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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Food and Drink: Saint Valentine's Day

February 14th approaches: St. Valentine's Day. This is a critically important holiday in which the we pause to express love for all things chocolate; or rather, we pause to show the one we love the depth of our feelings by giving gifts of fabulous chocolate. In preparation for the day, I made these chocolate truffles. Truffles are a simple candy to prepare. The most important piece of advice is to use the best quality chocolate you can find. In this batch I used an incredibly delicious Valrhona chocolate.

Here is the recipe adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and a Dorie Greenspan recipe that appeared in Parade Magazine.

Chocolate Truffles

1/3 cup heavy cream
6 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbls. soft butter, cut into small dice
1 Tbls. brandy
Unsweetened cocoa powder.

Day 1: Chop the chocolate into small pieces to speed melting, then put it into a bowl with the butter. Pop the mixture into the microwave and zap until the chocolate and butter are just melted. Remove and blend together. Heat the cream until it is almost to a boil, and combine that with the chocolate and butter mixture. Stir in the brandy. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is firm, at least a few hours or overnight.

Day 2: Pour the unsweetened cocoa powder into a small bowl. With a spoon, scoop up enough chocolate to roll into a one-inch ball between your palms. If the chocolate is too firm to work with, let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. When a few round chocolate truffles have been made, roll them in the cocoa until completely covered, shaking off the excess. Repeat until all the chocolate is used. Refrigerate the finished product.

Does the prospect of making candy fill you with dread? Most larger communities have at least one good candy store to check out, such as Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier on Atwood Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin. When buying chocolates the same rule applies as when making candy: buy the best you can afford. This is St. Valentine's Day, when quality is more important than quantity.

"Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring." - Oscar Wilde.

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