Help me understand the magic of truffles!
November 9, 2010 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Tell me all of the wonderful dark secrets of making chocolate truffles.

I want to learn to make truffles. I'm interested in recipes and general tips, and I'm especially interested in flavorings, decorations, and tricks that really make them impressive.

I'm not really interested in sweet things, but I like truffles a lot (especially the drinky ones with rum or amaretto) and I'd like to be able to have something I can bring to a party or give someone as a gift that will be special.

Any notes you have about ratio, temperature, texture to watch for, etc., is helpful.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This instructable has been in my bookmarks for a while. It has a basic recipe plus recipe variations that look really great.
posted by vespabelle at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2010

Here is a really, really delicious truffle recipe I posted on an earlier AskMe. Easy, too, and fun to make.
posted by ORthey at 4:38 PM on November 9, 2010

Here's a basic recipe for liqueur chocolate truffles that a colleague shared. I've made truffles with this recipe several times and they always turn out amazing.
You need:
250 ml heavy cream
300 g dark chocolate (~70 %) -- I usually use Lindt
2 egg yolks
100 g unsalted butter
a little fruit zest (lemon/orange)
a little liqueur (limoncello/Grand Marnier/anything else you'd like -- but leave out the fruit zest if you go with non-fruity liqueurs)
cocoa powder to coat

1) Melt the chocolate in the heavy cream on low heat, stirring constantly.
2) After you get a smooth mixture, add the yolks, one at a time.
3) With the pot off the heat, add the butter and stir until melted and glossy.
4) Add your fruit zest/liqueur.
5) Cool to room temperature then place the entire thing in the freezer until it solidifies.
6) Make balls of this mixture and roll in cocoa powder, then place in little paper mini-muffin cups.
7) Keep in the fridge until about half an hour before serving (so they'll be of the right consistency -- you don't want them too hard or too melty).

There you go! Try it -- it works!
posted by peacheater at 4:39 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OOOOOH. Truffles (notes from a first attempt; my husband and I did this project together):

For the truffle batter
1 pint heavy cream
2 bags Hershey's Special Dark chips
2 TBSP corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick butter
2 oz. vanilla vodka
2 oz. Kahlua

For the Coating
1 large bar Hershey's Special Dark chocolate
Equivalent amount semi-sweet Bakers chocolate

Put the cream, corn syrup and vanilla in a sauce pan over-low-medium heat. Stir often and don't let it burn or boil too vigorously. You want a brief low simmer. Put the chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, stir and microwave again. Stir down again. When about two-thirds of the chips are melted, the rest will melt from the residual heat. (I scraped the melted chocolate into the Kitchen Aid bowl as I wanted to use the mixture to whisk the truffle batter. If you're whisking by hand there's no need to transfer the melted chocolate.) The cream mixture should be at a low simmer by this point. Slowly whisk it into the chocolate. Whisk a bit then slowly add the alcohol. After the batter is nicely whisked, maybe a minute or in the mixer, scape the batter into an 8" X 8" baking dish. Place the baking dish in the freezer for 20 minutes or so while you get your other gear arranged.

While you're waiting for the batter to chill down, you can get the chocolate for the coating into a double boiler. Heat gently and try not to overheat the chocolate. "Just melted" is just right for the coating. (The local salvage store had a great sale on bittersweet chocolate squares––5 lbs. for $3.99. We used a half-and-half combination of the squares and Hershey's Special Dark Kisses for the coating, melting it together in the double boiler. It's cheaper, probably, to buy one of the big bars of Special Dark chocolate, but we had the kisses, so we used them. )

When the batter is chilled, take the pan out and scoop out walnut sized globs of batter using a melon baller or a spoon. We started out by putting them on a cookie sheet, then chilling the batter again before rolling them. I actually found it worked just as well to roll the cold batter into balls right out of the baking dish. We still chilled after rolling, but that approach saved handling the balls of filling an extra time.

The process of shaping is like shaping cookie dough, but much faster––a few moments of rolling the filling between the palms is enough. Any more, and filling sticks to the palms. Scoop 'em out and give 'em a quick roll. When your cookie sheet is full, put the sheet in the freezer to get the batter cold again. You don't want to freeze it, but you want it nice and cold. A bamboo skewer turned out to be the best tool for picking up the filling balls. I pierced each ball about half-way through, to make sure it didn't fall off.

