Get the basics down pat, then use your imagination to create endless varieties of delectable sweet truffles.
Though they share the same name as the underground mushroom delicacies rooted out by pigs, the truffles we're speaking of are rich chocolaty delights.
Chocolate Truffle Basics
There isn't much to a basic truffle, really. Just chocolate (bittersweet or semisweet) and heavy cream, together forming what's known as a ganache.
You make a ganache by heating up the cream and pouring it over chopped up pieces of chocolate in a bowl and stirring until smooth and fully mixed. Let it cool to room temperature, stirring periodically as it thickens, then stick it in the fridge for several hours to finish stiffening. You then scoop out (or "pipe" with a pastry bag) little 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces of the mixture onto a pre-chilled baking sheet lined with some sort of stick-free liner (also pre-chilled). After a couple more hours, loosely covered in the refrigerator again, roll each piece gently with your palms into a smooth ball. Stick the tray in the freezer this time, until they're firm and you're ready to coat them.
The most basic of chocolate truffles is simply a ganache coated in more chocolate (this time minus the cream). This second chocolate coating—often dark or white chocolate around a milk chocolate center, or some variation thereof—works best when the chocolate is tempered
but can be achieved much more easily and nearly as effectively by heating up the chocolate for the coating in a double boiler, then dipping each center, one at a time, in the coating and letting dry on a mesh rack, catching the drippings for reuse.
Variations on a Theme
Now that you know the basics of how to make truffles, there is an endless variety of ways you can prepare them for a treasure trove of sweet flavor experiences. Most of the variations on the basic chocolate truffle can be broken down into ways to "dress them up" and ways to "fill them up."
Consider dressing up chocolate truffles to be anything added to the outside of the little chocolate balls. For example, truffles may be rolled in coconut or confectioner's sugar. One recipe for coated truffles includes both in the coating, along with cinnamon, cocoa powder and chopped nuts—be they peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, pine nuts or others.
You can also make dipped truffles, coated in caramel or toffee. For that matter, you can fill them with caramel or toffee as well. Other truffle-filling ideas include jellies or similar candied fruit gel, marzipan, marshmallow, or peanut butter. Those who have an affinity for spicy food might want to incorporate chili peppers into their truffles. Others may like an extract of a favorite flavor like vanilla or anise.
And then there are liqueur-filled chocolate truffles, in which alcohols like rum, Grand Marnier, Cognac or other liqueurs are mixed in with the heavy cream. Keep in mind the distinction between liqueurs and liquor. Gin or tequila filled truffles may not taste as delightful as port wine, for example. Liqueurs are more syrupy and tend to have a sweeter, somewhat dessert-like flavor.
Chocolate truffles are bite-sized wonders that never stop delighting. Once you know how to make truffles, you can spend a lifetime exploring the infinite ways to spruce them up.
More Truffle Recipes