Dreaming of Chocolate Truffles

I dream in chocolate. In my favorite dream, as a silken, handmade truffle melts in my mouth, a tv announcer interrupts Downton Abbey with a news bulletin—the USDA has just declared chocolate an essential food group.

That will never happen. But while mashing roasted sweet potatoes last week, I mused about creating a truffle that would be rich, sinfully intense, and have useful health benefits. That last bit stumped me until, digging through my file labeled, “I’d like to make this,” a note slid out into my lap. “Roasted Japanese sweet potato + chocolate,” it said.

Japanese sweet potatoes have yellow-white flesh. Their creamy, slightly dry texture and taste remind me of chestnuts.

For truffles, I decided to try making a ganache combining mashed roasted Japanese sweet potato with melted dark chocolate. From a health standpoint, thiswould be sneaky smart. For the finicky chocolatier in me, though, something was missing. The ganache needed richness and a more luxurious mouth-feel. Adding cream would make the ganache too loose but butter makes everything better, they say. I added a bit and the result was right. Blissfully right.

Every year, I make sweet treats as Christmas gifts. This year, forget about cookies. It’s going to be heaps of creamy chocolate sweet potato Truffles for everyone.

Sweet Potato Truffles (Makes 24 truffles)

1 large or 2 medium Japanese sweet potatoes

3 ½ ounces dark (60-62%) chocolate, chopped

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces and chilled

¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Coat the sweet potato lightly with cooking spray or oil, and bake until it is soft when squeezed, 45-60 minutes.

3. While the potato bakes, melt the chocolate. Set it aside until lukewarm. When the baked potato is cool enough to handle, peel it and in a bowl, roughly mash the flesh. Measure one cup of the mashed potato and put it in small bowl. Reserve any remaining potato for another use.

4. Using a fork, mash the warm potato until it is smooth. Add the melted chocolate, salt, and flavoring and mash until the mixture is completely combined and room temperature, 3 minutes. Add the chilled butter, blending it with the sweet potato mixture using a creaming  motion until you have a velvety ganache. If the ganache is very soft, refrigerate until you can form 1 tablespoon into a rough, 1-inch ball.

5. Form the ganache into irregularly shaped balls, placing them on a plate. Cover the balls with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours. Let the truffles sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

6. Just before serving, sift the cocoa into a small bowl. One at a time, roll the ganache balls in the cocoa, coating them. Serve immediately.

Caveat: Stick with 60-62% dark chocolate. Those with a higher percentage of chocolate liquor make a dry, grainy truffle unless you add a lot more butter, which improves the texture but makes a truffle that tastes of butter and must served directly from the fridge.