When the weather takes a frosty turn with falling snow and Christmas lights brighten the night sky, the sweep of holiday festivities begin to descend. Living in a cold climate, it just doesn't feel like the holidays until the ground is covered in a thick sheet of white. In the last few days, Old Man Winter has come to visit and with him has come the sudden pressure to get ready for the upcoming holidays. I'm still sorting out the matter of gift giving, waiting until the last minute to get my affairs in order. With homemade gifts currently strewn about my apartment in various levels of disarray, I wonder whether it would have been a better decision to purchase them instead.
Even so, each year I just can't bring myself to do it, mess or otherwise. I love to bring a personal touch, however small it may be.
There is, however, one gift I present each year that I can never seem to keep a surprise. Since I was a young girl, it has become a tradition to make a box of chocolates for my father on Christmas. When a small package appears beneath the tree addressed to my father—wrapped with twine and a note warning Fragile!—everyone knows what is hidden within.
He has a deep love for chocolate that only a handful of truffles can cure; a hopeless craving that he has passed down to me. When I was young, I would wrap a bundle of Hershey's chocolate bars in paper, taking care to keep them away from the roaring flames in the fireplace. Now that I've grown older (and developed a few candy making skills of my own), his chocolate boxes have gradually grown in sophistication. The last box held an array of bonbons, with caramel and fondant filled treats, and enough milk chocolate truffles to last him into the New Year.
When summer rolled around this year, the idea to combine chocolate and red wine into a delicate truffle rushed through me like a sweet burst of wind. Overcome with inspiration, I tried to make these truffles in a ninety degree apartment in the middle of July. Needless to say, it didn't work out as planned. I've kept the idea brewing since, a low level current of decadence flowing thought the back of my mind. Now that the air is cool and the season is right, it was the perfect time to try my hand at these truffles again.
My father's chocolate box certainly won't go empty this year. With any luck, I hope you will find yours filled with goodies, too.
Note: The winners of the homemade holiday cookie giveaway have been chosen. A big congratulations to Jenny Hartin, Edith, and Monika Stout for winning a box of cookies delivered to your doorstep. Expect to hear from me very soon!
Red Wine Chocolate Truffles combine the aromatic strength of a dry, red wine and the dark tones of a quality bar of chocolate. The truffles themselves are simple to make, but have such a complex flavor you may guess otherwise. The truffles are rolled in cocoa powder before serving, lending a clean appearance to a rustic sweet. These truffles would make for a lovely addition to serve at a party with family and friends or enjoyed in front of a fireplace with a good book all by yourself.
Note: These truffles do contain alcohol and should be kept out of the hands of little ones.
Red Wine Chocolate Truffles
Yields 30-40 truffles
8 ounces (225 grams) high quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 (120 ml) cup dry, red wine (I used a Merlot)
2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter, melted
1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
Place the finely chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the wine to a boil over medium-high. Remove from heat and pour wine over the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes to fully melt the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has completely melted and is silky smooth. Stir in the melted butter.
Allow the chocolate to rest until it begins to firm up, about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir every 5 to 10 minutes. If the chocolate gets too hard, melt over a double boiler and repeat the cooling process. (Do not refrigerate or freeze the chocolate to shorten the cooling time. This will only result in truffles with an uneven texture.)
Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Using a spoon, pick up anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of chocolate (the amount will depend on how large you want your truffles) and roll it between your palms until it forms a sphere. Roll the truffle in the cocoa powder until it is completely covered. Place the truffle in a fine mesh strainer and shake to remove the excess cocoa powder. Set on a baking sheet to firm up.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week (or in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks). Bring the truffles back up to room temperature before serving. If the truffles have absorbed the cocoa powder, you can re-roll them before serving to give a more polished appearance (in fact, I suggest this for the best results).