Party favors: When I provide them, I want them to be fun, unusual and–preferably–edible. Jordan almonds are…fine. Personalized M&Ms, potentially quite entertaining. Homemade truffles packaged to match the color scheme and theme of the party? Now we’re talking!
For the Queen of Hearts party, we began with these adorable little boxes from the Hortense B. Hewitt Co.. We were impressed by how well they were made. They fold into shape easily and squarely and they’re incredibly cute.
Each box comes with a precut length of ribbon with a little hole in the lid to feed the ribbon through. And–somebody was thinking!–the tip of the ribbon is lightly and invisibly reinforced so it doesn’t unravel when you feed it through the little hole. The result: packages that don’t lose their ribbons.
Because this party has an Alice in Wonderland theme, we created little tags for each box that say “Eat Me.”
I’ve tried a number of truffle recipes over the years. You know what? They’re all good. And they are all easy. Easy! Good bittersweet chocolate, good cocoa and cream. That’s all it takes. You don’t need a candy thermometer; you don’t need to worry about tempering your chocolate or any of those daunting other candy-making techniques.
Here’s the recipe I used this time around. So far, it’s my favorite. It came from Gourmet magazine, about three years ago.
11 ounces bittersweet chocolate (56% cacao), divided
2/3 cup heavy cream
cocoa powder for dusting
Any additional flavorings that catch your fancy
Finely chop eight ounces of the chocolate and put in a bowl.
Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a wooden spoon. Then carefully stir until the ganache is smooth.
Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about one hour. Drop teaspoonsful on parchment-lined baking sheets, rounding them a little if you like them tidy like that. I personally don’t care–I think the irregular shape looks more truffle-like. If you’re in a hurry, freeze them until firm, about 15 minutes, or refrigerate them for an hour or two while you take care of other chores.
Melt the other three ounces of chocolate and smear some on your hand. Gently rub each chilled truffle to coat lightly with chocolate. The secret to a delicate coating of chocolate is to roll each truffle in a smear of melted chocolate in your hand. (The original directions suggest wearing a surgical glove, and I can see that it would make it easier and tidier to do it that way. On the other hand, I enjoyed licking my fingers when I was done.)
Toss the truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder so they look like their namesakes, freshly dug from the earth. Shake the truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cacao. Store them in the refrigerator.
I made two batches, for a total of about 50 truffles. I added grated orange zest to one bowl of cocoa and a teaspoon or so of espresso powder to another bowl of cocoa, and tossed half of the truffles in one bowl or the other. It gave them just a hint of additional flavor.
Hazel’s Saturday morning expedition to the Los Angeles flower mart yielded black-and-white polka dot candy papers for the truffles. I stacked two truffles in each little favor box, separated by a flattened polka dot paper. (I realized as I was tidying up after the party that some guests didn’t know there were two truffles in those boxes; a few people ate the top truffle and didn’t discover the one underneath. Hah! More for me!)