A long time ago, our dad used to read us a story about a little girl who broke her arm and had to spend the night in the hospital. Susie (I think) seemed to be quite a happy child for having a broken arm bad enough to require a hospital stay.
Anyway, because she was spending the night in this big and scary hospital, the nurse in charge of Susie gave her a hospital tour. The message? Kids, hospitals aren't that bad at all! They're actually quite nice.
Before the nurse puts Susie to bed, she hands Susie the call button and tells her that if she needs anything during the night, she'll be at the nurses' station.
However, when Dad read the story, the nurse had a voice very much like a horrible Julia Child impression. And to make things worse, instead of "working" in the original version, Dad would amend it to "at the nurses' station eating chocolates."
Well, we KNEW this was absolutely not true and NOT the way the story went. We'd say something like, "Da-ad! Nooooooo! Say it right!" Occasionally we'd have to implore him not to do the "ladies' voice," as it was called. But it didn't work so well.
Be assured we were certainly not as amused by the whole thing as he was.
I'm sorry to say that since I've grown up, I can say with certainty that some nurses' stations really are like they were in my dad's version of the story. I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not naming names... but I also know that Dad had reasons for telling the story as he did since he has spent quite a bit of time in hospitals- both as a patient and as a physician.
Anyway, "chocolates" make me think of this story. And when I imagine someone to be eating "chocolates" I think of something akin to bonbons and truffles. No mere Hershey's bar would do in this situation.
These truffles are incredible.
But please, please, please start with the best chocolate you can find and/or afford. You'll be happier in the long run.
And the texture? Melt-in-your-mouth incredibly smooth creaminess.
Specific salt flavor is also important.
Yes, really. Salts do have flavors.
Caramel and chocolate are favorites, especially together, and the bit of salt makes the combination that much better.
The caramelly sweetness is tempered by the deep, dark chocolate, and the crunchy salinity adds a little interest.
You'd never add regular iodized table salt to the top of a truffle, it wouldn't be right!
Fleur de sel is a finishing salt, not a cooking salt, and has a delicate and clean, non-chemical flavor.
One important thing about truffle making: warm hands and the center of truffles are a bad combination. Be forewarned, your hands will probably become chocolate coated. Work as quickly as possible. The same goes for dipping the finished truffles into the melted chocolate. The hot chocolate will start to melt the cocoa coated truffle center as soon as the two collide. Don't let the truffle sit in the chocolate!
P.S. Thank you, hand model.
Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2004
Makes 30-32 truffles
20 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao), separated
2 T unsalted butter
1/3 c granulated sugar
2 T water
1/4 t (rounded) fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
2/3 c whipping cream
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Chop and melt 8 oz. chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. When the chocolate has melted add the butter and stir until melted and incorporated.
Over medium-high heat, cook the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally so that the sugar melts and heats evenly. Keep a brush and cup of water near the stove to wash down the sides of the pan as necessary. As the sugar syrup begins to caramelize, continue swirling the pan until it is a deep amber color. Off the heat, carefully pour in the cream. The caramel will bubble and steam, and solidify. Place the pan back on the heat and continue to stir the caramel and cream until it's smooth, then add the vanilla. Pour the caramel into the melted chocolate, add the fleur de sel, and stir to combine. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
Scoop 1 T of chocolate ganache (a heaping scoop using the large end of a mellon baller works well), roll into a ball, and coat in cocoa powder. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Continue with remaining chocolate and refrigerate all truffles on the pan overnight.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, place the remaining 12 oz. of chocolate- do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted. Remove the bowl from over the simmering water. Quickly submerge a cocoa-coated truffle in the melted chocolate. Lift the truffle from the melted chocolate with a fork and gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Transfer the truffle to the foil-lined pan. Repeat with all remaining truffles. Sprinkle the finished truffles lightly with fleur de sel. Let stand until the coating sets (at least an hour) and transfer to the refrigerator for at least an hour before storing in an airtight container.
Bring to room temperature before serving.
Can be made a week in advance.