Today is indeed National Chocolate Truffle Day. As I've mentioned, I'm not much of a candy maker, but the Chocolate Bourbon Balls I suggested to make and have today for the Kentucky Derby are truffles by definition.
At the San Francisco Chocolate Salon there were so many truffles that I was on overload. So basically what is a truffle? The French consider truffles to be a ball of ganache rolled in cocoa. (So the Bourbon Balls count). Truffles were named after the truffle fungus because of the physical resemblance--but nothing--nothing like it in taste. In 1912, the Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented the first hard chocolate shell that enabled fillings of any kind and consistency from creme to liqueur. Before that there were only solid centers like caramels and nuts covered with chocolate, because the centers wouldn't leak out.
Confusion reigns: Jean Neuhaus called his new filled chocolates pralines (same word used to describe candy almonds that were already made by the French since 1636) The French call filled chocolates chocolats fourres. They call chocolates in general bonbons de chocolat or chocolats assortis.
Some chocolatiers subsequently covered their ganache centers with by-hand dipping or in hard chocolate shells. In France or America, these "enrobed" ganaches were called truffles. When chocolatiers immigrated to the U.S., they sold pralines, truffles, bonbons or assorted chocolates, depending on their nationality. Same product, different names.
Ganache: smooth blend of chocolate and cream (sometimes butter), rolled in cocoa powder and sugar to make a truffle, often used as center for filled chocolates.
Thanks to The Nibble for the history of the Chocolate Truffles.
Since I'm not a candymaker, I'm lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay area where truffles abound. Some of my favorites are Joseph Schmidt, XOX Truffles, Recchiuti, NeoCocoa and Dolce Bella Chocolates. If you're vegan and think you can't enjoy a good truffle, think again. Here's a review of Uli Mana truffles on The Nibble.
Want to watch a truffle making demo? Here's a video of local chocolatier Michael Recchiuti making truffles in an elevator. The kitchen was crowded.
Here's an easy truffle recipe, slightly adapted in terms of darker chocolate. Nuts and coconut can be optional, in my opinion.
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 12 ounces (about 2 cups) fine semisweet chocolate (70-85% cacao)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract; or divide the batch and make half with 1 teaspoon vanilla, half with 1 teaspoon of your favorite liqueur
- 1/4 cup top quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup (about 2.5 ounces) sweetened, shredded coconut (optional)
- 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) finely chopped unsalted hazelnuts or pistachios (optional)
- Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan and remove from heat. Add the chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth.
- Whisk in the vanilla. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Cover and chill until firm, about 3 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Drop the mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the waxed paper. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
- Place the cocoa powder, coconut and chopped nuts into individual bowls. Hand-roll the truffles into balls. Roll 1/3 of the truffles in cocoa, 1/3 in coconut and 1/3 in nuts.
- Cover with plastic; keep chilled until ready to serve. The truffles can be made up to two weeks ahead: if storing for more than a day, keep in an airtight container so the truffles don’t absorb other flavors from the refrigerator.
*Recipe from THE NIBBLE files. Technique is similar to the Bourbon Ball recipe, so just about anyone can do this. Thanks.