Ever neglected the dessert component of a dinner party menu? Left it as an afterthought, dishing up something with little care or thought, or skipping it entirely.
As a decidely savoury person I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion (cheese board, anyone...).
Enter the chocolate truffle. Named (and shaped) for the edible fungi found amongst the roots of hazelnut and oak trees, they are essentially balls of rich, creamy chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa powder. Often served up in restaurants as part of petit fours, they're a nice way to end a meal, particularly if the previous two courses have been a bit on the hearty side.
What I like about them most is that they're high on the ‘wow factor’ but actually pretty simple to make - although I’m yet to take the next step and roll them in tempered chocolate.
In the past I’ve used a simple recipe of cream, chocolate and cocoa powder, and been quite happy with the results. But curious to know how the professionals do it, I contacted David Ralph from Kakawa Chocolates in Sydney. He runs truffle making classes with his life and business partner Jin Sun Kim, and was happy to share their recipe and tips with Tried & Tasted.
‘‘You can do a lot of stuff with this recipe, it’s totally up to the imagination but once you have this at home, that’s what you can put your building blocks on, [start asking yourself] what can I do to make this better?’’ he says.
Given it is such a simple recipe with few ingredients, the quality of those used is important. As the chocolate is the star (or to use Masterchef parlance ‘‘hero’’), make sure you’re happy with the taste of it in its original form. Especially take note of the bitterness and sweetness.
The recipe: Chocolate truffles
- you can use any chocolate you like in this recipe - the Papua New Guinean single origin specified is simply to give the smoky flavour;
- The final step asks that the truffles be rolled in chocolate. This can be skipped. The truffles are then rolled in the cocoa as is.
Ralph says to stay away from compound chocolate, it’s too grainy. Instead use couveture - good quality chocolate that’s high in cocoa butter. This has a much smoother mouth feel, he says.
Two easily accessbile brands are Lindt and Callebaut. Start with the 70 per cent cocoa options, he says.
You can do a lot of stuff with this recipe, it's totally up to the imagination.
Once you’re more confident with the recipe he recommends moving on to single origin to explore different flavour profiles.
Butter and cream
The recipe calls for slightly salted butter, for flavour, and 35 per cent fat pouring cream.
‘‘Don’t use thickened cream, don’t use double cream,’’ he says. ‘‘It is too high a fat percentage; you’re also more likely to split the ganache.’’
This is boiled with the glucose before being poured over the chocolate to melt it. Glucose can be found in most supermarkets and is often located near the sugar.
‘‘Glucose acts as a stabiliser,’’ he says. ‘‘Because you’ve got a lot of chocolate and a lot of cream, it just helps to keep it together, it stops it from splitting, but that all depends on your cooking skills as well. It binds everything together a bit more.’’
Top tip: Once the hot cream/glucose mixture is poured onto the chocolate, let this sit for a few seconds to give the chocolate a chance to break down. Using a small whisk, stir from the middle.
Set and roll
Once made, the ganache can be left to set at room temperature, covered in cling film (pushed right down on top of the ganache to prevent condensation from forming). This will take a few hours so if you’re in a rush, pop the covered ganache into the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. Once set it is shaped into balls or little logs using teaspoons, a melon baller or even a piping bag, and then rolled in cocoa powder (do this twice for better coverage).
Top tip: If you’re using your hands to shape the truffles, dust them in cocoa powder first. This will help prevent the ganache from sticking to your hands. Ralph says to choose a good quality cocoa powder. Avoid the big commerical varieties that have sugar and milk added.
Note: At Kakawa chocolates the truffles are rolled in two layers of tempered chocolate first (a blog for another day, perhaps) and then rolled in the cocoa powder, icing sugar or roasted nuts. This adds a crunch when the truffle is bitten into and improves presentation. Ralph suggests giving this a go once the truffles are mastered.
Ralph says to add more butter for a richer, more French-style truffle.
For a sweeter end result, add some castor sugar to the chocolate. Or use a mix of milk and dark chocolate (30 per cent milk and 70 per cent dark is his suggestion).
To get creative with the truffles, consider adding alcohol - he suggests Grand Mariner, Calvados, brandy, whisky or rum - freeze dried fruits, or roasted nuts. Add these with the butter.
‘‘For this recipe I’d add probably 10 ml [of the alcohol],’’ he says. ‘‘You don’t want to add too much or it can thin it out.’’
A vanilla bean can also be added to the cream and strained out once it comes to the boil.
Road testing the truffles (photo at the top of the page)
Despite this recipe having a few extra ingredients, and therefore steps, than the one I have used before it had little impact on the speed and ease at which I was able to produce the truffles. I had the ganache sitting aside, covered with cling film to set within 20 minutes of starting.
The only glitch was that the cream and glucose mixture cooled down very quickly meaning the chocolate didn’t melt properly. I blasted it in the microwave in two 10 second bursts to fix this. Ralph’s advice is to break the chocolate into even smaller pieces next time, or part-melt the chocolate before adding the cream/glucose.
For flavourings I added a vanilla bean to the cream as it heated plus 10ml of brandy with the butter. These added a subtle sweetness to the ganache.
The next step for me - fun with fillings. Top of my list - I’m going to make a pistachio praline and incorporate that for some crunch. Or take Ralph’s advice and add some freeze dried sour cherries, if I can source some.
To that end, here are two additional truffle recipes from the Cuisine database:
What’s your easy dinner party dessert suggestion? Have you tried making truffles before? What’s your tried and tasted recipe?