Having too many truffles around isn't a bad problem, but that's how Pete Steffy went pro. After studying under a chocolate-shop owner in Mexico for fun while teaching abroad, Pete came home to Detroit obsessed with perfecting a recipe, giving piles of candy away. When friends of friends begged for more, he launched Pete's Chocolate Company, a wholesale business with occasional stalls in places like Eastern Market.
"Traditional hand-rolled truffles are soft and creamy," Pete says. But, he adds, delicate doesn't mean difficult. There's no fussy tempering or messy dipping here. Just melt chocolate with cream, chill until firm, then roll little balls and coat them in cocoa, nuts or sugar—kind of like shaping a snickerdoodle cookie. "There's a lot of room for experimentation," says Pete, who adds ingredients like rosemary, peanuts or sea salt to his truffles. "But the basic technique is easy enough for anyone to make amazing homemade chocolates."
Photo: Blaine Moats
Chop chocolate (for quantity, see note below). Set aside. Heat 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in a double boiler or heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occassionally, until steaming (do not boil).
Tip: "Buy the nicest looking bars at the store," Pete says. "Look for something without artificial flavors or fillers like vegetable oil."
Add chocolate; stir to coat, then remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for five minutes. Stir until combined, scraping sides.
Tip: "Sometimes the mixture will break and the fat starts to separate," Pete warns. But not to fear: "If it looks lumpy or oily, an immersion blender quickly and easily makes it really smooth again. A whisk works, too."
If necessary, briefly return to low heat to melt fully. Add a mix-in, if desired. Line a rimmed baking sheeting with parchment paper. Spread mixture evenly on paper.
Tip: Mix-ins include finely chopped toasted nuts; minced dried fruit or crystallized ginger; liqueur, such as Kahlua (1 tablespoon); extract, such as peppermint (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon); and spices, such as cayenne, cinnamon or sea salt.
Let mixture stand for 2 hours to set, then chill at least 2 more hours in the fridge. Using a 1-inch scoop or 2 teaspoons, divide mixture into 1-inch pieces. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If necessary, chill 10 to 15 minutes, until just firm.
Tip: The mixture shouldn't be rock-hard, but you'll be rolling it with your hands, so you want it firm enough to avoid melting.
Roll each piece between your palms until round, smooth and a bit tacky, but not gooey. Toss each ball immediately in coating of your choice.
Tip: Try coating truffles in cocoa powder, coarse decorating sugars, sprinkles, finely chopped toasted nuts or free-dried raspberries, blitzed to a red powder in the food processor. Truffles coated in with freeze-dried raspberries taste and look best the first day. Other coatings will hold fine for a few days. Store truffles at a cool, dry room temp.
How Much Chocolate?
You can use bittersweet, milk or white chocolate--but the amount varies because each melts to a different consistency. For every 1/2 cup cream, use 150 grams bittersweet chocolate (yield: about 16 truffles), 300 grams milk chocolate (yield: 26) or 410 grams white chocolate (yield: 32). For shopping reference: Good quality bars such as Lindt or Ghiradelli weigh about 100 grams, but an inexpensive digital scale makes precise measuring a breeze.
Get to know Pete
Began making truffles in 2009. Founding member of FoodLab Detroit, a small business incubator. Plays bass guitar.