By Dianne Bunis

Rich and elegant, chocolate truffles are made from a creamy mixture of chocolate and cream called ganache. They are quite easy to create and make a delightful holiday gift. Start with a high quality chocolate, 60 percent cacao or higher, organic cream and pure vanilla extract (I found an 8-ounce bottle, reasonably priced, at Christmas Tree Shops).

Chocolate Truffles (approximately 20)

8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, 60 percent or higher, finely chopped (do not leave any chunks)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Coating variations:

Cocoa powder; finely chopped walnuts, almonds or pistachio nuts; crushed peppermint candies

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer, scraping down the sides with a spatula.

To prepare the ganache or base, place the chocolate in a separate bowl.

Gradually pour the cream over the chocolate, add vanilla and allow to stand for about 10 minutes, then whisk until smooth.

Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator until mixture is set but pliable, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Use a melon baller to scoop balls of the ganache, dip hands into ice water and roll mixture into (no larger than) 1-inch balls.

Finish by rolling each ball in one of the coatings to cover completely, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Refrigerate in an airtight container up to two weeks.