popped corn, kept warm
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
3 TB. unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla

METHOD

Spread out a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper, and coat evenly with pan spray. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water, and bring to a boil over high heat. At the boil add the butter, cook to hard crack stage (285˚F), and remove from heat. Quickly stir in salt, baking soda, vanilla, and stir until the mixture is foamy. Immediately add corn and nuts and stir quick to coat. Pour out onto prepared paper and spread as thin as possible. Work fast! The candy cools quickly! Cool, then break into chunks. Store air-tight in the freezer. Makes about 8 cups.
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