* To me, anyway....
The serendipity was me noticing a stack of Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Candy Making and Dipping Bars at Sam's Club. I have never been satisfied with using candy melts for dipping the truffles. The melted chocolate, even when cut with a little shortening, tends to be very viscous, making it difficult to work with. Plus the chocolate, especially the dark version, isn't particularly chocolatey. So I figured I might as well try it. If nothing else, the chocolate would probably be better. Plus, at $3.91 for a 2½ lb bar, it was less expensive than melts (even when on sale for $1.99/lb), and way cheaper than chocolate chips.
The stuff is amazingly good. In practice, I mixed it with Ghiradelli 60% Cacao chips (8 oz to one 11½ oz bag of chips), because I was using it to coat dark chocolate truffles and really wanted to amp up the chocolate. Unlike crafts store melts, the melt was actually a liquid, making dipping a snap, and it required less chocolate in the pot to coat the centers. And it tastes great. I need to get back to Sam's to stock up. They also had them in white chocolate. Alas there was no milk chocolate version in stock, if at all. Of course, now I have three pounds of dark chocolate melts that I'll never use.
Meanwhile, I was applying a little science to the problem of sugar-free truffles. In the past I've made these by using sugar-free chocolate in place of the chocolate chips. The texture wasn't quite as good, but there was a worse problem. The person I make them for has problems digesting the sorbitol and maltodextrin used along with the splenda in sugar-free chocolate. I figured one way to cut down on the extenders would be to start with unsweetened chocolate and use packets of splenda to sweeten, since there is no sorbitol in it, and also much less maltodextrin than there is in baking splenda.
The other problem is that whole chocolate is an issue, too, which I suspect to be the cocoa butter. So, I decided to try using cocoa powder for the chocolate, replacing the fat with something else.
Time to do a little research. What I wanted to do was replace the chips. Looking at the (ahem) nutritional information on a package of Ghiradelli bittersweet chips, they turn out to be about 40% sugar. Assuming the rest is chocolate, unsweetened baking chocolate is about 50% fat. I assume the rest is cocoa. So to replace 12 oz of chips, I need 7.2 oz of chocolate, or 3.6 oz of cocoa and 3.6 oz of some sort of fat.
The thing about cocoa butter is that is solid at normal room temperatures but melts at body temperature. I decided to replace it with butter, but butter melts a couple of degrees lower, so I added a little shortening (0.6 oz) to raise the melting point. Here's the recipe I ultimately came up with:
Sugar-Free Chocolate Truffles
6 oz. cream cheese - softened (¾ standard package)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz unsalted butter (¾ stick)
0.6 oz butter flavored shortening
¼ tsp salt
20 packets splenda
3.6 oz cocoa powder
Melt the butter and shortening in the microwave, then add the salt, splenda, and cocoa powder, and mix well. It will be thick. Cream the the cream cheese and vanilla together with a mixer, then add the cocoa mixture and beat some more until well mixed and smooth. Let it cool. When it's cool enough to handle, form 1-inch balls and place on wax paper on a cookie sheet). Put the centers in the fridge to cool until solid, then roll them in either some cocoa powder or sugar-free cocoa mix. Makes about three dozen.
They came out pretty well. The one down side is that cocoa powder can be kind of harsh, some I used more cream cheese than usual to mellow it out. This also helps with forming the truffles. The amount of splenda used is somewhat less than the equivalent amount of sugar, but the truffles are still plenty sweet.