Truffle Making -- My New Approaches

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hank and truffles

Recent Insights into making the best truffles

Tools for Truffle Making


Cream and other Liquids



Note: this article updates the information in my previous article: Hank's Guide to Making Truffles, but that article still has a lot of useful information.


Tools needed for Truffle making

The making of truffles involves just a few steps:

Melting the chocolate

Adding liquids and flavorings

Chilling the mixture (called ganache)

Scooping the ganache into hemispheres (and chilling them)

Melting the chocolate for the covering, and dipping the ganache centers into the melted chocolate (and chilling them again).

You can see these steps laid out in detail in my previous article here.


To keep the ganache and dipped ganache from sticking to the cookie sheet you place them on, I've usually placed waxed paper on the sheet first, to aid in easy removal.

I grew tired of wasting waxed paper, and so purchased teflon sheets from Amazon (silicone sheets are just not non-stick enough), and they work very well and can be reused over and over.

You can get them here, or just use waxed paper instead.


You will also need a one-and-a-half inch scoop for scooping out the ganache. The best one is here.

the best scoop

And after working with many different types of ganache dippers, I've decided that my favorite is found on this web page, look for Spiral spit Item Number: 262020.

the best spiral dipper

Tools for extracting juice

I originally used a very high quality food mill to extract the juice from raspberries, but it was a pain to use and a real pain to clean.

So I purchase a chinoise -- a funnel-shaped solid strainer -- and conical pestle designed to work with it, and they did a great job of getting the juice out of both fresh raspberries and passion fruit.

chinoise strainer conical pestle


The Types of Chocolate to use for different truffles

I recently gained an important insight into truffle making: I had been using my best chocolate for the ganache and my second tier chocolate for dipping, but realized that this approach was backwards. The quality of the best chocolate was being masked by the flavorings in the ganache, and the coatings were too thick.

So my new approach, which has been working much better, is to use top-of-the-line chocolate for the coating (what you dip the ganache in), and the less expensive chocolate for the centers.

I consider as top-of-the-line chocolates from Cacao Barry, Chocovic, Valrhona, Agostoni, Felchlin, El Rey, Michel Cluizel, and the better lines of Guittard chocolates (including their single-origin and organic lines).

What kinds of chocolates would I use for the centers? Those from Ghiradelli, Callebaut, Trader Joes, deZaan, Green and Black, Divine, Cadburys, Lindt, and Guittard Oro.

(I recommend that you avoid using chocolate chips, which are packed with sugar, and most of the bars and baking chocolates found in supermarkets, with the exception of the brands listed above.)


Blending milk and bittersweet chocolates

For the centers (i.e. the ganache):

For very strong flavors, like mints, liquors, spices (e.g. cardamom or ginger), flowers (magnolia, rose, jasmine), and juice concentrates (like black cherry), the ganache can and probably should be made using only bittersweet chocolate.

But for most other flavorings, an even blend of milk and bittersweet chocolates in the ganache allows the subtle flavors to come through without being overwhelmed by the chocolate itself.

For my vanilla and caramel truffles, which are a favorite of many people, I only use milk chocolate in the ganache, which works best.

And for my legendary pistachio nut truffles, I use white chocolate.

For the shell (coating):

In general, I use a bittersweet coating for most truffles, especially now that I'm using the best chocolates for the shell. You can experiment with this, but in general the rule is: use different chocolates for the shell than you do for the center.


Cream, Coconut Cream, and other Liquids

Ganache is generally made from two or three different categories of ingredients: the chocolate(s), a creamy liquid, and optionally added flavorings.

The liquid used is usually heavy cream, and I make a point of using organic heavy cream of the best quality.

However, I have dear friends who are vegan, and therefore sometimes need to avoid dairy in the recipe, so I use coconut cream instead. I get the coconut cream by scooping it out of the top of a can of organic coconut milk (not the light variety). I then use it in the same proportion that I use heavy cream, and it works very well.

Apparently, according to my searches on the internet, one can substitute milk or half-and-half plus butter for heavy cream in a pinch, but I don't have any experience doing this.

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What about sweeteners?

I used to use maple syrup to sweeten my ganache if it seemed too bitter. (I don't like to use honey because it's flavor can be too noticable).

