chocolate fungus ball?

I watch a lot of “Top Chef.” I’m always hearing about ceviche, risotto, tartare and molecular gastronomy. Over the seasons, I’ve picked up on the basics, but I’ve always been slightly confused on what a truffle actually is. I mean, I know I’ve eaten it as a dessert before, but why the hell are they talking about mushrooms? Was I eating a chocolate-covered fungus ball!?

Thanks to a little bit of research, I can rest easy knowing that wasn’t the case — no disrespect to mushrooms, of course. Turns out a truffle is a rare, edible mushroom considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, and a chocolate truffle is a confectionery that has no relation to the fungus (unless, of course, you filled that confectionery with mushroom).

Unfortunately, knowing what a chocolate truffle is isn’t even half the battle of making one, as I recently discovered in my attempt to make chocolate-pumpkin truffles. I had good intentions (making these for a work party, trying something I’d never tried before), but the execution was pitiful.

Word of advice: When a recipe calls for “candy coating” and/or “tempering,” don’t try to use chocolate chips. Siiigh.

My biggest mistake was poor planning, seeing as the truffle filling needs to sit in the fridge for at least two hours and I didn’t start this plight until 9 p.m. After my weekly soccer game, I stopped at ShopRite to pick up some ingredients — namely meltable candy coating for the outside of the truffles, which, not surprisingly, ShopRite doesn’t carry. It was getting late, and I was starting to panic, so I opted for a one-pound bag of chocolate chips, thinking, “This is probably the same thing…right?” When I got home and Googled “how to make truffles with chocolate chips,” I found out it was a cardinal sin. And I did it anyway.

As if that weren’t enough to lead this truffle trial to failure, my impatience was. After about 45 minutes in the fridge, I pulled the filling and attempted to roll it. Didn’t go so well, as seen at left. It looked like I’d been attacked by that sludge monster thing in “FernGully.”

I got angry, threw the bowl in the freezer and caught the end of “The Apprentice.” When I returned, I worked some poor-man’s tempering, aka melting chocolate chips and cream in the microwave and not really tempering at all. (I’ll attempt to temper some other time.) I rolled the filling into balls, dipped in the melted chocolate and rolled them in chocolate sprinkles. They quickly turned into big messy blobs, but I was so far gone at this point (about 1 a.m.), that I kept rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ like I was in a Limp Bizkit song, popped them in an airtight container and threw them in the fridge.

When I tried one the next day, it wasn’t as bad as I expected — then again, you have to be the worst cook in the world to make chocolate rolled in chocolate and then dipped in chocolate taste bad. They got melty incredibly fast, so I had to keep them in the fridge. Also, beware of the chocolate sprinkles getting stuck in your teeth.

I’m not going to bother listing the recipe because I barely followed it, so if you’re interested in doing this the right way, click here.

Total time? Three LONG hours.
Cost? $2.39 for chocolate chips, $1.39 heavy cream, $1.89 pumpkin, $2.09 sprinkles.
Overall success relative to expectations? 5 out of 10. I had low expectations going into this — especially taking the shortcuts I did. I wanted the pumpkin taste to come through some more, but after everything I went through, the fact that these tasted good at all earned this adventure some bonus points. One of my taste-testers said they were like Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. I’m not sure that’s something you want your truffle likened to, but hey, that works for now. Next time, though, I will do this the right way.

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