Then dredge the balls, one at a time, through the chocolate coating. You'll have to heat the coating mix intermittently and you may have to make some extra coating depending on how thick you apply it. Work quickly as the chocolate doesn't coat well if it's on the heat too long. At one point our coating stopped working well and so we started again with fresh coating. Probably pays to have a bit of extra chocolate on hand, just in case you need it.

Carefully daub the coated truffles off onto some wax paper. Spinning the skewer helps to get the truffles off without touching them. There's definitely a learning curve with this.

Chill 'em up then eat distribute them as you wish. Makes about 50, in slightly different sizes.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:43 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I made a bunch a few Christmases ago for gifts using some homemade rose extract. As great as that sounds, the extract wasn't strong enough to dominate the chocolate flavor so I ended up using a lot. Adding a lot of alcohol-based extract to the truffles was a bad idea: it's useful to freeze the centers before dipping, but I added enough alcohol to lower the freezing temperature and we just had a gooey mess. Fun to clean up, good marital fun ensued, but great truffles didn't result. Next time I'll use something else for flavoring.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:43 PM on November 9, 2010

Once you find a recipe you like, try heating the cream, steeping a bunch of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea in it, then straining the still-hot cream over chopped/grated dark chocolate to make the filling. Earl Grey is freaking amazing as a chocolate flavoring.
posted by vytae at 4:49 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is there a Trader Joe's near you? Their pound plus chocolate bars are great for making truffles. I usually use a mix of the dark chocolate and the 70 percent dark chocolate, but the milk chocolate is good, too.

To start out with, I'd advise you to not worry about tempering so much. Just start messing around with ganache truffles rolled in cocoa or nuts or whatever other coating would complement the flavor you're making. When you're happy with a ganache, then move on to dipped and/or filled truffles.

I've made several batches of truffles and for the life of me I can't manage to get a full batch of tempered chocolate truffles, so I can't offer a lot of advice. Definitely invest in a good chocolate thermometer. You want something that will be very accurate at low temperatures and most kitchen thermometers are better at higher temps.
posted by SugarAndSass at 4:53 PM on November 9, 2010

When you get really ugly looking truffles (homemade often are), just make a pastry bag from a ziploc, add smaller pieces of chocolate and melt them, and then cut off the corner of the bag and go to town drizzling over the centers. They will look gorgeous every time.
posted by stranger danger at 5:01 PM on November 9, 2010

If you aren't trying to temper the coating (which you shouldn't your first few times) a little vegetable oil in the coating chocolate will help. Making Artisan Chocolates, by Shotts is a decent reference for the dedicated amateur, if you like to learn by reading, otherwise just go for it. Get some high end catalogs for flavoring ideas if you want to make sure you don't end up with anything inedible (difficult, but possible.)
posted by ecurtz at 5:21 PM on November 9, 2010

Best answer: Don't get water in the coating ("couverture") chocolate, don't get it too hot. Doing either will kill its ability to crystallize into a nice shell around the ganache.

You can use white chocolate as a ganache base. But keep in mind that chocolate with more cocoa butter will be softer, so you don't need to use as much heavy cream with white chocolate — in fact, you don't want your ganache too soft or you'll make buttons instead of truffles.

Conversely, dark chocolate will need more heavy cream, for the same reason. These are the two "extremes" of chocolate, so if this is the first time for you, just use plain unsweetened milk chocolate for your first batch.

My two favorite ganache flavorings are orange and mint extract. Judicious additions of extract (of whatever kind) can make a very wonderful ganache.

Get creative with toppings. Powered cocoa (Dutch process) makes a nice covering for sticky ganache, as does coconut shavings, sea salt and Heath Bar crunch, to give examples. You can also use still-warm couverture as a base for toppings.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:32 PM on November 9, 2010

Best answer: The recipe I use is based on some changes I've made to the version described by Kim O'Donnell of the WashingtonPost in her What's Cooking Video Segment.

It's a great resource if you're a visual learner and would appreciate the chance to see the process of making truffles before you try it yourself. The instructions and recipes included below are heavily modified from her original.

Chocolate truffles are a well-set ganache - chocolate and cream (or other dairy), plus flavours. There's a lot of variety to be had in how you play with the flavours and what you add.

