I LOVE marzipan. I inherited my intense love for marzipan from my maternal grandmother, we called Doe. On many special occasions, she bought a Princess Cake to celebrate. Princess cakes have white cake, and I think, a layer of raspberry jam, but in my little-kid mind, the cake and filling were really just a marzipan delivery device. The entire cake is draped with a glorious sheet of marzipan. I think Doe and I were the only ones truly enamored with the almondy goodness, because I remember sneaking around the room when everyone was done with their cake, and eating the marzipan layer many had left behind.
In the spirit of giving from the heart, Marc and I decided to make chocolate truffles this holiday season. On my birthday, we spent the day at my aunt and uncle’s house making truffles and fudge (all day long) with my cousin who is home from college on winter break. It was quite an adventure. We had dozens of flavor ideas. There were about six that we tried out this time around. This post is the first in a series of truffle making as we perfect the flavors and attempt mastery of tempering chocolate.
Since I absolutely love marzipan and almond flavored desserts, why not incorporate it into truffles? Marzipan is simply sweetened almonds that have been ground to a paste. You can also find almond paste, and I think the difference is that it’s less sweet. I thought it would be fun to use marzipan with our truffles, but wasn’t sure how exactly to execute it. In specialty food stores, the combination of marzipan and chocolate is usually presented with rather dry marzipan covered in a thin layer of inferior chocolate. I always eat it anyway, trying to get a little of that marzipan fix, but am often disappointed.
When I mentioned to my cousin Sam that I wanted to do something with chocolate and marzipan, he suggested we wrap the marzipan around the ganache truffle. Marc and I were both a little skeptical, but I started to roll out the marzipan to give it a try. Intending to roll it out like dough, I was looking for powdered sugar to prevent it from sticking to the counter. There wasn’t any in the cupboard, so we settled for regular white granulated sugar. What a serendipitous success! It worked quite well sprinkled on the counter, and the resulting rolled-out marzipan had a sparkly sheen.
When we made the truffles again this weekend, we decided to try out a different technique and Marc rolled the marzipan out between two pieces of parchment paper. This was a cleaner, less sticky method, and since you aren’t pushing more sugar into the marzipan than you actually need, you can control the amount you use. Just roll the finished truffle in sugar to get the sparkly frosted effect. The resulting almond infused marzipan truffle is wonderful. Full of almond flavor, good quality chocolate, and enrobed in marzipan, these are an easy and delightful treat.
Although I usually stress the importance of organic ingredients, these truffles stray from that a bit. I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Bittersweet Chocolate, which is unfortunately not organic, but at under three dollars, is an amazing deal for such high quality chocolate. Also, I’ve only come across organic marzipan once, and that was several years ago. I suppose you could make your own, but the best brand I’ve come across, Odense, is sold at most grocery stores. Also, though I had to buy a small box since we never keep it in our house, bleached white sugar is going to give the best frosted effect on the finished marzipan truffles. I did use organic almond extract and cream in the ganache though, so that’s somethin’. Here you have a step by step of my favorite new truffle. I’ve never seen any like this before. Have you?
a little less than 2 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream, as example, say, 8 ounces chocolate and 5 ounces cream (we used a dark, bittersweet chocolate since the marzipan is already quite sweet)
1-2 packages of marzipan (we used a 7 oz. tube of Odense)
double boiler (or bowl suspended over a saucepan with an inch or two of simmering water)
rubber or silicone spatula
melon baller (small scoop should be 1/2 tsp size or smaller)
cookie sheet (preferably cold from the fridge or freezer)
2 1/2 round cookie cutter
Chop the chocolate into small uniform chunks and put into a bowl. Heat cream in double boiler until small bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and add half of the cream to the chocolate chunks, stirring with the spatula to melt the chocolate. Incorporate more of the cream into the chocolate to continue to melt it, until the mixture becomes smooth and glossy. If you need a little heat to facilitate meltage, you can put the bowl over the simmering water for 10-15 seconds at a time, just don’t scorch it and make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. All of this will vary depending on the humidity and temperature in the room, type of chocolate, water content in your cream, etc. So, this is all a guide, not hard and fast rules.
