What I had for dinner:
At the second Panix cook-in event, I contributed the chocolate, as promised.
Chocolate truffles and chocolate meringues are a good complement, since one uses egg yolks, and the other egg whites, so nothing goes to waste.
It is crucial to have a stable oven temperature. 170F is the temperature to aim for, and the oven should be lit well in advance, and checked with a good thermometer. If the temperature rises above 200, the meringues will collapse and ooze caramel syrup.
First, grate two ounces of very cold unsweetened chocolate with a fine grater (a rotary cheese grater for instance) into a large metal dish. Grated chocolate is very electrostatic, so it will tend to cling to everything, but the metal dish helps discharge the electricity after a while; keep it cold until ready to use.
Whip 3 egg whites until stiff, then add 3/4 cup of superfine (confectioner's) sugar and continue whipping until all the sugar is well mixed in. Add the grated chocolate (sieve it if there are any chunks left), and mix it well into the egg whites.
Using a pastry bag, pipe finger-sized meringues on large cookie sheet covered with foil, and place in the oven. Prop the door ajar with a cork, so that there is a 1/2 to 1 inch gap at the top, and leave to dry overnight.
In the morning, test the meringues to make sure they are thoroughly dry. If not, it is possible to increase the temperature slightly, to 200F, and continue the drying. At this point, there is no risk of collapse.
When the meringues are dry, peel them off the foil, and place in an air-tight container. In the winter, when the air is dry, meringues keep dry and crisp without any difficulty.
This makes about 100, depending on size.
For the truffles, soften 1/2 lb of semisweet chocolate (the best you can find; it does make a difference), for instance near the oven.
In a small saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter and let the water boil away gently over a low flame. Continue heating until all the water is gone and the milk solids begin to caramelize. Strain the clarified butter through a cloth or a coffee filter.
In a mixer, beat 3 egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored, then add the clarified butter, the softened chocolate, 3 tbsp whiskey or dark rum, and 1 or 2 tbsp of strong coffee. Beat well until everything is thoroughly blended, then start cooling the mixture. I put the bowl in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, then give it another turn in the mixer, until the chocolate mixture (called ganache) is thick, but not stiff. With a pastry bag, I shape small walnut-sized mounds on a cookie sheet that fits into the fridge, and place the whole thing in the cold to harden. Another method is to let the ganache harden as a mass, then to scoop out walnut-sized pieces with a spoon and shape them briefly by hand.
When the pieces have cooled thoroughly, they are ready to be rolled by hand into spheres. This is a messy job, that requires a mixture (1/1) of cocoa powder and superfine sugar to prevent sticking. One takes one piece of chocolate, rolls it in the cocoa, and rolls it between the palms until it is more or less spherical. It is important to do it rapidly, as the heat from the hands will quickly melt the chocolate. Keeping the hands coated with cocoa, one can process the entire batch in a few minutes.
The finished truffles, coated liberally with cocoa/sugar are put back in the fridge to harden again. They should be kept cold, but be allowed to reach 50F before serving or they will be too hard.
Makes about 30.