I used to love snow days. They didn’t come very often because in Minnesota just getting heavy snow does not mean school will be cancelled. But when they did occur, it was pure bliss. Suddenly you had a break from real life for twenty-four glorious hours. The homework that you were planning on doing before 5th hour? Well you could do it tomorrow before 5th hour. That lecture you were dreading? You could be bored during it tomorrow. There was absolutely no reason to go out of the house or even to be productive while in the house. One might as well lay in bed all day reading. Or play in the snow. Or do nothing at all and just watch the hours slip away.
Life isn’t quite like that anymore. Now, there are things to be done regardless of whether or not a full-blown blizzard lands on my doorstep. For one thing, I live in an apartment building so there is no doorstep. Plus I live so close to work that I don’t technically need to walk on a real street to get there. Worst of all, even if I could justify not going into work, the work would still be there. What I need to do by the end of the week still needs to be done by the end of the week. Sigh.
So this is why I felt so torn on Wednesday. Part of me was anxiously watching the weather channel, asking everyone I met if it was true: “Is today a snow day? Is school cancelled?” The other part of me knew that it didn’t matter if school was cancelled. I still had to go and do the work that needed to be done. Halfway through the day I was still fighting this internal struggle and decided a compromise was in order. I would work and be as productive as possible. But I would also take a longer than necessary lunch break in order to relax and participate in one of my favorite snow day pleasures.
Truffles. Because sometimes when it is cold and snowy outside you need something rich and luxurious inside. And what’s more luxurious than chocolate truffles? Plus these were so fast and easy to make that I could whip up a batch during lunch and just coat them in cocoa whenever I had time. Plus, it’s an Alice Medrich recipe. You know what that means, right? It just has to be fantastic.
In addition to Wednesday during lunch I’ve made these many times. They aren’t very pretty (oh, you noticed?), but they’re delicious and make a great gift. People will be impressed that you made truffles for them. Such as your sweetheart tomorrow. Or your coworkers on Monday. The only important thing is that you don’t leave them out of the refrigerator for more than an hour or so. I’ve learned that the hard way. Gift for someone that’s a four-hour plane ride away? Maybe just send them the recipe.
Truffles Au Cocolat
Adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
8oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons (2.5 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup boiling water or brewed expresso
unsweetened cocoa powder (~1/4 cup, for rolling)
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or foil and set aside.
Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl in a pan of barely simmering water. Slowly melt the butter and chocolate, while mixing. When almost completely melted, remove the bowl from the water bath and stir to finish the melting process.
Place the egg yolk in a small heatproof bowl and stir in the boiling water. (I used expresso this last time and it was good, but a little too intense. Next time I will probably use part expresso and part water to get some flavor but keep the coffee from overpowering the chocolate. I think using regular coffee would work here too but the coffee connoisseur around here says that’s different than diluted expresso.) Place the egg yolk bowl in the simmering water bath and heat, stirring until the temperature of the mixture registers 160F. (If you’re not worried about consuming raw eggs you can skip this step.) When the yolk mixture is ready, scrape it immediately into the melted chocolate mixture and stir gently until completely blended and smooth (don’t beat or whisk too harshly). Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or directly into the lined pan. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly and chill until firm, ~2hrs.
Put the cocoa in a medium bowl. Remove the truffle pan from the refrigerator and and use the liner to transfer the truffle sheet to a cutting board. Allow the truffle sheet to soften so that you can cut it without cracking. Cut the truffles into small squares (~32) and toss them in the bowl with the cocoa. If you want you can try to roll the truffles into balls using cocoa dusted finger tips but I’ve never gotten this to work. Store the truffles in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Indulge yourself frequently.
I should note that this makes half of Alice Medrich’s original recipe, which I find is about all I can handle to have in the house. If you’re making these as gifts though (or just want a lot of truffles) use twice the amount of each ingredient and place the mixture in an 8-inch square baking pan.