The most important element of your truffles is going to be your chocolate. It's possible to make truffles with inexpensive chocolate, and they'll be okay, but they won't be great. It's possible to make truffles with light chocolate, and they'll be okay, but they won't be great. For really good truffles, you need really good chocolate. I have variously used Valrhona, El Rey and Callebaut chocolates to make my truffles. Callebaut is the cheapest of the three, and I don't find the step up to the higher prices really makes a significant difference in the finished product. As long as you're using a good quality chocolate, it needn't be the best quality. You're looking to buy Couverture, it comes usually in blocks, but sometimes in pastilles, which look easier to work with, but aren't, really. Make sure you get something that is at least 50% cocoa solids, but I don't tend to go a lot higher than that, as people prefer slightly lighter chocolates. 50-75% is the range to work with. Good chocolate will tell you what percentage of solids it contains on the original package, if it has been subdivided and repacked in deli wrap and doesn't say, ask. (Whole Foods does this, a lot).

Ingredients are for a single batch. You can make multiple batches, but it gets a lot trickier on the timing. I recommend that if you want to make lots of truffles, you still work with about these quantities at one time, otherwise you'll never get them all rolled before they start to melt, etc.

Ingredients for regular truffles, makes 42-48 truffles at 2 WW pts each:
16 ounces of chocolate
6 ounces of heavy cream
1/4 cup of sugar.
1 ounce butter
1.5 - 2 ounces of liquid flavouring. If you use a powdered flavouring, or something heavily concentrated, then replace this liquid content with more cream.

Chop your chocolate into a shallow, wide, metal mixing bowl. This doesn't need to be too finely chopped, and will be a mix of shavings and pieces. Try to keep the largest pieces below the size of a large pea. If you don't want to chop that finely, don't worry about it too much, we'll fix the problems the larger grained chop causes later, anyway.

Heat your cream, the sugar, plus flavourings if appropriate (vanilla pods or any dried flavourings, should be included with the cream), until bubbles start to appear around the edges, but not until it boils. Poor this over the chocolate, stirring together with a spatula until the chocolate melts and the ganache is smooth.

If the chocolate hasn't completely melted and the mixture is cooling off, put the metal mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water, as a double boiler, and finish melting the chocolate. This is more likely to be necessary if you didn't chop the chocolate very finely.

At this point, add the butter and any other flavourings and mix together. The ganache should be nice and shiny. Pour this mixture into a medium or large ziploc bag (don't use a small one! you will regret it!), and lay it flat and smooth out into an even layer. Refrigerate until it will hold its shape, but not until it is hard. This will take one to two hours, generally. During this time, I like to periodically smoosh the chocolate around and into itself to promote even cooling, but with the flat layer, it's not strictly necessary.

Once the ganache is holding shape, push it all down towards one corner of your ziploc bag. A rolling pin is useful for this. Cut off the corner of the ziploc bag on the diagonal so that your snip is about an inch in diameter. Squeeze the ganache through the cut, slicing off with a knife when you have a large enough piece (about 3/4 of an inch long for small ones, a whole inch for larger ones) and dropping on a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper. Chill these little bits until they're a little more set than they were when you took them out of the fridge, but still not fully hard, 30-45 minutes.

Pull them out of the fridge again, and roll between your palms until they're round, then dip in your coating of choice and roll around. Return to the lined baking sheet and then return to the fridge overnight. Once they've been chilled this additional time they can be packaged up or whatever and shouldn't melt into each other except in high heat conditions.

Some options for flavourings:

1a. Vanilla: scrape and soak two vanilla pods in the cream while you heat it. Use 2 extra ounces of cream.
1b. Vanilla: add 2 ounces of vanilla extract to the ganache.
For rolling: Pour half an ounce of vanilla extract on 3/4 cup of sugar and mix thoroughly. Do this when you're heating the cream and give the sugar a bit of a stir every time you do something to the truffles (stir them, measure them, round them, etc) to keep it from becoming one big chunk. By the time the truffles are done this should be dry enough to roll them in.

2. Nuts: add 2 ounces of almond or hazelnut extract to the ganache.
For Rolling: Crush 1 1/2 cups of fresh walnuts or pecans. Toss with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Bake in the middle rack of the oven, at 350, for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Stir and cool before using for rolling.

3. Pomegranate: add 1 ounce of pomegranate concentrate and one ounce of fresh pomegranate juice to the ganache.
For Rolling: As with vanilla, except use half an ounce of pomegranate juice.

4. Ginger: add two tablespoons of grated ginger (fresh or from a jar) to the cream while heating. Add an extra ounce of cream to this set.
For Rolling: Use plain white sugar, press a small piece of crystallized ginger in the top of each truffle.

5. Chai: Brew extra strong chai (use several tablespoons of tea, with only 3-4 ounces of water), refrigerate overnight in an open container to allow it to evaporate to 2 ounces of chai. Add to cream while heating.
For rolling: Add 2 tsp of cinnamon to 1/4 cup of brown sugar and mix well.

