Chocolate Truffles
Truffles from the great French chocolatier Pralus.






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KAREN HOCHMAN is the Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.


December 2007

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Chocolate

The History of Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Named After A Fungus

CAPSULE REPORT: Everyone loves a good chocolate truffle, but few people know how and why they taste as good as they do. In this article, learn about couverture, or coating, and a brief history of the truffle itself. Next time you bite into a chocolate truffle, you’ll appreciate the taste even more.

The word truffle has several meanings in the world of candy—like the word praline, you have to clarify what is being discussed. That’s because in different countries, words mean different things, and America, the great melting pot, has polyglot references to many things.

The History Of The Chocolate Truffle

A French invention, the original chocolate truffle was a ball of ganache, chocolate and cream, often flavored and rolled in cocoa as shown in the photo at the left. It was named after the precious black truffle fungus because of its physical resemblance.

According to legend, the chocolate truffle was created in the kitchen of French culinary giant Auguste Escoffier during the 1920s. One day, as his stagiaire (apprentice) attempted to make pastry cream, he accidentally poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared egg he should have aimed for. As the chocolate and cream mixture hardened, he found he could work the chocolate paste with his hands to form a bumpy, lopsided ball. After rolling the new creation in cocoa powder, he was struck by their resemblance to the luxurious truffles from the French Périgord region and the Piedmont area of Italy.

As the concept developed, different truffle textures were created by rolling the center ganache in white confectioners sugar or finely chopped nuts, and the ganache was flavored with Champagne and liqueurs.

Summer Truffles
A summer truffle. You can see from its outside coating how it resembles its chocolate namesake. For more photos of the glorious truffle fungus, see our Truffle Glossary. Photo by Kelly Cline | IST.

Confusion: Term Is Co-Opted

Ganache-filled bonbons are also called truffles. These are from John & Kira’s.

Today, the term truffle is often used to in America to describe any filled chocolate, and it becomes very confusing. If you see a box labeled “chocolate truffles,” are you going to get round balls of ganache, or ganache-filled chocolates, such as the ones shown at the left? Or are you going to get a box of assorted cremes and other mixed chocolates?

A box of chocolates is like life: Unless you have a set of guarantees you can rely on, you have no idea what you’re going to get.



So What Is A Truffle?

Understandable: balls of ganache, coated classic-style, or enrobed in chocolate. Also understandable: squares of ganache.

Modern truffles can be coated in peppercorns, sweet curry and paprika and can be enrobed in couverture. But they still have a commonality: balls, squares or other shapes, filled with ganache.

Truffles - De Brand Vosges Truffles Chocolat Celeste
Classic balls of ganache rolled in cocoa powder and nuts, from Modern truffles, enrobed in
chocolate and topped with exotic flavors from Vosges Chocolate.
Shape-shifters—not balls but squares of ganache, from Chocolate Celeste.

What Is Not A Truffle

Anything else, including fruit cremes and other creme centers, whipped cream-filled chocolates, and any filled chocolate that isn’t filled with ganache.

Of course, our pronouncement here doesn’t stop any confectioner from selling whatever he or she wants as “truffles.” It just does a disservice to whomever sees it. We’re one country, we should have one standard. E trufflis unum.

Bonbons - De Brand Charles Chocolates  
Fruit cremes, pralines, etc. These, too are from, which calls them “truffles,” the same word they use for their balls of ganache, above. Charles Chocolates simply and logically calls their assortment “boxed chocolates.” There are ganache centers, but also a caramel and nut praline or two.  




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