Who is Afraid of Chocolate Truffles – Truffle Making Simplified

November 18, 2013 Published by Dina 15 Comments

For many home cooks chocolate is one of the scariest things in the kitchen, and in my not-so-humble opinion, for no reason at all. (Golda Meir once said: don’t be so humble, you are not that great). True, things can go wrong, but they don’t have to and in any event, almost all chocolate mistakes can be corrected by simply melting the chocolate and starting again. You can’t say that about other culinary mistakes. More often than not when a cake fails you have to throw it out. Not so with chocolate.


“I can resist anything but temptation”
Oscar Wilde 


The other day my friend Val of More than Burnt Toast came over to my kitchen for what we called “Operation Truffles. She experimented with truffle making years ago, things didn’t work out and she was left in fear of truffles ever since (making them, no problems with eating truffles). I haven’t made truffles myself in quite sometime and we thought that devoting a morning to truffle making would be fun. So we got organized, picked up Callebaut bulk chocolates in dark, milk and white, purchased good quality caramelized nuts (yes we could make them but it’s okay to buy some things to simplify the process), bought a few bottles of liqueur to flavour the truffles and, (you have to think creatively) I found a couple of caramel and chocolate wafers that I thought we could pulverized and roll some of the truffles in them. Don’t give up yet, I am not suggesting that you do all that. Remember, Val and I are a couple of die-hard Okanagan foodies and we set out on “operation Truffles”. You don’t have to. All you probably need are a few truffles to serve to your guests after dinner, and that’s what I am talking about in this post.


 

Truffles


Truffles are luxurious, and luxury is often associated with inaccessibility. They are made with the best of chocolate crafted from the best ingredients procured from far away exotic destinations. They are crafted with skill and require the right place and the right time to enjoy. They rank right up there with diamonds, pearls and best champagne. They are also mysterious, with a soft velvety center encased in a chocolate shell, ready to break between your teeth and melt softly and slowly in your mouth. Indulge me for a moment. Like Roy Andre de Groot and his martini, I divide my chocolates into four types: the first, safe and social; second, special occasion chocolate; third, deeply intimate; and fourth, for a dangerous liaison. The first is the kind I offer to casual friends and new acquaintances before I discover their level of sophistication. This can be anything from after dinner mint to small chocolate indulgences. The second level may be offered as a gift in celebration of occasions or events, wrapped in a box and tied with a ribbon. The third level of deeply intimate chocolate is only served in private and never for more than two. This calls for best dark chocolate, served with vintage port sipped slowly a deux, preferably by a roaring fire and with good conversation. Finally, the dangerous liaison chocolate. This has to be a truffle, made from the best dark chocolate and the thickest, most luscious cream. I would serve it with a chilled glass of the best champagne with the tiniest of bubbles. I will offer one or two red, juicy, fresh strawberries with long green stems. We will dip the strawberries into the champagne before taking a bite. And then, the truffle, a luscious, fragrant, intoxicating explosion of texture and flavour as the hard chocolate cover breaks and the soft center slides intimately down my throat. I am in truffle heaven. Do you need a cold glass of water?


“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
Oscar Wilde


The simplest truffles to make are those made with chilled chocolate ganache (chocolate melted into hot cream), rolled into balls and simply coated with cocoa powder, ground nuts or other coating. What can be simpler? The next level in complexity is to roll the truffles in melted tempered chocolate. This requires some dexterity but is not rocket science, although you do have to follow some basic rules, such as not overheating the chocolate and cooling it to certain temperature. Easily doable but you don’t have to do this coating step if you don’t want to.


“In the beginning god created chocolate, and it was good. Then he separated light from dark, and it was better.”
Anonymous 


We made about 120 truffles from all three chocolate varieties (dark, milk and white). We made the ganache in 8 oz batches and flavoured each batch with a different liqueur. We dipped some in tempered chocolate and rolled others in the many topping we had lined up in bowls and labeled on the counter. We even got beautiful strawberries to dip in the chocolate. We already had melted chocolate so why not do a few chocolate dipped strawberries? They were gone in no time, as soon as my husband came home.


 

 

Homemade truffles


 

For making the truffles we used the ganache formula from the book The Art of the Chocolatier, From Classic Confections to Sensational Showpieces by Ewald Notter as well as his microwave instructions for tempering the chocolate. Please note that his actual truffle recipe calls for higher amount of cream in the ganache than what we used, as well as glucose to extend shelve life. Our truffles were going to have a shelve life of the time it takes to get them from hand to mouth so we didn’t need glucose.


Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso (Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick)
Anonymous 


So what’s the main fear inducing element about working with chocolate? I think it is the concept of tempering. Tempering refers to the process of heating the chocolate to melt its crystal structure, and then cooling it down while “seeding” it with solid pieces of chocolate to create the desired crystal structure in the finished solidified chocolate (solid chocolate is always in temper). Tempering makes the chocolate snap to the bite, smooth on the palate and shiny on the outside (all that glitters is not gold). You know those glossy chocolates you see behind the glass at fancy chocolate shops? Those have been made with tempered chocolate. But truffles are often coated with cocoa powder or rolled in nuts so the gloss standard can be relaxed a little with them. I can assure you that you will have beautiful and flavourful truffles to roll in a coating of your preference whether you use tempered chocolate coating or not.


“Como agua para chocolate (like water to chocolate”.
Latin idiom


 

Chocolate ganache


 

So, a little information about chocolate on a “need to know” basis is always good. Read if you want or skip to the recipe.

What is chocolate, really?

Chocolate is a compound made of cocoa powder, sugar, sometimes powdered milk and always cocoa butter. Cocoa is made from pods growing on trees within a 20º belt south and north of the equator. Each pod takes six months to develop and can weigh over 2 pounds. Cocoa trees can live to the ripe old age of 30 years and are harvested twice a year although only the ripe pods are removed and harvesting can last a long time. Once harvested, the cocoa beans are removed from the pods and they begin a fermentation process. Much like grapes are fermented to make wine, cocoa beans undergo alcoholic fermentation whereby ambiance yeast (natural yeast in the air and the pods) breaks down the sugar content, creating alcohol as a by-product. The alcohol “kills” the cocoa beans. Unlike the fermentation in wine making, the lactic acid bacteria that feeds on the alcohol is converted into acetic acid. Cocoa beans fermentation is carefully monitored to allow the development of flavours. Too short or too long fermentation will destroy the beans. After fermentation the beans are exposed to air to allow their water content to evaporate and dry the beans. Once they arrive at the manufacturer they are roasted to develop the chocolate flavour and a few steps in the processing are taken to blend, grind and refine the acidic mass before conching begins (churning with the addition of cocoa butter) to reduce the acidity and allow flavour to further develop. The conched chocolate is then tempered and stabilized through a series of temperature changes before it reaches the proper storage temperatures (68℉). Many products are made from cocoa beans: cocoa powder, cocoa butter, couverture chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate are just a few.

The making of Premium Couverture Chocolate: like a fine wine

The chocolate you want to use in making truffles is couverture chocolate. Again, a winemaking analogy: in making fine wines the wine makers control where the vines are planted and how they are viticultured to when they are picked and how they are processed and eventually blended (As they say, wine grows in the vineyard). Similarly with premium couverture chocolate making the manufacturer must control the source of the beans to ensure that only best quality beans and controlled subsequent process is used to make the couverture. “To create true premium couverture, a manufacturer must control the complete supply chain” says Ewald Notter (p. 12). For premium couverture only the finest beans are used, they must be roasted under the supervision of a roast master, they are conched for up to 72 hours and a master chocolatier may blend several different beans per recipe to achieve a particular couverture flavours and texture. Does this not sound like the process for a fine Bordeaux? And just like there are different fine Bordeaux so there are different premium couverture chocolates. We buy couverture chocolate according to certain percentage numbers representing the percentage of cocoa beans in the chocolate. Cocoa beans however are not all the same and some contain more cocoa butter in relation to cocoa solids than others. So two chocolates can be labeled 73% but in fact have completely different profile based on the cocoa butter to solids composition of the beans. If you were a chocolatier, you would need to know these proportion. For the home cook, it’s fine to rely on a good brand, and there are several.


Chocolate truffles


Working with chocolate:

There are two basic things to remember when working with chocolate:

  • Keep the work surface dry to prevent any water contact with the chocolate, water and chocolate do not mix and can cause the chocolate to clump or seize. There is an expression “like water to chocolate” and a movie made with this title, remember
  • Don’t over heat the chocolate. Past 115-120º the chocolate can scorch and seize.
  • Chocolate could be already melted even if it still retains its shape so don’t judge by what it looks like. Stir it to see if it is melted.