But over time, I've come to enjoy the ganache as is, without the addition of sweeteners. Once in a while, if a juice, for example, is very tart (like Yuzu or Passion Fruit), I will add some maple syrup to taste. But that's a rare occurrence.

P.S. Avoid agave nectar as it is packed with fructose and very bad for the body.


One thing to keep in mind no matter what fat you use, is that if the truffle recipe callsfor another liquid (e.g. a liquor, frozen fruit purée, or fresh or concentrated fruit juice), then you have to cut down signigicantly on the amount of cream that you use or the ganache will never set (it will remain too liquidy or soft).

The total amount of liquid (cream + flavoring liquids) should be the same for each ganache.

And as I've said elsewhere, if one is making a fresh juice, e.g. raspberry coulis, the water content will vary greatly depending upon the season and "wateriness" of the fruit used.

If you make a ganache and it's too soft or fluid, then melt additional chocolate and blend it into the ganache to firm it up, or use it as a sauce over ice cream.


The Best Flavorings for chocolate

I have collected many dozens of flavorings over the years, and some have worked well and others not so well in my recipes.

Among the many types of Jasmine extracts that I've tried, the best one is still the first one that I got, from Lhasa Kharnak. To find it, click on Essential Oils & Flower Waters on the left, and then find Jasmine, Star Absolute "Pikake"

Similarly, I love the Raspberry and Passion Fruit Purées, from Perfect Purée, but if you can juice your own raspberries or passion fruit, that's even better.

The best of those from Medicine Flower include elderberry (a few drops blends exquisitely with passion fruit), caramel, banana, blueberry, guava, fig, and strawberry.

I've purchased several recently from Mandy Aftel but have only had a chance, so far to try a few. I loved her ginger, pineapple, lemon grass, and Peruvian balsam, and also her Magnolia (but it's very strong, so use only one or two drops per pound of chocolate).

I also have several from Amoretti that I have yet to try, but their very strong Mohito Mint is unique and excellent, their Caramel 100 fold has a burnt caramel flavor that I wouldn't use by itself, but it works well when used to compliment Medicine Flower's caramel, and their Framboise really enhances truffles made with raspberry juice.

I've stopped using liquors to flavor truffles, in part because the alcohol flavor dominates and, in my opinion, interferes with the true expression of the chocolate itself.

Additional insights on flavor concentrates:

Of late, I've explored the concentrated natural flavorings from several companies, and have gained many insights:

1. Concentrates are strong and can add an artificial note to the ganache unless used very sparingly (e.g. usually one to six drops).

Mandy Aftel, the renowned perfumer and supplier of food-grade essential oils for cooking, said that you should drop the concentrate into a spoon, not into the cream or ganache directly, so that you can spill some out if you get too many drops at once.

(She thoughtfully supplies many of the oils in diluted form in a spray, to avoid this issue.)

2. Always add the flavoring to the cream and stir before adding to the melted chocolate. Otherwise the flavoring might not mix sufficiently, and ruin the recipe.

3. Some flavor concentrates, like raspberry, passion fruit, and black cherry just don't work well by themselves. They need some real fruit juice not to taste a bit chemically.

4. Other flavorings are simply too mild, and can't stand up to chocolate. These include mango, apricot, and black currant.

5. Flower concentrates are very tricky to use. The CO2 extracts have too many extraneous chemicals in them and can ruin a recipe, while the essential oils are so strong that even two or three drops can be overwhelming.

6. One of the few universal flavorings is Vanilla. It adds greatly to almost every ganache.

The best vanillas come from Madagascar and Uganda. Tahitian Vanilla is from another species of orchid, and is supposed to be much more flowery. I'm currently making my own Tahitian vanilla extract and will report on it later.

7. As I've said elsewhere, concentrates work best if they are used to augment the flavor of a juice or purée that's been already added to the cream.

8. Avoid isolates and blends made to mimic actual flavors. There are several companies that sell mixtures of organic chemicals thrown together to artificially create specific fruit flavors. These are to be avoided as they lack the authentic qualities of the real fruit.


I hope that my new insights prove useful to you. I will be continuing to add to this page.

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