Truffes au chocolat (in French, pronunciaton here) are a type of chocolate confectionery, traditionally made with a chocolate ganache center coated in chocolate or cocoa powder, usually in a spherical, conical, or curved shape. They are named this way for their resemblance to the truffle fungus. They came from France and were invented by Louis Dufour in Chambéry, France in December 1895. They reached a wider public with the establishment of the Prestat chocolate shop in London by Antoine Dufour in 1902, which still sells 'Napoleon III' truffles to the original recipe.
Louis Dufour, a chocolate maker, ran out of material which was needed to make his year-end treats. Refusing buying some from a colleague, he had a brilliant idea: he mixed whipping cream, vanilla and cocoa powder. To make its product more presentable, he dipped it in melted chocolate and coated in chocolate powder. The chocolate truffle was born! (source: Wiki)
Now that the history part is behind us, let's move to the ingredients. Traditional truffles consist from three things: whipping cream, chocolate and cocoa powder. However, nowadays there are so many different variations using the strangest spices and additions because the basic recipe is so versatile. I've never tried making truffles before so I kept with the tradition and made the basic ones. I browsed through French recipes and almost all of them adds some butter to their truffles to make them even more velvety and tender. I can't recommend this enough, it really makes difference and the final truffle is wonderful!
The choice of cream is very important here. The better cream you use the better truffles you get. You have to use whipping (or heavy or heavy whipping) cream - the butterfat content is from 30 to 40% and in fact it doesn't really matter which one you choose. For example in my country there only is sold whipping cream with 31 or 33% fat. The best would be using organic whipping cream. However, sometimes it can be hard to find this (it's not sold at all here where I live), so it's OK to use regular whipping cream of the highest quality possible.
The most important ingredient is chocolate. The quality and taste of the final product depends on it. I highly recommend using the best chocolate you can afford for the truffles - the one you enjoy eating on its own. If you like the chocolate you use, you'll like your truffles. If the chocolate tastes like crap, that's how your truffles will taste and there's nothing worse but a bad tasting truffles. Believe me, I know it but that's for another paragraph. Here's my piece of advice. Use only chocolate containing cocoa butter and no other fats (real chocolate should not contain them). If you're able to get Lindt or Valrhona it's the best you can use. Generally you shouldn't make a mistake with any chocolate free of vegetable or other fats (except for cocoa butter). It should contain at least 30% cocoa mass (ideally 35-45%) for the milk variation and 50% for the chocolate which you expect to be bitter. So before you buy a chocolate bar have a look at the ingredients listed on the wrapper and choose the best one :)
For my truffles, I used my favorite chocolate by Lindt containing 85% cocoa solids. I love this extra bitter extra fine chocolate bar because the cocoa flavour is so intensive and it's not too sweet. I thought my truffles would taste amazing with this chocolate but unfortunately, I seem to be the only one enjoying eating chocolate this dark in my family. Both my mom and sister took one bite and then they politely refused to take another because it's too bitter for their taste buds. What a pity! My dad ate one, said nothing and walked away. Usually he at least says he likes it or something like that. Later on, they all told me that they didn't like plain dark chocolate. Having heard this, I was really happy I only made a small amount of them, because I had to eat them all by myself :D Not that I would mind but my waistline certainly wasn't way happy for that :D Just keep in mind that you MUST enjoy eating the chocolate as is otherwise you won't like the truffles!
As for the butter, there's just a small portion of it so it shouldn't have a huge effect on the taste, it's here to change the texture. Anyway, use real unsalted butter! Forget about shortening or margarine. When making candies, it's really important not to substitute ingredients.
And finally, when choosing cocoa powder, don't go for the low-fat type. This choc treat won't become healthy, but it'll lose the perfect luscious taste delivered by velvety full-fat cocoa powder (which contains more than 20% cocoa butter). And now let's go make some homemade choc treats :)
200g (7 oz) good quality dark or milk chocolate, grated
140ml (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp) whipping cream
30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 vanilla pod (optional)
Place the grated chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream and vanilla seeds (scraped out from vanilla pod) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the cream to melt the choc for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Add butter and then stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or until firm (this could take even 1 to 2 days). Put cocoa powder in a bowl and remove the choc mixture from the fridge. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a small portion of the chocolate mixture and then (if it's firm enough) using your palms, form it into a ball (it should not be a perfect ball). This way it resembles the real truffles. Immediately roll the truffle in cocoa powder, place into another bowl or plate and repeat until no mixture is left. Cover and store in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- If the chocolate doesn't melt completely or the cream-choc mixture is grainy, try reheating it over a pan of simmering water just until melted. If still grainy, don't care about it anymore, refrigerate as written in the recipe and then pulse it for a short time in your food processor. This will save any grainy mixture.
- Dark chocolate creates the firmest ganache - it thickens very fast (about 3 hours). Milk chocolate ganache is a bit less firm, I recommend forming it using a melon baller or a teaspoon (or you can freeze it for 30 minutes to become firmer).
- If you want to make white chocolate truffles, use only 100ml (1/3 cup + 4 tsp) of whipping cream. This ganache then needs to be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days to thicken. I recommend forming the truffles by the baller or teaspoon or in your palms dusted with powdered sugar - ganache is not that sticky and is easier to work with.
In my opinion, they were fabulous! I really liked the tender velvety and soft texture, extra fine bitter cocoa taste and slight vanilla aroma in the background. However, the rest of my family would disagree. They didn't appreciate the bitter taste and would prefer truffles made from milk or even white chocolate. So next time I'll keep back with my love for extra dark chocolate and I'll use good milk one instead. Anyways, you can't go wrong with these and everyone, your guests included, will be delighted with these professional looking chocolate treats!
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