6. Christmas: Add 2 tsp of nutmeg and 2 tsp of cinnamon to the cream while heating. Add 2 ounces extra cream.
For rolling: as with chai. Also, press a small piece of candied peel in the top of each truffle.

7. Coconut: Add two ounces of coconut extract to the cream while heating.
For rolling: mix 1/2 cup finely flaked coconut and 1/4 cup of white sugar.

Other common flavourings can include various liquers, almost any extract can be used. For rolling, anything mixed with sugar is good. Use plain chocolate cocoa, cocoa and cinnamon mixes, etc. Flavouring your truffles is where the fun really comes into play.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:51 PM on November 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

I use the Good Eats recipe for truffle innards. It always turns out well for me. I always leave out whatever the alcoholic ingredient is. I can't stand the smell or taste. Mine always turn out fine without it. :)

Bakerella's blog entries for cake pop decorating (and all the "pop stars" listed on her site) have some really terrific ideas for decorating little round balls of yum. I use these ideas for truffles and just don't bother with the stick most of the time. Or you could have truffles on a stick. Makes it easier to dip things, anyway.
LOVE the sheep... so cute...

I use those ideas but I used tempered chocolate (whatever color) and of course all the little accessory items. You can also use fondant or marzipan for making little add-ons.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:25 PM on November 9, 2010

My tip: use the best quality chocolate you can afford. This might involve some taste-testing for you, some investigative legwork, but really. Buy the best quality chocolate you can afford. All the flavorings in the world won't cover up sub-par chocolate.
posted by cooker girl at 4:47 AM on November 10, 2010

The biggest secret to making truffles is that it is SO SO EASY. Really, everyone will look at you like a candy-making goddess, but these things are ultra simple (especially if you skip the tempered chocolate coating and just roll them in cocoa powder, chopped hazelnuts/pistachios/peanuts/almonds, coconut, etc). Obviously the quality of the chocolate will make the most difference in the final product, so pick something you love.

Final tip: wear latex gloves while rolling to reduce mess and prevent too much melting while you shape them. Have fun!
posted by Bebo at 6:09 AM on November 10, 2010

Response by poster: I guess step one is I Google 'tempered chocolate'.

If anyone wants to comment on the difference between recipes that use eggs and recipes that use butter, I'm interested.

Thanks everybody.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:45 AM on November 10, 2010

Response by poster: Tempering chocolate looks coooool.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2010

Response by poster: I had no idea the nerd factor was going to be so high. I'm going to totally try heating pad + cookie sheet for tempering.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:57 AM on November 10, 2010

For really good truffles, you need really good chocolate.

I just have to stress this as I see you've best-answered some recipes calling for supermarket chips.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:30 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I noticed that. You're right. I'll do my due diligence, I promise. I really needed 'technique' type information since I'm so ignorant I didn't know tempering was a thing until four hours ago, but I do know that outlay of energy almost always benefits by a corresponding outlay of materials cost so if I'm going to go to this level of trouble, I'll take it seriously.

I am a nerd.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:49 PM on November 10, 2010

My advice is don't bother tempering the first time you make truffles. Just melt some good chocolate with some infused cream and roll them in cocoa powder. (They are supposed to look like knobby little woodland mushrooms anyway.) Once you've done that, and seen how easy and awesome it is, then you can get fancy with hard coatings.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:46 PM on November 10, 2010

Response by poster: If anyone checks Recent Activity, any idea why my centers turned out so mushy? I was careful about measuring (even used a scale for the chocolate) and used Callebaut chocolate. The recipe I used did not call for egg yolks; just chocolate, cream, and a little butter.

I did do the tempering and it was the only thing that saved them; even though they're deflated little blobs, they're deflated little blobs with crisp chocolate around them. (I figured the worst that could happen is I wound up throwing them in ice cream sundaes so failure wouldn't be a big deal.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:13 PM on November 18, 2010

A few possibilities:

If you're using a recipe written for dark chocolate but are using milk chocolate, it may not set up properly.

Too much cream.

It's really hot in your house.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: Using dark chocolate; cream was measured carefully, it's actually cool and dry here.

It's really odd. The only thing I can think is that maybe there was a problem with the butter. Now that I think about it, I used salted rather than unsalted and I think it may have a higher moisture content than unsalted. It was just regular supermarket butter, though, nothing special.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:39 PM on November 18, 2010

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