So where do we start? In the center! The ganache filling is the easiest part of making truffles. Truffle centers are the creamy, smooth, rich part of the deal and they get that way with a lot of heavy cream. Because there is a lot of fat in the ganache from the cream, you don't have to worry about tempering the chocolate, which is the trickiest part of truffle making.
Truffle Filling - Ganache
Yield: about 30 truffle centers
8 oz high quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 TBS liquor (optional)
Prepare a simple double boiler by adding 1 inch of water in the bottom of a sauce pan and setting a glass bowl over it (see picture for the set-up I use). Turn heat on to medium. When the water starts to simmer, be sure to turn it down. You want it to simmer, not boil, when melting the chocolate.
Measure the chocolate on a scale. I'm not usually a huge fan of weighing my ingredients, but because chocolate comes in all kinds of shapes making it hard to get a consistent measurement, a scale is best. Put chocolate in the bowl of the double boiler. Stir periodically to help it melt evenly. BEWARE: chocolate has an arch-enemy! Be very careful to never get any water or moisture in your chocolate or it could seize up into a ball and never recover.
Meanwhile, heat up the cream in a pan on the stove or in the microwave. You want to just bring it to a boil (bubbles around the edge, not a full on bubble fest). Set aside to cool. You do not want to add it to the chocolate until it is below 120 degrees F.
When the chocolate is mostly melted, remove from the double boiler. Pour the cream through a small sieve and into the chocolate. The sieve is important because as the cream cools, it will form a skim that you do not want in your ganache. Stir until completely incorporated. If adding flavoring, do so now. I would start with a tablespoon and then add until it tastes the way you want it. You want the liquor to impart a subtle flavor, not jump in your face. Place a cover of plastic wrap onto the surface of the ganache and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Once the ganache has chilled, it is time to shape the centers. There are many ways to do this. I use a #100 disher (holds about 2 tsp) and scoop ganache onto a parchment lined sheet tray. I scoop them all out and just let them fall willy-nilly. Once they are all scooped, I put on disposable vinyl gloves (find them in the first aid aisle - they are much cheaper than latex and won't leave your hands smelling funny). The gloves will help to keep your hands clean, but they also help form an insulating barrier between the chocolate and your hot little hands. If your hands are like ice cubes, I wouldn't worry about wearing gloves. Then I pick each one up and roll it around until it is spherical. Return balls to the tray and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to dip the centers in their chocolate bath.
A note about making multiple flavors: when you have finished making the chocolate/cream mixture, pour the ganache into the same number of bowls as flavors you are planning. You shouldn't try to do more than two flavorings per recipe quantity. I actually multiply the recipe by as many flavors as I want to end up with. For instance, I wanted to end up with 4 flavors, so I melted 2 lbs of chocolate and added 2 cups of cream. I then poured the ganache into four bowls and added 1-2 TBS of flavoring to each. This method is a lot easier than making a batch of ganache separately for each flavor. If I am working with multiple flavors, I always keep little sticky notes around so I can keep track of which batch is which.
Good liquors to use for flavoring: Bailey's Irish Cream, Kahluah, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Creme de Menthe... try your favorite!
Next we meet, we'll talk about tempering!