Chocolate bonbons are one of the more expected love tokens on Valentine’s Day – and who’s complaining? The gift is well received, easy to enjoy and there are no desiccated flowers to toss a week later. Although it’s easy to pick up a box of ready-made chocolates at the grocery store (or fancy chocolatier, depending on your budget), the homemade variety makes the gift even more special for the lucky recipient.
This recipe requires an inexpensive chocolate mold, which you can easily find in kitchen stores and online. You’ll also need a chocolate thermometer or a digital probe thermometer as the dark chocolate shells require tempering. The microwave tempering method used here is easy and efficient. It’s much quicker than the double-boiler method, and removes the chance of water droplets mixing with the chocolate and causing it to seize, which is often a rookie error.
The most striking element of this truffle is the scarlet-hued center. True red velvet cake flavor isn’t easily replicated, so the filling is created from a scratch-made red velvet cake. It’s necessary to employ the use of a blender for the filling. The cake crumb mixture requires blending on a high setting such as “puree” or “liquefy.”
Filled chocolate mold
Chocolate thermometer or digital probe thermometer
Bake the Cake
You will need:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until well combined. Switch mixer to low speed and add the oil and egg. Mix until well incorporated. Add the red food coloring and pure vanilla extract to the bowl.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder into a medium bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down the bowl and mix again until a consistent vibrant red batter is achieved.
Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Turn the Cake Into Liquid Filling
You will need:
1 lb crumbled red velvet cake (from above recipe)
2/3 to 1 cup cane syrup or light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
Crumble the cooled cake into an electric blender. Only use the softest crumbs — discard any hard or tough cake edges.
Add 2/3 cup syrup and water. Blend on puree or liquefy setting for 5 minutes. If mixture is thick, stir it with a rubber spatula and add additional syrup with the blender running until shiny and smooth. The finished filling should fall from a spoon in a ribbon. Set the mixture aside while you prepare the chocolate shells.
Temper the Chocolate and Make the Shells
You will need:
1 lb block dark chocolate, 70%*
The tempering process used here is called “seeding.” This involves reserving a portion of the chopped chocolate and adding it later to the melted chocolate to reduce the temperature.
Begin by finely chopping the block chocolate with a large chef’s knife. Make the pieces consistent in size so they’ll melt evenly.
Place 2/3 of the chopped chocolate into a microwave-safe glass bowl. Heat the chocolate in the microwave at 1 minute intervals with the power at 50%. (Keep in mind that microwaves vary in power; be sure to pick a power level that is roughly half of full power.) Stir well between each heating and gauge the temperature with the thermometer. Heat the chocolate to 115°F to 120°F. Do not overheat.
When the temperature range is achieved, add some of the reserved, unmelted chocolate and stir well until it is completely melted. Keep adding in unmelted chocolate a little at a time until the temperature reaches 86°F. You may not have to use all of the reserved chocolate. When 86°F is achieved, heat chocolate in the microwave at full power at 5 second intervals until the temperature reaches 89°F. Do not overheat.
Using a ladle or measuring cup, fill the cavities of the chocolate mold with the tempered chocolate. Flip the mold over and pour the excess chocolate into a large bowl.
Scrape away the excess chocolate with a large off-set spatula.
Flip the mold over and let it rest over the bowl so that the excess chocolate drips out. This will help achieve a thin, even chocolate shell. Let stand about 2 minutes, or until the shells start to set.
Fill and Finish
Transfer some of the red velvet cake filling to a piping bag or a zip-top bag with the corner snipped. Pipe the filling into the shells. Place in the freezer for 2 minutes.
Cover the filled shells with more tempered chocolate and scrape away the excess with a large off-set spatula. Refrigerate the chocolates for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the mold from the refrigerator and turn the shells out onto a work surface. Properly-tempered chocolates will release easily. Finished chocolates should have a very shiny surface and snap between the teeth.
*A quick note about choosing chocolate: Be a label-reader and seek out the good stuff for chocolate bonbon-making. Quality chocolate will have cocoa butter as its fat. Avoid using chocolate with additives such as PGPR and palm oil.
Sources: The microwave tempering method is adapted from Andrew Garrison Shotts’ book, Making Artisan Chocolates. The liquid red velvet cake filling is adapted from Elements of Dessert by Francisco Migoya of The Culinary Institute of America.