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Treat yourself to truffles this New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve truffles are made with milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 3
Use a variety of toppings such as candy and nuts to coat each truffle. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 3
The heavy cream creates a soft, creamy center that is the signature of a truffle. David Samson / Forum News Service3 / 3

Whether you're planning a relaxing night at home or hitting the town on New Year's Eve, everyone deserves a special treat as we enter the new year. This week we're sharing our recipes for Milk and White Chocolate Truffles, which are rich, elegant and delicious, and go almost too well with Champagne and Prosecco.

Truffles are wonderful little confections made by creating a ganache (ge-naSH), a simple combination of chocolate, hot cream and, sometimes, butter. They are called truffles because their physical shape resembles the rare and edible fungus of the same name.

In similar fashion, they are heralded as a decadent and luxurious treat, and they can be found in upscale stores and specialty artisan shops, often with pricing to reflect their status.

But don't let their fancy image sway you from attempting to make your own truffles at home. With their simple list of ingredients, truffles are surprisingly easy to make, especially for a treat that has the power to create such delight for chocolate lovers the world over.

With so few ingredients, it's important to use high-quality products to ensure that your truffles meet your high-end expectations, including good chocolate and butter, and pure vanilla extract. When picking a chocolate, consider how you want your truffle to taste, and be sure to pick a chocolate that you enjoy eating straight out of the wrapper.

For the milk chocolate truffle, I used a combination of Hershey's milk chocolate (because it's currently Tony's favorite) and Guittard semi-sweet chocolate baking chips. Many sources advise against using regular chocolate chips for truffles, because they are made with stabilizers which can compromise both the flavor and texture of the truffle.

However, high-end chips, like Guittard, often contain few ingredients and only one stabilizer, sunflower lecithin, which has no effect on the truffle. If the right kind, chips can work great because they are the same size and thus melt evenly, but this can also be achieved by chopping a bar of good chocolate into small, fine pieces.

Truffles are a great make-ahead treat and can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks, or in the freezer for several months. Cocoa butter, the fat found in chocolate, easily absorbs the flavor and odor of whatever food it's around, so make sure you protect the truffles by storing them in an airtight container.

Once you've made the truffles, play around with a variety of coatings including shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts, candy sprinkles, crushed candy canes, toffee or brittle bits, melted chocolate, cocoa powder and sugar. Optional flavor add-ins like liqueurs, jams or citrus zest may also be used to enhance the chocolate.

The sky's the limit when it comes to truffles, which makes them the perfect choice for your New Year's Eve celebration. We wish you all a peaceful, prosperous and happy new year!

Milk Chocolate Truffles

Makes: 25 to 30 small truffles

Ingredients:

6 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter, softened or cut into pieces

Pinch of salt

Optional flavor add-ins:

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

2 tablespoons alcohol (Grand Marnier, rum, bourbon, cognac, brandy, Kahlua, Frangelico) or

2 tablespoons fruit jam

1 tablespoon orange zest, steeped in the hot cream for 5-7 min. and then strained to remove zest

Truffle coatings:

Shredded coconut, plain or lightly toasted

Crushed candy canes

Toffee or brittle bits

Sweetened or unsweetened cocoa powder

Melted or tempered chocolate, white, milk or dark (almond bark also works well)

Candy sprinkles

Nuts, toasted and finely chopped

Directions:

Place the chocolate pieces in a medium-sized heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and butter over medium heat, and stir to combine. Bring just to a boil—when bubbles start to form around the edge of the cream, remove from heat. Pour hot cream over the chocolate pieces and let stand for 2 minutes.

Mix in the vanilla and salt, and any other flavor add-ins. Stir or whisk the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use a gentle touch - mixing too vigorously will incorporate too much air into the mixture.

Pour chocolate into a shallow baking dish or pie plate, cover with plastic and refrigerate until the chocolate has set, at least 4 hours.

Lay your coatings out in small bowls. Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator and use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to scoop out the mixture and lay the pieces on a sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper. For round truffles, quickly roll each scoop between your palms and return to the baking sheet.

Roll truffles in desired coatings. If they are too soft to handle well, place them in the refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes.

Truffles should be stored in an airtight container and may be refrigerated for at least 2 weeks, or frozen for several months, in single, flat layers. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

White Chocolate Truffles

Makes: About 20 truffles

Ingredients:

8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped or chips

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Optional flavor add-ins:

½ teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons chocolate, coffee or orange liqueur

Truffle coatings:

Shredded coconut, plain or lightly toasted

Crushed candy canes

Toffee or brittle bits

Sweetened or unsweetened cocoa powder

Melted or tempered chocolate, white, milk or dark (almond bark also works well)

Candy sprinkles

Nuts, toasted and finely chopped (macadamia, pistachio and hazel nuts are great with white chocolate)

Directions:

Place the chocolate pieces in a medium-sized heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat. Bring just to a boil - when bubbles start to form around the edge of the cream, remove from heat.

Pour hot cream over the chocolate pieces and let stand for 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and salt and any other flavor add-ins. Stir or whisk the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use a gentle touch - mixing too vigorously will incorporate too much air into the mixture.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the chocolate has set, at least 2 hours.

When ready to roll the truffles, first lay your coatings out in small bowls. Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator and use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to scoop out the mixture. If mixture is too hard to work with after refrigerating, let it sit at room temperature until pliable enough to work with.

Place the truffles on a sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper. For round truffles, quickly roll each scoop between your palms and return to the baking sheet.

Roll truffles in desired coatings. If they are too soft to handle well, place them in the refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes.

Truffles should be stored in an airtight container and may be refrigerated for at least 2 weeks, or frozen for several months, in single, flat layers. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Sarah's Truffle Tips:

• If the chocolate doesn't seem to be melting all the way, fill a small saucepan with an inch of water, bring to a simmer and place the bowl over the simmering water for 10 seconds; remove, stir and repeat if necessary. Stir or whisk until smooth.

• Chocolate chips melt great, but many are made with stabilizers that can alter the flavor and texture of a truffle. Look for a high-quality chip that's made with few ingredients and uses just sunflower lecithin as a stabilizer.

• Store truffles in an airtight container in single layers, separated by parchment or wax paper. The cocoa butter found in chocolate easily absorbs

Recipe Time Capsule

This week in...

• 2016: Savory Crab Cheesecake

• 2015: Spicy Pork Tenderloin with Bacon Marmalade

• 2014: Chef Ben's Grapefruit & Shrimp Winter Salad

• 2013: Roasted Fennel Soup

• 2012: Sicilian Citrus Salad

Recipes may be found with article on Sarah's blog at thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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