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Artisan Chocolate truffles & the spices that love them: nutmeg
Nothing in the world tastes like, or smells like, nutmeg. There is no substitute for it's unusual, enticing aroma. Nutmeg is one of the earth's true culinary treasures, and although we take it for granted these days, that you can just go buy some at the grocery store, for over a thousand years, it was only available to humans from one place...the Banda Islands, which is a remote chain of Indonesian volcanic islands in the Banda Sea, and part of the infamous Spice Islands of legend. Wars have been fought over its control, and at one time in Europe, a small handful of nutmegs would have bought you a comfortable and wealthy existence for the rest of your life! Fortunately nutmeg is considerably less costly, and easier to obtain in the modern world, and we are free to use it as we wish to create flavorful and unique recipes...such as bittersweet chocolate and nutmeg truffles!
Nutmeg is one of those spices that you simply must purchase in its whole form. If you are going to attempt the following chocolate truffle recipe, please do not try to substitute store bought, ground up nutmeg for fresh grated nutmeg, it simply is not acceptable, and the resulting truffles will be a pale comparison to the real thing. The minute a nutmeg is ground, it begins losing its vitality and precious oils. Nutmegs are actually the seed of a special species of evergreen tree, and they should be purchased whole, and grated with a nutmeg grater, as close to the recipe preparation as possible.
Start by finely chopping about 200 grams of an excellent bittersweet chocolate. Place the chocolate into a mixing bowl, and set aside. In a heavy bottom sauce pot, place about 80 grams of fresh heavy cream. Bring the cream to a scald, and take off the heat. Grate in about 1 teaspoon nutmeg, or a bit more if you really enjoy it, and immediately pour over the chopped chocolate. Wait for a minute, and then begin stirring the chocolate and cream mixture in small circles, with a rubber spatula, until very well blended and creamy. While the ganache is still very warm, massage in about 20 grams of unsalted butter, until the entire mixture takes on a high gloss sheen. Let it sit for about 30-60 minutes, or until you can easily shape it into small truffles using a teaspoon. Plop the truffles right into a bowl of excellent cocoa, and roll them around until well coated, or if you are at a higher skill level, you can also finish them as fancy bon bons with a toasted walnut on top, as I have done here in this photo! You can serve these with coffee, tea, or perhaps a fine cognac would be nice!