Although many of us try to figure out what to give as gifts, I think my mother got it right when she said there is no greater gift than one that comes from both the hand and the heart.
Mom loved to receive delightful edible gifts, especially when they were things she rarely would make or buy for herself, like expensive chocolate treats.
She taught me when I was young the importance of quality ingredients, giving me with the proper tools and information to take regular recipes to new heights in flavor and pleasure.
One of Mom’s favorite treats, which happens to make an excellent gift, are chocolate truffles. An unparalleled delicacy that often come with a high price tag, truffles are considered to be the essence of chocolate. Many believe the true taste of a truffle is not truly experienced until one has eaten one that's freshly made at home. This is because commercially produced truffles contain many additives and preservatives to prolong their shelf-life, but do not necessarily protect taste.
The royalty of homemade candy, truffles depend on royally good ingredients. Although I found many outstanding chocolates available, the most reasonable prices are found at chocolate wholesalers that sell to the public, like Santa Barbara Chocolate. It offers a treasure of product selections and sells in bulk amounts (3-pound bags). If you do the math (compare it to the cost and ounces of a good chocolate bar) it is the best, most affordable way to supreme chocolate.
Another option to save on chocolate costs is to buy a premium cocoa powder, such as Santa Barbara's red cocoa, and turn it into chocolate yourself. However, be sure to use a water-free fat when making your chocolate, because any water added to chocolate will cause it to seize. This is an issue, especially since most of today’s butter has added water. The best way to avoid any water problems is to use European-sourced butter, clarified butter, Ghee or solid coconut oil. Also, do not expose your chocolate to direct heat, which causes it to scorch. Use a double-boiler or microwave and only heat until it begins to melt, then stir, stir, stir.
Here is a simple way to create a royal and from-the-heart gift suitable for all ages.
Laura’s not-so-tricky truffles
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese3 cups powdered sugar12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted1-teaspoon pure vanilla extract1/2 teaspoon coffee liqueur, optionalCoatings, optional1/2 cup of your choice: melted milk or dark chocolate, raw and toasted coconut, ground toasted nuts, and or cocoa, espresso powder, or powdered sugar.In a mixer using whisk, beat cheese until smooth. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar. Slowly add melted chocolate, vanilla and liquor, if using. Refrigerate until formed, about an hour. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in desired coating. Store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature just before serving. Long term storage: Well wrapped in sealed containers and placed in the freezer. Approximate servings per recipe: 60 1-inch balls.
This article originally appeared on Sturgis Journal: Home Plate: Holiday chocolate treasure