Valentine's Day dessert: Homemade chocolate truffles

Valentine's Day can often mean a boring box of assorted chocolate. This year, give your sweetheart a gift tailored to his or her taste, homemade truffles. Black sesame seeds make a bold coating, but you can roll your truffles in any topping you like.

Pickles and Tea
Homemade truffles may seem complicated, but with just a little whisking and rolling you'll have an unforgettable Valentine's Day dessert.

When it comes to anecdotes about chocolates and life, the most famous quote of all has to be Forrest Gump’s: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Recently, I discovered another quote in a book by one of my favorite authors of all time, Haruki Murakami, "Norwegian Wood." In chapter 10, Toru’s (the main character) love interest Midori says, “Just remember, life is like a box of chocolates.” … “You know, they’ve got these chocolate assortments, and you like some but you don’t like others? And you eat all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don’t like as much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. “Now I just have to polish these off, and everything’ll be OK.’ Life is a box of chocolates.”

Why am I bringing all this up? Why, because it’s Valentine’s Day this week of course!

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a box of assorted chocolates, then you know exactly what Midori’s talking about. So why would you even subject your loved ones to this travesty?

The good news is, I’ve come up with the perfect antidote to the Whitmans sampler – make your own chocolates, chocolate truffles to be exact. It’s the only way to ensure reliably good chocolate with every bite (while going easy on your pocketbook too!).

I know I know, you think it’s too hard, too complicated, too messy. I did too, but that was before I attended Ivy Chan’s chocolate making class. Trust me, even the most novice of cooks/bakers/chocolatiers will be able to make these truffles. All it takes is heating up some heavy cream, lots of whisking and dexterous fingers for rolling!

Your truffles can be coated with anything your – or your sweetheart’s – heart desires: pistachios, powdered sugar, matcha powder, etc. Rather than coat my truffles with cocoa powder or sugar or nuts (which you certainly can), I decided to experiment with black sesame seeds. You’ve probably encountered these exotic, dark kernels crusted onto seared tuna or pressed into a fancy sushi roll. Perhaps your local ice cream shop has black sesame ice cream. More traditional preparations include glutinous rice balls stuffed with black sesame paste in sweet soup (tang yuan), black sesame porridge (there are both Chinese and Korean versions of this snack), and black sesame mochi.

Compared to its pale cousin, black sesame seeds are nuttier in flavor, and they are an excellent source of many essential minerals, as well as a very good source of vitamin B1 (thiamin) and dietary fiber. Plus, their dusky shade makes a bold culinary and aesthetic statement.

Black sesame chocolate truffles
Makes 2 dozen truffles 

Depending on your chocolate preference, you can use either semisweet (about 50-60%) or bittersweet (70% and above) chocolate. Or simply mix them up! You can find black sesame seeds at any Asian or Middle-Eastern markets. They usually come in big bottles, so you‘re gonna need more recipes like thisthis and this.

8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (Lindt and Green & Black’s are two brands I like), chopped as finely as you can
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons roasted black sesame seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle into a gritty, sand-like texture (you can also use a food processor but pulse cautiously and don’t let the seeds turn into a paste)

1. Place chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl.

2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. As soon as the cream starts bubbling, take it off the heat and let it stand for about 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a sieve (to strain out the milk skin that may form) over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk till smooth, then add the vanilla and whisk until incorporated. Refrigerate, uncovered, until somewhat firm, about 1 hour.

3. Using 2 teaspoons (or a melon-baller), spoon balls of chocolate onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until set.

4. With your hands, roll the chocolate into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seed dust, pressing in and covering completely. Package in pretty boxes and watch your loved ones smile in delight when they bite into the truffles, one after another!

Note: These truffles will keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks but are best eaten at room temperature.

Related post on Pickles and Tea: Chippy Condensed Milk Cookies

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