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Making chocolate truffles

Road testing chocolate truffles...Easy and delicious.

Road testing chocolate truffles...Easy and delicious. Photo: Sarah McInerney

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...).

You can do a lot of stuff with this recipe, it's totally up to the imagination. 

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.

Extra crunch ... Chocolate truffles from Kakawa chocolates.

Extra crunch ... Chocolate truffles from Kakawa chocolates. Photo: Sarah McInerney

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

Notes:

  • 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.

The chocolate
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.

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.

Additions
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?

9 comments so far

  • Nice update on the old classic and obviously worth doing with superior ingredients. I like the idea of these as well as a cheese platter. You'd have everyone's tastes (sweet & savoury) covered.
    This time of year I do Marcella Hazan's Pears Braised in Red Wine and Bay Leaves. It's in Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion as well. Dead easy - pears, butter, sugar, bay leaves and red wine. Delicious and super easy.

    Commenter
    Lou
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 15, 2012, 5:31PM
    • Thanks for the recipe suggestion Lou, I'll have to give it a go.

      Commenter
      Sarah Mc
      Date and time
      June 17, 2012, 11:46AM
  • There are no measurements or ratios with this recipe. Is it equal parts chocolate, butter, cream and glucose, or some other ratio?

    Commenter
    Love to cook
    Date and time
    June 15, 2012, 5:54PM
  • Love your articles Sarah ;-)

    Just thinking:- "...Ralph’s advice is to break the chocolate into even smaller pieces next time..."

    Would grating the chocolate (pop the grater in the fridge for a bit to minimise the chocolate sticking to it) assist with the pouring the cream/glucose over the chocolate to combine & form the ganache ?

    Commenter
    Mr Bungle
    Location
    In The Kitchen
    Date and time
    June 15, 2012, 8:51PM
    • Hi Mr Bungle, thanks for reading - I'm road testing roast chicken right now for the next one!

      I can't see anything wrong with grating the chocolate (in fact, it sounds inspired to me!) but I'm not the expert! I'll email David Ralph on Monday and ask.

      Commenter
      Sarah Mc
      Date and time
      June 17, 2012, 11:49AM
  • As a restaurateur for 25 years, I can say that the step of dipping the ganache balls in melted chocolate is not one that can be skipped. Firstly, because you miss out on the crisp outer layer of chocolate, and when you've done tat properly you'll never want to compromise.

    Second, that outer layer keeps the shape of the ganache, and has a higher melting point. On a warm day, your bowl of non-chocolate-dipped balls will look like an amorphous lump of sheep droppings.

    The other essential item IMO is alcohol. And finally, the addition of butter to the ganache is not essential.

    Commenter
    au contraire
    Location
    nsw
    Date and time
    June 16, 2012, 3:38PM
    • Hi au contraire, that's a good tip for summer! Gives me enough time to practice dipping them in chocolate (and to learn how to temper chocolate, I guess). Thanks for the advice.

      Commenter
      Sarah Mc
      Date and time
      June 17, 2012, 11:55AM
  • Coffee and chocolate truffles is my all times favorite.
    I stick to the simple recipe using 70per sent cocoa chocolate, thickened cream and a spoon of milk, no sugar, but add a pinch of chili powder to the the mixture.
    The resulting truffles are nice and smooth and the chilly is felt only as an aftertaste.
    It leaves a cool sensation in the mouth and unfailingly winning high praise from my guests as very refined and sophisticated...and the surprise comes pleasantly at the end...

    Commenter
    mama
    Date and time
    June 17, 2012, 12:23PM

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