Few sweet treats put the cherry on top of a special occasion quite like a chocolate truffle. Its rich, luxurious, velvety texture and intricate, bitterweet taste always takes me back to a time when chefs catered for an uninhibited, truly indulgent palate. There’s something almost fable-like about this perfectly imperfect mignardise. Why is it named after a precious fungus? Where does it come from? And how did it all happen? To me, the story behind the chocolate truffle is just as delectable as the truffle itself.
Making chocolate truffles is very nearly as pleasurable as eating them. When you work with a good chocolate, there’s almost no wrong way of doing it. No one really knows when exactly the chocolate truffle was invented, but it’s generally believed to have happened by happy accident during the Belle Epoque era – somewhere between the 1890s and the 1920s. It is said the legendary chef, Auguste Escoffier – slightly inebriated or just not paying attention – poured hot pastry cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks instead of a bowl of sugared egg.
His concoction formed a paste, which he realised he could roll into balls that, once rolled and dusted in cocoa powder, strongly resembled a real truffle. Today, there’s almost no limit to what you can do with a truffle. The traditional European method calls for a syrup and cocoa powder base, while the Belgian version (a.k.a. praline) is filled with buttercream, ganache and sometimes nut. And then there are French, Swiss, and even American chocolate truffles.
In this version, I’ve filled the truffles with marzipan-stuffed cherries, which I find so festive. I just love the way the stems stick out of the truffle, like a playful hint of what’s inside. It also allows your guests to pick them out of the serving dish elegantly without getting cocoa fingers, although cocoa fingers can be just as playful.
basic chocolate truffles
120 ml cream
300 g good quality 70% chocolate, finely chopped
15 ml soft butter
about 25 fresh cherries, with stems
about 80 g good quality almond marzipan
Heat the cream until it just comes to a boil. Pour the heated cream over the chopped chocolate.
Stir until the chocolate has melted completely.
Stir in the butter until the ganache is smooth.
Cover the ganache with plastic wrap ensuring the plastic makes contact with the entire surface of the ganache.
Leave until set. If you want it to set quicker, you can place it in the fridge.
Cut a cross into the base of the cherries and carefully remove the pip, making sure to keep the stem on.
Fill the cherry with a small piece of marzipan.
Spoon the ganache out of the bowl using melon baller and place the scoop in the palm of your hand. Cover the cherry with the ganache and roll into a ball, allowing the cherry stem to stick out.
Roll the truffle in cocoa powder and place it on baking paper.
Repeat with the rest of cherries and ganache. Store the truffles in the fridge until needed.
TIP: If the ganache is too hard when you take it out of the fridge, let it soften at room temperature until it reaches a pasty consistency.