Earl Grey Chocolate truffles
1/2 cup (4 oz) heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
3 bags high-quality Earl Grey tea
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (54-60% cacao), chopped fine
1/2 cup (4 oz, or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbsp brandy
1/8 tsp coarse kosher salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
Mix the cream and sugar together in a heavy small saucepan. Bring it up to just a boil (watch the heat, don't let it come to a rolling boil - the cream will scald), stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pull the pan from the heat. Cut open the tea bags and dump them right into the cream. Cover and let the whole thing steep for 20 minutes or so; you're making yourself a really thick cream tea.
Meanwhile, place the chocolate and butter in a large bowl - I like metal, since they're durable, but any bowl that can take some heat. Put the cream mixture back on low heat and bring the temperature up again (slowly!). Once it's warm, strain the cream mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (or through several layers of cheesecloth) right into the chocolate mixture; the heat from the cream will melt the chocolate - I promise. Stir to blend. Stir in the brandy and salt. Let the mix cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. At this point, I like to pour the mixture into a baking pan, or other flat-bottomed dish, forming an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 4 hours or so.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls of the ganache (that's the fancy French term for the chocolate mixture) and roll them between your palms to form small balls. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and chill them in the fridge until firm, about 1 hour.
Place the cocoa powder in a small dish or bowl (I like using a pie plate). Briefly roll the truffles between your palms again, just to slightly warm up that outer layer of chocolate. Roll the truffles in cocoa powder and put them back on the baking sheet. Cover and chill until ready to serve. These can be made up to 3 days ahead. Keep chilled and serve them cool.
NOTES: Since there are very few ingredients in this, they all have to be top-quality. The first time I made this, I used so-so Earl Grey tea. Okay for drinking, but the pungent aroma dissipated too quickly in the chocolate. If you can, get some loose-leaf Earl Grey (or another tea with citrus notes), which is generally of a higher quality. Likewise, the chocolate needs to be quality, and should stay within the cacao percentages listed. Too low or too high will throw off the fat-to-solids ratio. Speaking of, if you're using good-quality tea, the amount of brandy listed here is good. But if you're using less than top-notch tea, you may want to cut the brandy back a bit. If the tea's not bold enough, the brandy can mask it completely.
These truffles are incredibly firm. Since truffles are ganache, and basic ganache is equal parts (BY WEIGHT) chocolate and cream, this is a modified version. It's very stiff - sometimes I find it tough to scoop and roll. The outer layer will melt and get slippery while the core still stays solid. It's okay that they're not perfect spheres; truffles are named after little clumps of fungi dug out of the ground, after all. Still, if you think this will be an issue, up the cream content by 2-3 tablespoons, just enough to give you a little wiggle room. And try using a disher to scoop.
About the straining: have to do it. Tea doesn't break down, so if you don't strain it out of the cream, your truffles will be all grainy and unpleasant. Commercial tea bags sometimes use the smallest bits of tea leaves, so a fine mesh strainer LINED with cheesecloth is your best bet. Also, cocoa powder has a tendency to clump, so I like to sift if before rolling the finished truffles. Cocoa powder is traditional, but you might like to finish these with toasted coconut, or toasted crushed hazelnuts.
About the mixing: The traditional way to make a ganache is to bring the cream to just below a boil, then pour it over the chopped chocolate. The residual heat will melt all the chocolate, with just a little stirring. If you're concerned about reheating the cream-tea mix (worried that it might impart some burnt-tea taste, or that it'll get too thick), here's a two-step fix. While the cream is steeping, mix the chocolate and butter in a small pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Once melted and mixed, pour the chocolate into a medium bowl. Then strain the cream directly into the melted chocolate, stirring to combine.
Pairs Well With
These are a surprisingly elegant and complex twist on a standard chocolate truffle, which is arguably a fairly perfect confection in its own right. Earl Grey tea is great here, because it's got hints of citrus that work well with high-quality chocolate.