Chocolate truffles are much tastier than they look. They're dark and lumpy on the outside, but inside they're rich and creamy. As homemade chocolates go, truffles offer just the right balance of flavor and smoothness in the mouth, which makes them one of the nicest ways to indulge.
The uneven shape of cocoa-dusted chocolate truffles is reminiscent of the precious fungi dug in the southern parts of France. Not surprisingly, the chocolate version is just as highly regarded as the earthy one. While some people would gladly walk miles to find real truffles, others search for truffles robed in chocolate.
The little confections begin with ganache, a rich chocolate cream that is usually a blend of bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream, and sometimes butter and eggs. Ganache is shaped in the palms - a messy undertaking - then finished with a roll around in unsweetened cocoa coating. One of the distinguishing characteristics of these balls is the contrast of their sweet interiors and slightly bitter exteriors.
You can also find chocolate truffles with a hard chocolate coating, which is used to prolong their shelf life. White and milk-chocolate truffles are more common now, as are balls flavored with cardamom, cinnamon, tea, or rum.
What all good truffles have in common is top-quality ingredients. Michael Klug, a chocolate maker at L. A. Burdick Chocolate in Cambridge, says, "The chocolate that is used will make the difference. Our chocolates typically range between 56 to 75 percent cocoa in content. But we like to use a blend of a few to make our truffles."
Pastry chef Kate Zuckerman of New York's Chanterelle restaurant says, "A successful truffle has a smooth, well-emulsified texture that is creamy but still holds its shape when served at room temperature." In her book "The Sweet Life," she offers recipes using white or dark chocolate, and adds rum, dark caramel, and ground espresso to flavor them. "Clear flavors made with really good chocolate - like Valrhona and Scharffen Berger - are wonderful." She doesn't refrigerate her truffles, preferring instead a cool basement.
If you're making them for holiday gifts, we recommend storing them as far from your reach as possible. - BÉATRICE PELTRE