I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. When I was 17 years old and working in the town grocery store, I remember the line of men in the express checkout lane, all clutching their last-minute bouquets of tired-looking roses, picked-over cards and a box of Fannie May chocolates, bought in a rush on their way home from work. It all seemed arbitrary instead of romantic and it made an early cynic out of me.
As jaded as I am about a Hallmark holiday, it would be a shame to pass up an excuse to have some chocolate. I’ve upped the ante on the usual chocolate box selection and incorporated beer into these truffles. Believe it or not, a craft stout is a surprisingly good match with chocolate (think chocolate stout cake or porter brownies). The stout gives these truffles a deep, dark, bitter edge — a little like love?
Chocolate Stout Truffles
Makes about 24 truffles
Dungarvan Brewing Company’s Coffee and Oatmeal Stout, Eight Degrees Brewing Company’s Knockmealdown Porter or Trouble Brewing’s Dark Arts Porter would all be excellent choices, either to use in the truffles themselves or to sip alongside them. In the future, I’m going to take a cue from Adrienne at Bake for the Border and roll these truffles in crushed pretzels instead of cocoa powder. A little finely chopped candied bacon sprinkled on top wouldn’t be half bad either.
250 ml (1 cup) stout
200 g (7 oz) dark chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
100 ml (3.5 fl oz) double cream
a few tablespoons of cocoa powder, to dust (or crushed pretzels; see note above)
Place the stout in a saucepan and bring to the boil, watching it carefully to make sure it doesn’t bubble over, which it’s bound to do the moment you turn your back on it. Reduce the heat to a lively simmer until the stout has reduced to 50 ml (1/4 cup). Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (a bain marie), making sure the chocolate never comes into direct contact with the water. Place the cream in a separate small saucepan and heat it through. Allow the chocolate to melt, then stir in the cream, which will thicken the chocolate. Gradually whisk in the reduced stout. Don’t worry if the mixture looks grainy or if it starts to separate – just whisk like mad until it turns smooth and shiny and the stout is fully incorporated.
Spread the chocolate into a shallow casserole dish or tray. Cover the dish with cling film and set aside at room temperature for a few hours, until the mixture firms up. You could also put it in the fridge overnight, then set it out to come back to room temperature when you’re ready to form the truffles (fridge-cold chocolate will be too hard to scoop).
Fill up your sink with some warm soapy water or have a damp cloth ready so that you can clean your hands if you need to as you go along. Sift a few tablespoons of cocoa powder into a bowl or a shallow plate. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to scoop out a little chocolate, then form the chocolate into small, bite-sized balls by rolling the mixture between your hands. Gently roll the truffles around in the cocoa power until they’re thinly coated. Store the truffles in the fridge.