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Chocolate city

(article, Melissa Lion)

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Valentine’s Day is a perilous holiday. Buy the wrong flowers, chocolates, or diamonds, and you might be rewarded with sneezing, wheezing, or just plain silence. 

This Valentine’s Day, however, will be different. You’re going to greet it with confidence, chin up, ready to look your love in the eye. Your secret: handmade truffles. No, not bought at the store. Made by you.

Stop raising those eyebrows already. I know you’ve heard about how tricky it is to temper chocolate correctly, about the dangers of breaking the ganache. I know you probably don’t have a marble slab for working chocolate or even an instant-read thermometer to gauge just the right temperature. Relax. You don’t need any of it.

Here’s what you do need: Twenty ounces of chocolate that tastes good to you. Heavy whipping cream. Chopped nuts, cocoa powder, or chocolate-covered ants — whatever you want to sprinkle on the outside of your truffles. 

[%image truffles float=right width=300 credit="Photo: iStockphoto/eringleeson" caption="Wow your valentine with homemade truffles."]

Got all that? Great. Let’s go.

The day before Valentine’s Day, you’ll make the ganache. Sounds fancy and French, true, but there’s a microwave involved, so it can’t be that tough. 

First, make sure everything is dry. Bone dry. No moisture on your knife, cutting board, nothing. Get out eight ounces of chocolate and a sharp, heavy knife. Hack that chocolate into even-ish pieces. Put them in a glass bowl and pop them in the microwave. 

Be very careful here; heat is the enemy of chocolate, and you only want to zap it until 80 percent of the chocolate is melted. Stir between 30-second bursts. Near the end, blast in 10-second intervals, stirring each time. When 80 percent of the chocolate is melted, the rest will melt as you stir. 

Second, get out the cream. Put about a cup in a small pot and, when it’s just simmering, pour it in quarters into the chocolate. Stir to incorporate after each quarter-cup. 

At first the chocolate will look grainy, but don’t worry; just keep stirring and adding cream. When all the cream is incorporated, put the bowl in the fridge for a few hours. It’ll harden. You want this. 

When it’s hard, take it out of the fridge. Get out a teaspoon and a small baking sheet or pan that will fit in you freezer. (I use Tupperware.) Using the teaspoon, scoop out marble-sized bits of ganache and put them in your pan. Don’t worry about making them perfectly round; the reason they’re called “truffles,” after all, is because they’re supposed to look like fungi that you dug out of the ground.

So now you’ve scooped all your bits. Your bowl is empty. Put your bits into the freezer. Go loofah your feet, wash your sheets, and get a good night’s rest, because tomorrow is the big day.

Good morning, Cupid! 

Dry everything again, same as before. Get out your chopped nuts, cocoa powder, ants, whatever. Put them on a plate. Grab your bits from the freezer. Get out 12 ounces of chocolate. Hack this chocolate up, like yesterday. Do the microwave routine again. You need one empty plate, too. 

OK, so you have your frozen ganache bits, your melted chocolate, and your nuts/cocoa/ants. Dip the bits into the melted chocolate. Roll them around. Toss them in the nuts/cocoa/ants. Put them on your empty plate. Repeat. 

Your fingers will become caked in chocolate. The chocolate will harden and your fingers will look like chocolate logs. I think this is funny, but it can be sexy, too — nibble, nibble. Back to the task, people! Let your truffles cool. You can even stick them back in the freezer. 


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Forty minutes before you see your Valentine, take your gorgeous truffles out of the freezer so they lose their chill. When your sweetie arrives, offer up a choc. Be ready for swooning — first, because there’s nothing quite as tasty as a homemade truffle, and second, because you, the maker of these fine confections, look irresistible. 

You eat a truffle, too. Isn’t it wonderful? Well, happy Valentine’s Day to you. And yours.

p(bio). Melissa Lion is the author of two novels, [%bookLink code=0385746423 Swollen] and [%bookLink code=0375839542 Upstream]._ She lives in Portland, Oregon, and blogs about extremely personal things very publicly on her website.

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