Making the ganache

As I mentioned above, chocolate truffles are made with a chocolate ganache that is first chilled, then rolled into balls and either rolled in various toppings or dipped in tempered chocolate. A ganache is very simple to make. After experimenting with using a double boiler and the microwave both Val and I concluded that the microwave method works best for our purposes. A ganache is simply a mixture of hot cream to which you add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Here is also where you can experiment with flavours and express your creativity. You can add liqueurs, butter, caramel, Coarse salt, ground nuts, chopped dried fruits, whatever strike your fancy. We decided hands down that we liked the caramel option best, especially with the addition of coarse Maldon salt inside and outside the truffle. Salted caramel truffles, oh yes. Delish.

Tempering the chocolate

Do this step only if you want to dip the truffles in melted chocolate to coat them with a crisp, smooth chocolate coating. If you are satisfied rolling them in ground nuts or cocoa powder you can skip tempering and still have gorgeous, delicious, easy to make truffles. Tempered chocolate has glossy appearance, is resistance to heat, smooth on the palate and has a good “snap” as they say in chocolatier language. Tempering is not difficult and can be done in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stove top.

Types of chocolate

For our purposes, couverture chocolate you find in the stores comes in dark, milk or white chocolate. Dark chocolate, containing the higher proportion of cocoa solids will be less sweet, milk chocolate more sweet and white chocolate, you know the taste. Dark chocolate should have a minimum of 70% cocoa content, milk chocolate 50% and white chocolate 30%. The percentages are usually written right on the package. If you buy it in bulk it should say couverture chocolate. We used bulk Callebaut couverture. Some of the more accessible brands include Ghirardelli, Lindt, Valrhona and Amano Artisan chocolate but there are more.


Chocolate truffles


 

About the recipes

I am offering two recipes below, one for salted caramel truffles made with dark chocolate and another for milk or white chocolate truffles with Bailleys Caramel Irish Cream. Val and I made so many different types and eventually lost track of what was what. We had to undertake the difficult task of tasting them to figure it out. Did I mention we tasted them? Chocolate overdose. The recipe calls for 8 oz of chocolate because we found the amount easy to work with and this way we could flavour each batch with different things. If you want to use a pound of chocolate just double the recipe. I said earlier that this post is about truffles making simplified so I am suggesting you buy a few of the ingredients. Of course you can make any of these items yourself if you wish.

  • Buy a good jar of quality caramel from a chocolate shop, use what you need here and keep the rest in the fridge for other uses. It keeps well for quite sometime.
  • Buy caramelized nuts at a good bakery (we have Sandrine). Keep what you don’t use in the freezer.
  • Use plain nuts toasted in the oven briefly until they are golden. Toasting brings out the flavour in the nuts.
  • Use dark unsweetened cocoa powder to roll the truffles in.
  • Buy caramel or chocolate wafers and pulverize them in the food processor (we used Dufflet Nutt-e caramel-almond-pistachio and dark chocolate maple cashew, purchased at Urban Fare)
  • If you can, get Maldon salt or Fleur de Sel. These are wonderful large flake salts with delicate flavour that are hand harvested in England and France, respectively.

Mis en Place

Mis en place is a French concept translated to put in place. It refers to organizing the ingredients and cooking utensils required for a particular recipe before beginning to prepare the recipe. Following this process ensures that you don’t have to leave what you are doing to run looking for this or that. It is particularly important when working with chocolate to have everything ready as chocolate will not wait for you to get your act together. Read the recipe, get the ingredients ready, prepare the cooking utensils, bowls and trays and then start cooking. You’d be glad you did.

What you need:
  • A glass bowl to heat the cream and add the chocolate into (1.5-2 quart bowl works). It has to fit in your fridge to chill;
  • Silicon spatula for mixing the chocolate;
  • Small ice cream scoop, mellon baller or spoons to scoop out the balls of chocolate;
  • Thin rubber kitchen gloves to wear while you roll the chocolates;
  • A parchment lined tray to place the rolled chocolates on;
  • Bowls with the toppings of your choice ready;
  • Trays that fit in your fridge to store the rolled truffles;
  • All the ingredients for the recipe ready.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles Recipe


Ingredients:


For the ganache:

8 oz dark chocolate

5 oz whipping cream (35% butterfat and up)

3 tablespoons caramel (Callebaut)

1/2  teaspoon Maldon Salt, Fleur de Sel or another good quality coarse sea salt

1- 2 tablespoons liqueur ( Grand Marnier, Cognac, brandy)

2 tablespoons toasted or caramelized nuts, grounded (not a powder)

For the topping

Use any or all of the following: caramelized nuts, toasted nuts, dark, unsweetened cocoa powder, crushed caramel or chocolate wafers.

