Truffle Showdown: Simple is Best

chocolate truffles

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. Optional: Linxe boils his cream three times — he believes that makes the ganache last longer. If you do this, compensate for the extra evaporation by starting with a little more cream. 

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.

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  1. Jessica said,

    Thanks for posting this in time for V-Day. These would make fantastic little gifts.

    February 11, 2008 at 7:29 am

  2. Indigo said,

    Testing truffle recipes?! Sounds like a dream of mine…

    February 11, 2008 at 8:30 am

  3. amanda said,

    I think I might have to have my own truffle taste off 🙂 I think simple is better too. With good ingredients, how can it not taste good?

    February 12, 2008 at 11:49 am

  4. Lydia said,

    A more appealing way to make Vegan Truffles is to use a nut (hazelnut, almond, etc.) or soy milk in place of the cream in the third version; I imagine the “funky” taste in the vegan truffle recipe tested here has to do with the use of olive oil instead of a nut oil. Also this way, you have no need for the vanilla flavoring, unless desired.

    The beauty of truffles is that the recipe itself is so simple, you can go to town with flavorings (any variety of sweet liquers, coffee, almond, etc.) and coatings (shredded coconut, ground nuts, coarse sugar, etc, etc)

    February 12, 2008 at 4:03 pm

  5. badfrog said,

    I can’t imagine using olive oil with chocolate. Moreover, as much as half of all Italian olive oil is either adulterated or wholly false, as it is a valuable product. The Italian crime syndicates, not just the mafia, but the camorra, the ‘ndrangheta, and the French-Italian corse, are heavily involved in counterfeiting olive oil. I can certainly believe “funky.” Try cashew, almond, or hazlenut oils.

    Rather than vanilla, try a very small amount of anisette. I put in just enough so that I can ask people to consider the taste, the chocolate, the butter, and something else. What is it? they ask. If they can tell it’s licorice, you used too much. Anise has just as many flavor components as vanilla does.

    February 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm

  6. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Badfrog and Lydia,
    The olive oil probably made the truffles taste funky, although I’ve had good chocolate-covered olive oil potato chips and made olive oil chocolate mousse before. Agree with you on the extra vanilla, too. It was in the recipe from Enlightened Chocolate, but I should have trusted my instincts and left it out.

    February 12, 2008 at 11:29 pm

  7. Cakespy said,

    Oh, what a delicious tasting! Thank you for the recipe. Everything looks and sounds wonderful.

    February 13, 2008 at 11:16 am

  8. MrsPresley said,

    mmmm… i love truffles! thanks for trying out the various recipes to give us the best one; i know it was a tough job 😉

    you’ve been tagged! 🙂

    February 13, 2008 at 4:45 pm

  9. niko said,

    Another tempting recipe to put on the list to try! I thought I had posted about the nutella babkas – but perhaps I just thought I did. They look really great and I love your apt description “…never ending folds of chocolate” – they look like a superhcarged versionon the mini individual babkas at Barney Greengrass!

    Anyway, keep up the great work!


    February 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  10. Kieran said,

    You’re right – simplest often is the best. Those look great.

    February 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm

  11. white on rice couple said,

    Congratulations on your Excellent Blog award from Happy Love Strawberry! Shes’ right, you blog is so superbly sweet an well deserved! Gosh, I never knew making truffles was this easy. Imagine how much money I could have saved over the holidays by making these and giving them out. They would have been such an elegant, homemade gift. Now I have an idea for next year! Thanks Jessica and congrats again!

    February 24, 2008 at 11:04 am

  12. Alexander Spencer said,

    Hi, Im a 16 year old lad and have a lot of spare time on my hands since I have finished my GCSE’s. So, I recently read the book “Chocolat” and enjoyed the film version. This was really one of the causes that inspired me to try making chocolates. My first thought was TRUFFLES. They please everyone… and I have to say, these are SHOP AND GOURMET STANDARD. The filling/Gnash is just like the kind you would find in an expensive box of chocolates. I used 70% good quality chocolate. They go really well with the cocoa powder.. but I then covered them with white chocolate. The contrast of this sweeter flavour with the rich, dark intensity of the plain chocolate works beautifully. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.. a real pleaser for my family and friends … and definitely my girlfriend! THANKYOU VERY MUCH JESSICA AND ROBERT LINXE!

    June 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  13. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Wow Alexander, thanks for your rave review. I will have to try the white chocolate-covered truffles!

    June 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm

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