I’m back to Germany, and it is starting to kick in. These days the trees outside have been incredibly beautiful. The world is wrapped in a blanket of fog, which freezes and makes each little branch of the tree sparkle, covered in ice crystals. Blissfully, there is no snow, making it possible to lead an almost normal life.
However I am not in the mood for appreciating this place. I won’t blame it, I know it is me, mainly. I just feel out-of-place, and I feel as if my efforts to fit in have been useless so far. I find it more and more difficult to make plans, to find something fun to do. And when I feel this way, so purposeless, I know there is only one thing that can help me: cooking. I never feel out-of-place in the kitchen. I do feel more than a bit cheesy, like Nigella happily declaring: “whenever I am in the kitchen, I am happy”, but there is some truth in it.
I’ve mainly been cooking for health in the last few months. I find it a good thing to do. It can’t always be about exaggerating and giving in to our bad instincts, and discipline and moderation help in every field. And more often than not, I find that if I had to listen to my body, it’d tell me it feels better when I feed it with healthy food.
But to cite Nigella once again, ‘Take everything with moderation, including moderation’. So when I hit the kitchen searching for comfort, I won’t feel bad if I indulge. I am not tying to hide my problems. I am not trying to drown my frustrations in food – or maybe I am, and so what? You need to live with them after all, sometimes.
A big help to deal with problems is chocolate, as we all know. An even bigger helping hand – because it is so nasty – is Nutella. Like Nanni Moretti can tell you, it can give an answer to your deeper moral and practical conflicts. And given that the World Nutella Day (established by Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso) is once again here, it is inevitable to fall into a big Nutella pot, or actually its organic substitute.
But since ‘fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza‘, and since in the end I have to spend time in the kitchen, and the time needed to make a slice of pane e Nutella barely counts as healing time, I decided to make something a bit more elaborate. Last year I made a home-made spread inspired by Nutella and by lemon curd. This year I have decided to dust my chocolate melting skills and go for Nutella truffles. Honestly, it has been great fun. It is an easy recipe, albeit a bit time-consuming. It is not frustrating, because if you get it wrong you won’t spoil it, it will just not look much pretty. It has the added bonus that whatever appliances get dirty, you can lick them clean, and yes, there is quite a number of them. And you’ll have the immense confidence boost that yes, life is hard, but you can create something so delicious that it will help you stand it. In the end, you might even feel so much better, that you may feel inclined to use these as little gifts to someone very special – with the double bonus of boosting your confidence even more and keeping in control your waistline and your blood sugar levels. Or give them to yourself, because you deserve something special.
So what are you waiting for? You know that whenever you are in the kitchen, you are happy.
Notes on the recipe: the truffles are based on a Nutella ganache. They contain a Nutella heart. I coated them in dark chocolate because I like the crunchy shell, and rolled them in cocoa because I wanted them to look like truffles and because I did not want to temper the chocolate coating. You can simplify or make the recipe harder according to your confidence with chocolate. You can leave out the Nutella heart, you can avoid the chocolate coating, or both. Or if you are a super expert you can temper the chocolate and make Nutella pralines, without rolling them in cocoa or hazelnuts.
Makes about fifteen.
For the heart: Nutella (or substitutes): save at least a few tablespoons from your bread and Nutella snack
For the ganache:
35 gr Nutella or substitutes
100 gr 55% chocolate
100 gr whipping cream
For the chocolate coating (optional):
200 gr 70% chocolate
a few tablespoons of cocoa, or toasted and chopped hazelnuts
1. Start by creating the hearts. Slightly warm your Nutella if it is very thick. Cover a dish with backing paper and have some flat space ready in your freezer. With the help of two teaspoons, create some drops of Nutella, no more than a quarter of a teaspoon, on the backing paper. You don’t need a regular shape. Leave in the freezer at least an hour until they are solidly frozen.
2. Make the ganache. Have a double boiler ready: a pot of boiling water, with a smaller pot inside that can fit without getting any water inside. Chop the chocolate using a serrated knife (I recently learned that if you put the chocolate in freezer for ten minutes, it is much easier to chop) and put it in the inner pot. Add cream and Nutella. Put on the boiler, and let it warm mixing regularly, until the chocolate is melted and the ganache smells heavenly. Leave to cool, even in the fridge if you want.
3. Whip the cold ganache until it is light and fluffy. Yes, it is the same stuff as above, I promise.Leave in the fridge to set for at least half an hour, and leave it there until you are ready for making the truffles.
4. You’ll have to work quickly because the hearts melt in minutes. So make sure you have a clean surface lined with baking paper wheer you can put your truffles, a couple of teaspoons and tablespoons, and something to clean your hands afterwards. You may want to make them in batches if you are making many.
Take one teaspoon of ganache, put a heart into it, put about half a teaspoon of ganache over it. Using your fingers try to make all the ganache cover the heart by pressing it a bit, then roll it between the palm of your hands to create a rough ball. Put on baking paper and proceed until you have finished your ganache, or until the hearts and the ganache start to be too warm – you will notice immediately because they will stick a lot more.
5. If you want to cover the balls: leave the balls to set in the fridge for another hour. Prepare the double boiler again, and this time melt the remaining chocolate. Have again all your prep work ready: a baking sheet where to put the truffles, two dishes or bits of kitchen paper, one with cocoa, the other with ground hazelnuts (if using both). when the chocolate is really smooth, take the balls out of the fridge. Dip one of them in the melted chocolate, making sure it is well covered, then drain from the chocolate using a fork, letting the excess chocolate drop against the borders of the pot. Put the ball in the cocoa powder or in the hazelnuts, roll them delicately, then leave them to harden slightly before lifting them out, a couple of minutes will do already.
Repeat with all other balls. Make sure you make the chocolate set before eating. The truffles will keep a day or two in the fridge, but make sure to eat them at room temperature. It makes a huge difference.