Chocolate and Cream Confections

The lightest, freshest-tasting chocolate pastes are made with cream and melted chocolate . Such pastes may be formed by stirring warmed cream into melted chocolate or by melting grated chocolate in cream. When the ingredients blend and cool, you can add a flavoring .Then whisk the paste to make it fluffY: These pastes may be piped from a pastry bag to produce fancy shapes  or molded by hand into ballscalled truffies because of their resemblance to the prized fungi. If you choose the latter approach, chill the paste until it becomes firm. A protective coating of cocoa powder will help prevent melting of the paste during molding: Spoon the chilled paste onto the powder, then roll the truffies with your fingers. If you like, add a further coating of grated chocolate, confectioners' sugar or chopped nuts, or dip the truffies in melted chocolate . Store them in the refrigerator and eat them within a few days, while they are fresh.

l - Melting chocolate. Break chocolate-semisweet chocolate is shown-into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan filled with hot-not boiling-water. With a wooden spoon, stir occasionally as the chocolate melts. W hen the chocolate is smooth, lift the bowl out of the pan.

2 - Adding cream. Warm heavy cream over low heat until it is tepid. Trickle the cream into the melted chocolate, stirring constantly to incorporate the cream smoothly. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

3 Flavoring the mixture. Add a little flavoring to the paste. Here, a spoonful of brandy is used, but you could substitute rum or a liqueur. With the wooden spoon, stir in the flavoring.

4 Whisking the paste. Steady the bowl with one hand and vigorously whisk the paste (above, left). Continue whisking until the paste becomes fluffy, lightens in color and holds soft peaks when the whisk is lifted above the bowl (right)- the paste should reach this stage after about five minutes of whisking. Remove any paste that clings to the whisk. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill the paste until it thickens and is firm enough to shape by hand-approximately five to 10 minutes.

5 Forming truHies. Sift a generous layer of cocoa powder onto a tray or baking sheet. Using a small spoon, scoop up walnutsized pieces of the chilled paste and, with another spoon, push the lumps of paste onto the cocoa powder (above, left). Dust your finger tips with some of the cocoa powder and quickly roll each lump between your fingers to form a ball (right).

6 Filling a piping bag. Fit a pastry bog with a decorative tube- here, a star tube-and fold down the top of the bog. Hold the bog over the bowl. Spoon the paste into the bog, squeezing each addition toward the tube, until the bog is fil led up to the fold. Unfold the bog and twist it closed.

7 Piping the paste. Pipe the paste into small foil cases until each is about two thirds full. Swirl more paste on top to finish each chocolate in a spiral. Let the candies cool at room temperature for a few hours or in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Serve the chocolates at room temperatu re.

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