Muldon salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling, optional.


 

Directions:


Making the ganache:

Place the chocolate on a piece of parchment paper and chop into small roughly even pieces.

Place the cream in a glass bowl large enough to mix the cream and chocolate in comfortably. Heat in the cream in the microwave to just below boiling. Microwaves vary so start with 45 second and continue until just below full boil.

Remove from microwave and add the chopped chocolate to the hot cream. Allow it to stand for a minute to begin melting the chocolate but if you are impatient like I am you can begin stirring it with a silicon spatula from the center in concentric motion widening the circle as you go. The heat of the cream should melt the chocolate but if you have a few pieces that didn’t melt you can return the bowl to the microwave for just a few second (5-10 seconds) to warm it up and then keep stirring until it all melts.

Add the caramel and stir to melt it into the chocolate.

Add the liqueur if you are using it.

Add the ground caramelized nuts  and the salt and stir to distribute them evenly in the ganache.

There shouldn’t be any streaks of cream, caramel or liqueur visible. The mixture should be smooth and shiny.

Let it sit at room temperature to cool a bit and then cover and refrigerate until firm enough to form into balls. This can take 2-4 or more.

You can make the ganache the day before you plan to roll the truffles, it keeps well in the fridge overnight.

Rolling the ganache:

Once chilled, remove from the fridge.

Using a mellon baller, small ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out small balls of ganache and roll into rounds with gloved hands. Truffles don’t have to be perfectly round, remember, they are named after the irregular shaped wild truffle mushrooms that are so prized in culinary circles.

Drop the truffle balls into the topping of your choice and roll to coat. Sprinkle with a few salt flakes if you wish. If the ganache seems too soft you can refrigerate the balls briefly to firm up before rolling them in the topping, but not too long as you want the topping to stick. If you refrigerate them for longer, bring back to room temperature before rolling in the topping.

Place the coated truffles on the parchment lined tray and refrigerate until firm.

The truffles keep in the fridge for a couple for weeks or can be frozen.

Bring to room temperature before serving or serve slightly chilled.

wasn’t that easy?


 

Milk or white chocolate Truffles with Bailleys Caramel Irish Cream 


Ingredients:


Ganache:

8 oz milk or white chocolate

3 oz whipping cream 35% butterfat or more

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoon Bailleys Caramel Irish Cream

Topping:

Use any or all of the following: caramelized nuts, toasted nuts, dark, unsweetened cocoa powder, white chocolate shavings


 

Directions:


Place the chocolate on a piece of parchment paper and chop into small roughly even pieces.

Place the cream in a glass bowl large enough to mix the cream and chocolate in comfortably. Heat in the microwave to just below boiling. Microwaves vary so start with 45 second and continue until just below full boil.

Remove from microwave and add the chopped chocolate to the hot cream. Allow it to stand for a minute to begin melting the chocolate, then begin stirring it with a silicon spatula from the center in circular motion widening the circle as you go. The heat of the cream should melt the chocolate but if you have a few pieces that didn’t melt you can return the bowl to the microwave for just a few second (10 secs) to warm it up and then keep stirring until it all melts.

Add the butter and stir to melt it into the chocolate.

Add the Bailleys if you are using it.

There shouldn’t be any streaks of cream, butter or liqueur visible. The mixture should be smooth and shiny.

Let it sit at room temperature to cool a bit and then cover and refrigerate until firm enough to form into balls. This can take 3-4 hours.

You can make the ganache the day before you plan to roll the truffles, it keeps well in the fridge overnight.

Rolling the ganache:

Once chilled, remove from the fridge.

Using a mellon baller, small ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out small balls of ganache and roll into rounds. Truffles don’t have to be perfectly round.

Drop the truffle balls into the topping of your choice and roll to coat. If the ganache seems too soft you can refrigerate the balls briefly to firm up before rolling them in the topping, but not too long as you want the topping to stick. If you refrigerate them for longer, bring back to room temperature before rolling in the topping.

Place the coated truffles on the parchment lined tray and refrigerate until firm.

The truffles keep in the fridge for a couple for weeks or can be frozen.

Bring to room temperature before serving or serve slightly chilled.


 

So, what about tempering?


If you want to temper chocolate to dip the truffles in I would suggest the following simplified method.

Ingredients:


8 oz couverture chocolate (dark, milk or white)


 

Directions:


Chop the chocolate into pieces, leaving a few pieces a little larger so they don’t all melt at the same time.

