Chocolate. Peanut Butter. Pretzels. It’s hard to go wrong with this trio. Peanut butter is not easy to find in Rabat, and since I’m back in the US for a few weeks, I’ve been finding ways to slip peanut butter into snacks, desserts, and even main courses (Thai peanut noodles!). Last week, on the day before Valentine’s Day, the Washington, DC area was hit with a snowstorm. This meant a day sequestered in my sterile, short-term apartment. For me, a snow day at home always involves trying out some new recipes. Without a working oven and limited kitchen appliances, baking was out of the question so I was on the hunt for a no-bake dessert. With chocolate and Valentine’s Day on my mind, I decided to make chocolate truffles.
I’ve never made truffles before, but after reading a few recipes online, and having made ganache and tempered chocolate before, I figured it was time to give truffles a try. I ventered out to pick up a few ingredients in the midst of snow and freezing rain, and since I don’t have a car, I decided to stop in the CVS to see if I could pick up the ingredients there. Yes. I made truffles with drug store ingredients. I picked up 2 bars of Cadbury Dark Chocolate and 2 bars of Godiva Milk Chocolate for the ganache and chocolate shell. CVS didn’t have any heavy cream, so I picked up a small carton of Half & Half. I initially wanted some hazelnuts or almonds, but as I was grabbing a package of roasted almonds, I realized that I have no food processor to chop the almonds, nor do I have a decent knife for the task. CVS doesn’t sell chopped nuts and I really wanted to avoid the trek to the nearest grocery store. So, looking around the snack aisle, the pretzels caught my eye. If chocolate covered pretzels work, then pretzel covered chocolate should work too, right? With that, I was ready.
Once I was out of the snow and back in the kitchen, I knew that the half & half was going to pose an issue, since it has a lower fat content than the heavy cream called for in traditional ganache. Then, peanut butter entered the picture. I thought that the natural fat in the peanut butter would help my ganache set up in the absence of the heavy cream. Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Pretzels? It was a hit. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
DARK CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER PRETZEL TRUFFLES
7 oz. solid dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/3 cup all natural peanut butter, at room temperature
7 oz. solid milk chocolate, roughly chopped (I used milk chocolate to add a little sweetness to the dark chocolate ganache)
4 oz. small salted pretzel twists
Simmer the half & half with the corn syrup over in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.
While the you are bringing the half & half to a simmer, place the chopped dark chocolate and 3 tablespoons of butter in a large microwave safe bowl.
Microwave the chocolate and butter in 15 seconds increments for a total of 45-60 seconds. The chocolate will not look like it’s melted. In between each 15 second interval, take the bowl out and give it a stir with a rubber spatula. As soon as the chocolate is soft enough to stir with a heavy hand, it’s ready. The chocolate will continue to melt. Start mixing it with a rubber spatula until it just comes together.
Turn off the heat on the half and half as soon as it comes to a light simmer. Pour the half & half over the chocolate and butter. Let the chocolate and cream rest for 1-2 minutes. Resist your temptation to stir immediately. We are looking for the heat of the cream/half & half to help the chocolate melt down. After the mixture rests, add the peanut butter, then stir slowly with a large rubber spatula. Mix everything together slowly, you want to create a silky chocolate mixture without introducing air to the chocolate.
Then pour the chocolate into a flat bottom dish, an 8 inch cake pan or square pan works well here. You want to pour this into a flat bottom dish instead of leaving it in a bowl so that the ganache will set evenly, creating a smoother ganache. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
In the meantime, crush the pretzels. If you have a food processor, pulse the pretzels 3-4 times until you have large crumbs. Since I don’t have a food processor, I dumped some pretzels into a small bowl and crushed them with the bottom of a glass. Divide the pretzel crumbs into two small bowls.
When the ganache is set, scoop the ganache onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. A melon baller works well here, but you can also do this with a round tablespoon. After you’ve scooped out all the ganache onto the cookie sheet, refrigerate the ganache again for 10-15 mins.
Take the ganache out and roll each drop into a ball. Many recipes advise that you do this with non-powered latex gloves. I do this with my bare hands, but you must have COLD hands to do this, so I keep a bowl of ice water and a clean towel close by so I can dunk my hands in the ice water and dry them off quickly to keep my hands cold as I’m rolling the ganache into balls. Once you’ve completed forming the ganache into balls by quickly rolling the ganache between your palms, place the tray of rolled ganache back into the fridge (not more than 10 minutes in the fridge, or it will shrink the tempered chocolate coating).
Now, prepare the remaining milk chocolate. I do this by first microwaving the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 10 seconds, then using a double boiler. Simply fill a small sauce pan with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a low simmer over low heat. You must have a ceramic or glass bowl that can sit in the bowl without touching the water. Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl that will eventually sit in the small saucepan over the water. After microwaving for 10 seconds in the bowl, place the bowl over the simmering water in the saucepan. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. Just be persistent in your stirring, it will melt, albeit slowly. You want to have the chocolate at about 90-91F, but if you don’t have a thermometer, don’t worry. The chocolate should stay warm to the touch. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s overheated. Low and slow wins the game. I didn’t have a thermometer and I kept turning the stove on and off to avoid over heating the chocolate. You want the warm steam for the simmering water to melt the chocolate — you don’t want to heat the chocolate. This is known as tempering the chocolate.
Once the chocolate is tempered. You are ready for dipping and covering. Take out the rolled ganache. Working quickly, dip the ganache into the tempered milk chocolate and then roll in the pretzel crumbs. I do this by coating a large spoon with the tempered chocolate, then placing the ganache ball into the large spoon and rolling the ganache around in the spoon to coat it with the tempered chocolate. You want a light covering, not a super thick coat. Then place the coated ganache ball in one of your pretzel crumb bowls. Using a small spoon, cover the ball with pretzel crumbs and gently roll the ball in the crumbs to coat. Then leave the ball in the crumbs. Repeat, using the other bowl of pretzel crumbs for the second truffle. This is the reason you have 2 bowls of pretzel crumbs. You want the truffle to set for a minute or two before you remove the truffle from the bowl of crumbs. Having two bowls of the pretzel crumbs allows you to alternate the coating process, allowing an extra minute or two for the truffle to start setting up. Repeat this process with the remaining ganache, coating with the tempered chocolate and then covering with pretzel crumbs. You will probably have chocolate and pretzels leftover after you’ve worked through all of your ganache.