At its simplest, chocolate truffle recipes are like this: Pour hot cream over chocolate. Stir. Roll into balls. Eat. If only it were that simple. Some recipes include corn syrup, butter or egg yolks for richness. There’s also the mysterious water ganache, where you combine hot water with chocolate. It breaks all the rules, since recipes warn you that one drop of water will ruin an entire bowl of chocolate. This is true, but if you have a lot of water (1 tablespoon of water per 2 ounces of chocolate), it’s not a problem. In some cases, it’s advantageous, because water doesn’t distract from the chocolate flavor like cream can.
To find the best truffle recipe for Valentine’s Day, I tested three recipes: vegan truffles adapted from Enlightened Chocolate, Alice Medrich’s truffles that started her chocolate empire, and Robert Linxe’s cream truffles (of La Maison du Chocolat, my favorite chocolate shop in New York).
The vegan truffles were six ounces of semisweet chocolate combined with 1/2 cup hot water, 1/4 cup oil (unrefined nut oil was recommended, but I used olive oil) and 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. Since I was curious whether this water ganache thing would work, I tasted the mixture before adding the oil and vanilla. Not bad, but it was plain. After adding the rest of the ingredients, it tasted funky. The alcohol flavor from the vanilla extract lingered. Note to self: never eat “raw” vanilla extract.
Alice’s truffle recipe from Bittersweet was the richest, since it contained egg yolks and butter (but water instead of cream). It was very good, but not necessarily worth the trouble of cooking and straining the yolks.
Robert’s recipe was the simplest: pour 2/3 cup hot cream over 8 ounces finely chopped chocolate. I skipped the chocolate coating and just tossed the truffles in cocoa powder. They had the freshest and truest chocolate flavor, even though I used sub-par cream that was several months old. It just goes to show: sometimes simplest is best.
Simplest Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from Robert Linxe of La Maison du Chocolat
Makes about 60 truffles (do not double recipe)
These truffles are very soft, so store them in a cool area.
8 ounces chocolate (preferably 60% cacao)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder for dusting (about 1/2 cup)
Finely chop the chocolate.
Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Make sure your pan is small, so you’ll lose the least amount of cream to evaporation, and heavy, which will keep the cream from scorching. Linxe boils his cream three times — he believes that makes the ganache last longer.
Pour the cream over the chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a rubber spatula.
Then stir with a whisk in concentric circles (don’t beat or you’ll incorporate air), starting in the center and working your way to the edge, until the ganache is smooth. Pour into an 8″ x 8″ pan lined with wax or parchment paper.
Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about 1 hour.
Turn out the ganache on a cocoa-dusted cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice the ganache into half-inch cubes. Dust your palms with cocoa powder and roll the ganache balls. Toss the truffles with more cocoa powder. Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cocoa. Store in a well-sealed container.