Once you’ve reached smooth, melted, glossy chocolate ganache, this is the time to take it off the heat and add flavorings. You could split it up into a few separate bowls to create different flavors. How strongly flavored your particular chocolate and almond extract are, will determine how much of the extract you use. Start with say, 1 tsp. and keep tasting and adding extract as you like. You are creating this for yourself, so flavor it to your taste, once you think you’ve gotten it to a place you like, have someone else taste it as well. Believe me, once you’ve tasted it 4 or 5 times, it’s good to get another perspective. You also don’t want to overpower the chocolate with too much extract, so start with a small amount and add more. If you accidentally add too much, you could make a little more ganache, to dilute it.
When it tastes delicious, press plastic wrap down on the top of the ganache, and put the bowl in the freezer for about 2 hours, or you can put it in the fridge and come back to it a day or two later, to start the balling process. You will want the ganache to be hard enough to scoop individual balls out of, but not so hard you need Hulk-like strength. Based on our experience, it’s best to make the balls of ganache smaller than you think they should be. They will be covered in marzipan, (or tempered chocolate, if you were going that route) so they will gain another 50% or so in size.
A smaller truffle is a treat, that leaves you wanting more, a giant truffle is too sickeningly sweet, and can become a chore.
The most effective way we found for balling the cold ganache, is to warm the melon baller scoop in very hot water or in the flame of the gas stove. Warm though, not so hot the chocolate melts and sizzles. Then, if you have the technique right, you can scoop the chocolate into balls, and just tap it onto the cookie sheet. Warm the scoop again when you start having to fish around with your finger to smoosh the ganache out. Just make sure the scoop is dry when you start balling again.
The ganache balls most likely will not be perfect balls, right out of the scoop, so it’s best to have another person there to help you by rolling them quickly between their palms. It becomes a much messier job, and a lot slower, if you try to scoop them and roll in your hands yourself. You want to work relatively quickly too, because the ganache is getting softer and softer the more time it spends out of the fridge/freezer, and therefore harder to work with. You’ll end up with a lot more on your hands than on the cookie sheet.
When you have all of your ganache balls made, put the tray into the freezer for about 1 hour (less if you were able to work quickly and they are still cold). While the balls of ganache are chillin’ in the freezer, time to play with marzipan. Between two layers of parchment, roll the marzipan as thin as you can, (about 1/16 inch) without being transparent. We found that a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter created the perfect sized circles to wrap around the ganache balls, but you could also free-hand it, or improvise with something else.
Remember that you don’t want to stain the outside of the marzipan layer with chocolate on your fingers, so toothpicks come in very handy at this stage. When your ganache balls are chilled, you can get started, by picking one up with a toothpick and dropping it in the center of your circle. Then wrap the marzipan around the chocolate, sealing it up with an excess of marzipan at the end.
Cut that excess marzipan off, and roll the the marzipan truffle between your palms to smooth it into a ball. If you accidentally cut into the chocolate, it is easy to patch with a little excess marzipan. Eat that little brown bit, so you don’t contaminate the other marzipan with chocolate. Every time you have extra marzipan left over, you can just smoosh it together again, roll it out, and make another truffle. Roll each one in white sugar, and you’ve got tasty, festive holiday treats that look like little snowballs. We found little paper baking and party cups to present them in, from our local craft store in the candy/cake decorating section.
It’s hard to say just how many truffles you’ll get out of each batch, since the size will vary, but using the small scoop of the melon baller, we got over 30 truffles from 6 oz. chocolate and 3-4 oz. cream. Then rolling it out thin, we got 17 marzipan circles from a 7 oz. package. We could have bought another package of marzipan, but I think we’ll dip the rest of the almond ganache balls in tempered chocolate and top them with a sliced or slivered almond to give a hint of what’s inside.