Today, people call just about any piece of chocolate with a ganache filling “truffle.” It has gotten to the point where the term is so common in this context, some people are surprised to learn that the word “truffle” actually originally applied to something other than chocolate.
Truffles—real truffles—are wonderful fungi that grow on tree roots. They are a bit lumpy, looking rather like something that was intended to be spherical but got slightly battered. However, they are beautiful to those who fancy them. I adore the earthy flavor and fragrance of truffles.
Chocolate truffles began to become popular in the early 1900s. They were called “chocolate truffles” because they looked like real truffles (black truffles, that is; there are also white truffles, but that’s not what these imitate). The original chocolate truffles (which are still commonly made in Europe) did not have a chocolate coating, and they were not perfectly round. They were, like real truffles, a bit lumpy, and they were dusted with cocoa powder, to keep them from sticking together, as well as to suggest the dry dirt that might cling to a real truffle. They were meant to amuse the eye, as well as the palate. Because they are not coated, they are quite delicate—which is probably why folks started coating them. They’re easier to package and ship. But that doesn’t mean they’re better.
The recipe that follows is for the original chocolate truffles—the kind that look like the famous fungus. When you roll them into balls, you don’t have to worry about making them perfectly round, because they’re supposed to look like truffles (or truffes, which is French for truffle; this was originally a French recipe). The recipe below is for classic chocolate truffles. They are unbelievably good.
Truffes au chocolat
1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbs. milk
4 Tbs. butter
Yolk of one egg
Unsweetened cocoa powder and granulated sugar
Melt chocolate in milk in top section of a double boiler, stirring frequently. Stir in butter. When butter is melted and incorporated into the chocolate, chill the mixture slightly. Add the egg yolk, stirring until it is completely incorporated. Chill until firm.
Use a spoon to scoop out portions of the chilled chocolate and roll it into small balls (about 3/4 inch in diamter; 1 inch diameter maximum). Roll the balls in a mixture of equal parts of cocoa powder and sugar. Keep refrigerated. The number of truffles will depend on the size.
Notes: Be careful not to burn the chocolate when melting it. Make sure the chocolate is sufficiently cool before adding the egg yolk, so that it doesn’t cook the egg. Work quickly when making the balls, so the chocolate doesn’t get too soft. Feel free to return the mixture to the refrigerator if it starts to get unmanageable. Enjoy.
© 2009 Cynthia Clampitt