Place the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave about 45 seconds.

Remove from the microwave and stir with a silicon spatula to see how much of it has melted. You do not want all of the chocolate to melt at once.

Begin stirring, returning it to the microwave for 10 seconds intervals until all of the chocolate has melted. Don’t try to melt it all in the microwave. Stirring the hot chocolate will melt the remaining pieces and they will “seed” the chocolate, creating the right crystal structure that is important for coating the truffles.

You can check the temperature of the chocolate if you’d like and heat or cool your chocolate to the correct working temperature.

Ideally, working temperature should be as follows:

Dark chocolate 88-90℉

Milk chocolate 86-88℉

White chocolate 84-86℉

Dip the uncoated truffles in the melted tempered chocolate.

To dip use a dipping fork or a regular fork.

Let excess drip back into the bowl to prevent legs from being formed (that flat pool of chocolate that forms under the truffle when you have too much chocolate).

You can always snap the “legs” after the chocolate has hardened or use a warm dry knife to cut them off. If they don’t bother you they don’t bother me.

Place the dipped truffles on a parchment lined tray and leave to cool.

To store, refrigerate until needed.

Note: to garnish the dipped truffles you can sprinkle the still wet chocolate coating with a few nuts or topping of your choice. You can also melt white or dark chocolate, place it in a pastry bag (use disposable plastic) and wave it back and forth over the truffles to create a striped design.


 

 

 

Chocolate truffles


Chocolate truffles


Chocolate truffles


Chocolate truffles



 

15 Comments

  • Given says:

    What if the ganache comes out of the fridge rock solid? Help!

    • Dina says:

      Hi, it shouldn’t be rock solid but it should harden. Try leaving it out for a while to see if it softens at room temperature. If it doesn’t perhaps melt again and add some more cream. I haven’t tried that but would give it a try. Thanks.

  • Theresa says:

    What did I do wrong if it doesn’t harden?

    • Dina says:

      Hi Theresa, I need more info: what didn’t harden? the ganache or the outer layer of chocolate? Chocolate is not easy to work with and sometimes it takes a little practice. Let me know and I’ll try to guide you.

  • maggie says:

    I am attempting a chocolate truffle croquembouche; Can you tell me if I make both the ganache, then roll in tempered chocolate, can these truffles then be frozen; obviously working with 130 truffles requires quite a bit of prep time and that is why I would like to freeze so that I can just assemble on day before wedding

    • Dina says:

      Hi Maggie, these truffles freeze very well. To freeze stack them in layers separated with sheets of parchment. Sounds like a lovely project. Let me know how it turned out.

  • Guylaine says:

    Dina, thank you for this post. I’ll keep it in my favorites, I want to experience tea chocolate truffles; this is a good guide line to start with

    • Dina says:

      Hi Guylaine, I wonder what tea you would match with chocolate truffles. I will keep an eye on your blog.Nice to hear from you.

  • Farmersdotter says:

    Hi Dina, great post! One question. Where do you find 35% or higher whipping cream? I have been frustrated as of late to find anything above 32%. It used to be all brands were 36% but now they have siphoned off the butterfat content reducing it to 32% and added carrageenan & cellulose as stabilizers. This I find deceptive as the price of cream has not dropped correspondingly with the reduced value of the cream and to my palate and experience is an inferior product. How I wish we could get double and triple cream like in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. You can whisk that stuff by hand into peaks in a couple of minutes. Try that with 32% and you are in for a workout.
    I have switched to organic now as at least it is absent of the adulterating agents that are put into conventional cream and is the kind of agriculture I want to support.. The only conventional cream I have come across without fillers is Dutchman Dairies.

  • Anne Goresht says:

    Beautiful!
    The 3rd paragraph is——
    the first paragraph of the book titled Seven Shades of Truffle Ecstasy by Dina Honke

    Keep on writing(and cooking)

  • George Honke says:

    Yes I’m Dina’s husband. Just finished reading her journey with Val into Truffle country? When in wine country I taste the wines. I’m still in Truffle country five day’s later? Can’t wait till your next journey?

  • bellini says:

    The truffles are only a distant memory Dina since they have all been given away or little imps must have been eating them at midnight:D I have revived a love for chocolate making I didn’t know existed. It was an excellent way to spend a day. On to the next challenge!

    • Dina says:

      It was fun Val. I found out that I like cooking together with another cook, a revelation:) Let’s plan the next “operation”. I suspect it will be pasta.

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