Definitely one of the biggest part of the Christmas season for me involves chocolate...in many forms, of course, but often in balls. Small tastes of truffles, with many possible flavors, but for me never better than the purest form of chocolate and heavy cream, rolled in Ghiradelli powdered chocolate. Many recipes call for powdered cocoa, but that is too bitter for me. And nothing is more important to the quality of the truffle than the chocolate. My preference is Caillebaut bittersweet, which is available in better stores, and is also the best for dipping fruit like strawberries. Outside of the chocolate and cream, the flavor additions are almost limitless...nuts, fruit, spices...let your imagination run wild.
The basic recipe is as follows: chop the chocolate, bring the whipping cream to a boil and pour just enough to cover the chocolate. Cover and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then whisk until smooth. Allow to cool until it is firm enough to scoop into small ball, using a scoop or two spoons. Cool in the refrigerator until they are firm enough to roll into rough balls (secret hints: gloves help keep your hands clean, but most importantly rinse your hands in cold water and make sure to dry them thoroughly, so that the truffles do not melt from the warmth of your hands). Chill thoroughly and then roll in the powdered chocolate (secret hint: if you can’t get the Ghirardelli powdered chocolate, you can sift together some cocoa and powdered sugar).
½ cup heavy cream
1 lb. Bittersweet chocolate (preferably Belgian Caillebaut)
½ cup Ghirardelli powdered chocolate (or a mixture of 1/3 powdered sugar with 2/3 cocoa powder)
A bigger chocolate ball that I have been making for most of my culinary career is called Chocolate Snowball. A flourless chocolate cake that was a classic recipe I learned at the La Varenne cooking school in Paris. A few years later several La Varenne alumni were involved in the opening of Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. It seemed only natural to serve the Chocolate Snowball, so we put it on the menu of the Cafe Mariposa that winter of 1981-82... and it has been served there ever since, except for one month when I nearly got fired for taking it off the menu because I was tired of making it. Lesson learned: don’t mess with success! A very special young lady, Letty Flatt came to see me after the resort had been open for two years, and having worked first as a lift operator and then on ski patrol, she said to me “I want to bake”. I am proud to have given her her first kitchen job back then, as a couple of years later she become one of the head bakers, and is now the Executive Pastry Chef, and is the keeper of the tradition of the Chocolate Snowball. She even put together a wonderful cookbook by that name, which is what I consult now when someone asks me to make them a Chocolate Snowball. It really is the most simple of recipes, the secret is in the quality of the chocolate that you use to make it, and to use really good whipping cream to top it with. So many memories of people I have served this simple recipe to over the years... creating so much pleasure...and I hope so many good memories for all of them. It is a simple recipe, baked like a brownie, but in a bowl, so it can be inverted when cool and covered with stars of whipped cream to resemble a big, rich chocolate snowball. Enjoy!
FOR THE CAKE
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup sugar
¾ lb. unsalted butter 6 eggs, lightly beaten For the topping
1-1/2 cup whipping cream
2 TB sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract Melt the chocolate with the coffee.
Add the sugar and the butter until melted and smooth. Beat in the eggs.
Bake in a narrow deep bowl for 45-55 minutes. It will still be a little jiggly and crusty on top.
Refrigerate overnight in the bowl. Invert onto a serving plate. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff.
Using a pastry bag with a star tip, cover the cake completely with stars of cream to resemble a snowball. Refrigerate until about an hour before serving, then let it come closer to room temperature before slicing. It doesn’t always make pretty slices, but the taste makes up for any lack of neatness!