Hand-Dipped Cinnamon Cayenne Almond Butter Truffles
Artisan Chocolate Series, Part 2: Hand-Dipped Truffles
Are you ready for a visceral, tactile, get-your-hands-dirty chocolate experience?
Because I think you are.
Once you have mastered the art of tempering chocolate, it’s time to up your artisan game – with hand-dipped chocolate truffles. Delicate, crisp, tempered chocolate shells filled with creamy ganache, fruit paste, nut butters and even liqueurs, truffles are so much easier to make than you would think. Get your hands in that chocolate and make a mess – a mess that turns out gorgeous and impressive and delicious to eat!
Truffles are so called because they closely resemble savory mushroom truffles – the kind truffle pigs snoot around in the dirt for and stores price like gold nuggets. Round and rippled with ruffly ridges, classic hand-dipped truffles require little finesse to form and actively benefit from an unskilled hand. They are SUPPOSED to look rough and rustic!
The only way you can really mess up these chocolates is if you don’t execute the tempering well- and honestly, even if that does happen, you’re in luck. Your truffle is still made of chocolate and thus perfectly fine and delicious to eat. Poorly tempered chocolate won’t have that classic snap to it, and may have white streaks or dusty white ‘bloom’ that appears – visually less than ideal, but still edible!
To ensure the best temper, I highly recommend investing in an infrared thermometer to instantly check the temperature of your chocolate. An infrared cooking thermometer has a laser you point at an object or surface that measures the surface temperature, making it perfect for candy/chocolate making, monitoring the temperature of oil for frying, and for pointing it at various objects and people in my kitchen for experimental/entertainment purposes. I have an earlier version of this one, and I use it every time I make chocolates (which is more often than I should).
As I stated in Part 1 of the Artisan Chocolate Series, dark chocolate is the easiest to temper, due to its lower fat percentage (more fat=finicky chocolate). If you are still practicing or nervous about branching out, just make the following recipe with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate – but the technique is the same either way, you just need to watch the temperature closely and keep it within the specified ranges for milk chocolate.
First, you will need to prepare the crunchy cinnamon-toasted almond topper – an additional step, but worth it for the textural contrast and to add a visual cue for the almond butter filling. Once this is prepared and cool, you will need to assemble your tools and have all your chocolate prepared and ready to go. Then it is time to work on the filling.
Whenever I come up with a new truffle or chocolate recipe, I consider how the flavors will meld and which type of chocolate shell would best compliment the filling. While my preference is typically dark chocolate, you will find that the strong, bittersweet flavors can sometimes overshadow or compete with subtle fillings. Fillings made with peanut, almond or cashew butters, or chai spices, for instance, are better complemented by the mild sweetness of milk chocolate, while bolder flavors like liqueurs, tart fruit gels, and chiles make more sense with fruity, aggressive dark chocolate.
To let the filling in this truffle stand out, I went with a mellow, mild milk chocolate – a great complement that lets the sweet, cinnamon and cayenne-spiced heat of the salted honey almond butter filling shine through. This recipe is a great base recipe for you to get creative with, as you can easily substitute peanut or cashew butter, or even (one of my favorite variations) speculoos cookie butter.
You can omit or add to the spice list, or even roll in chopped nuts – go crazy! Just don’t add anything that introduces extra liquid, as this will alter the consistency. To keep the filling balls easy to handle, you will add a couple of teaspoons of flour to the mix – a trick that soaks up some of the oil and moisture, firming up the filling. After you have rolled all the filling balls, they will need to be chilled while you work on tempering the chocolate so they hold their shape better when dipped.
After you have prepared the nut topper and fillings and have set out your chocolate and tools, it’s time to temper. Just like with the chocolate bark, you will need to follow the melt/cool/melt and hold method according to the type of chocolate you are using (for milk chocolate, the temperatures are 110/7985-88). Before beginning the melt and hold phase, get out your filling balls and place them near you double boiler for easy access.
Now comes the fun part – let’s get dipping! Dip one filling ball into the tempered chocolate, rolling to coat, then drain the extra chocolate out through your fingers, as seen in the video above. Toss the ball back and forth in your fingers, making little tufting motions to encourage ripples in the coating. Place the tufted, coated truffle onto a sheet of wax paper, and allow to cool. Finally, dabbing each truffle with a small dot of tempered chocolate, adhere a piece of the nut topper for decoration, pressing down lightly. Voila! You have just made fancy artisan truffles
If you have leftover tempered chocolate in your bowl after dipping your truffles, you can either pour it out, cool, and save for your next batch of chocolates – OR – you can make more chocolate, in the form of bark. Fish around your pantry for any nuts, small candies, M&Ms or dried fruit you may have accumulated, and have them ready to sprinkle at will. Two chocolates for the price of one!
For both bark and truffle making, it is important to get all of your ingredients and tools ready and in place before you begin – timing is everything in chocolate-making at home. You’ll need to work quickly before the chocolate begins to cool, and continue to monitor the temperature of your tempered chocolate to keep it in a workable temperature range. Stopping to find a tool or ingredient you need can accidentally cause you to miss the temperature going too high, and believe me, starting all over with temper is a pain.
If you do accidentally go over in temperature, if its just 1 or 2 degrees, I’ll usually keep working with the chocolate. The temper wont be perfect, but it’ll be close, and most of it will get eaten quickly anyway. But if you’re aiming for perfection, here’s what you’ll need to do if you break temper:
- Turn off the heat to the double boiler. You will need more seeding chocolate – approximately half the amount that remains in your melted chocolate. I usually keep an extra bar of Ghirardelli baking chocolate in my drawer for this reason (and because I have a hopelessly huge chocolate hoarding collection).
- Chop up the new seeding chocolate finely, then begin the tempering process again.
- When the appropriate temperature is reached, add the seed chocolate and bring the temperature down to 79 degrees, stirring.
- Bring the cooled chocolate back up to the correct temperature and hold. HOLD! Lest you suffer all over again…
But again, re-tempering is only for people who can’t deal with or process minor failures in a healthy way. Ahem. If you are not like me in that way, feel free to carry on and create a slightly softer, but nevertheless, scrumptious truffle.
But I have faith in you! You will not fail, just be vigilant with the temperatures and go with God, my child.