A sweet seasonal tradition rolls on in Sudbury

Teamwork is key for ‘trufflemaniacs’

From left: Mary Kriener, Carol DeBold, Sarah Rogalski, Jean Lawler, and Susan Rogalski form an assembly line. From left: Mary Kriener, Carol DeBold, Sarah Rogalski, Jean Lawler, and Susan Rogalski form an assembly line. (Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe)
By Lisa Zwirn
Globe Correspondent / December 22, 2010

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SUDBURY — Before the holidays about 25 years ago, Susan Rogalski began making chocolate truffles with friends. The original group, about five women who once worked together in the education publishing field, call the annual event “trufflemania’’ and themselves “trufflemaniacs’’ or “trufflers.’’ As a team endeavor, says Rogalski, “We have a variety of flavors, share the work, and have a good time.’’

Today, the founding members are still at it, along with three more women (at one point the group became so large, it split into two). Everyone brings at least eight dozen of one or two pre-assigned varieties of truffles. These are made of ganache, a mixture of chocolate, heavy cream, and flavorings such as rum, brandy, and spices, that requires chilling. At the party, the women cover more than 80 dozen ganache balls with various coatings and toppings. When they’re done, they divvy up the treats for holiday gifts.

On a recent weekend, the group arrives at Carol DeBold’s at 9 a.m. She has been hosting since 1997 because her house has a screened-in porch where the chocolates can be kept at the right temperature. This year, DeBold made chocolate caramel truffles and hard toffee, and Rogalski, who lives in Bedford, brought bourbon pecan and whiskey raisin fillings. Another truffler, Mary Kriener of Lexington, made eggnog centers and haystacks, a family recipe of coconut, almonds, and white chocolate.

By 10 a.m., six trays of truffles — with brandy walnut, Baileys Irish Cream, and peanut butter centers — cool on the porch. Inside, the women form an assembly line. “We have melters, dippers, toppers, and packers,’’ says Jean Lawler of Byfield. Jo DiGiustini of Boston watches over two double boilers on burners. Small, deep saucepans are best for keeping melted chocolate warm and creating a deeper pool for immersing the truffles.

Dippers and toppers work side-by-side at a plastic-covered dining room table. Dippers dunk one ganache ball at a time into chocolate and lift it out with a fork. The excess chocolate is scraped off, then the candy goes onto a lined baking sheet. “We’re getting better at not having feet on them,’’ says Kriener, referring to the chocolate that sometimes pools at the base. Ganache shaped with mini cookie scoops have perfect domes and flat bottoms.

“The centers are cold so the chocolate sets pretty quickly,’’ says Kriener. Coated rounds are immediately topped with sprinkles, chopped nuts, cocoa, or graham cracker crumbs. “Every center has a unique topping to differentiate it,’’ says DeBold. A few years ago, Cia Ochsenbein, a graphic designer, made labels depicting the different flavors.

Occasionally, when a ganache recipe is finicky or unpopular, it’s removed from the repertoire. Today, Lawler’s double-decker chocolate mint squares are a sad mess. “The white chocolate didn’t set up well so we’ll repurpose them into a dessert sauce,’’ she says. The thrifty group finds uses for other leftover items. Extra toppings and the remaining melted chocolate are made into chunky chocolate bark.

Professional truffle makers temper the chocolate (essentially, heat it and cool it down several times) to make it shine. This group uses vegetable oil, which helps stabilize the chocolate and improve its coating qualities. Over the course of the day, they’ll melt more than 20 pounds of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips. Their formula is one pound of chocolate to 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. This year, they couldn’t find the 10-pound bars they usually use, so they switched to chips. Those set quicker than they liked, so they’ll probably go back to block chocolate next year.

At one point, two 12-year-old assistants join the fun. Next-door neighbor Isabel Anderson rolls lemon chocolate cheesecake truffles in crushed graham crackers and Rogalski’s daughter Sarah helps pack up the goodies, each one nestled in a mini-muffin cup. Ochsenbein and another regular, Sarah Ambrose, couldn’t attend this year, but both sent their assigned centers so they’d receive their assortment. As Lawler dips Ambrose’s marzipan truffles, DiGiustini carefully places tiny candy holly leaves on top. “Godiva doesn’t have anything on us,’’ Lawler says.

When the dipping is done, the women sit down for a potluck lunch. “It’s turned into a reunion to catch up with friends,’’ says Rogalski.

The candy has become so popular among its recipients, says Lawler, “People ask, ‘So when are you dipping this year?’ ’’ One of Kriener’s work associates was worried there wouldn’t be truffles when she learned Kriener was having knee surgery in December. Kriener turns out to be a trouper. She came on crutches.

Some of DeBold’s friends return the empty gift tins each year. “One neighbor recently dropped by and said, ‘I thought you might need these boxes back,’ ’’ she says.

Hint. Hint.

Lisa Zwirn can be reached at