Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but chocolate truffles are always in season. For years I’ve used truffles from fancy chocolate stores as, what I call, “prescription-strength chocolate” for my friends when they’re feeling down. If your friend is a sobbing mess curled up on the couch in sweatpants and a ratty blanket because she got in a fight with her significant other in the same week she’s been putting up with that jerk at work, a plain old candy bar isn’t going to cut it. Girl, you need Godiva.
Fortunately in the last two weeks I’ve learned something that will forever change my chocolate game: chocolate-covered truffles are super easy to make. I know, it doesn’t seem possible. If truffles are so easy to make, why are they so expensive? Does the chocolate industry laugh at us for paying $3 for each little truffle?
Maybe, but probably not. The key to really great truffles is really great chocolate, and really great chocolate often comes at a higher price. However, that doesn’t mean making good truffles will break your bank account. If you think a particular brand of chocolate chips from the grocery store is super delicious, your truffles will turn out delicious too. My “secret weapon” in all my baked goods is Noi Sirius Icelandic Chocolate because it tastes ridiculously good and saves money, despite only being sold in the candy section at Whole Foods. It comes in 7oz bars that cost the same as (or sometimes a little less than) 4oz chocolate bars found in the baking section.
Once you’ve picked out your chocolate, the rest of the truffle process is pretty simple. You’re essentially rolling chocolate globs into balls and dipping them in more chocolate. It takes a little time to let the chocolate cool between steps, but don’t confuse “more steps” with “more difficult.” It’s about as hard as making chocolate chip cookies with fewer ingredients.
How to Make Chocolate Truffles
Start by chopping up 4 oz of dark chocolate (I used 56% cocoa), 4 oz milk chocolate and 4 oz white chocolate into small pieces, and set each in separate bowls. (I emphasize “small” pieces because you will not be using a direct heat source to melt the chocolate, and sometimes larger pieces will slow you down.) If you’re using chocolate chips instead of chocolate bars, give them a little chop too.
Note: You could do 12oz of the same kind of chocolate if you wanted. Really all chocolate in this recipe is interchangeable. I just like variety.
In a small pot, heat 1/4 cup heavy cream until it bubbles. Immediately pour into the dark chocolate bowl. Gently stir with with a heat-safe spatula or wooden spoon until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, which could take a couple minutes. Repeat with milk chocolate. For white chocolate, remove cream from the heat and stir in vanilla before adding to the chocolate.
If there a few stubborn lumps that won’t melt, you can pop the bowl in the microwave (if it’s microwave safe) or set over a small pot of simmering water for up to 10 seconds.
Set bowls in the fridge for about an hour. Give it a stir after 30 minutes to redistribute the heat and help it cool thoroughly. The chocolate will be ready when it’s firm and cold, but not hard – you can easily make a dent with your finger. If you try
to stir and it’s clumpy (this particularly happens with dark chocolate), you may need to warm it up a little, but don’t worry about that yet.
While waiting for the ganache to cool, chop up 14-16 oz of your favorite dark chocolate or chocolate chips. Put 2/3 of the chocolate bits into a double boiler or heat-proof mixing bowl that can sit on top of a pot of boiling water (no need to heat the water yet). Reserve the remaining 1/3 of chocolate in another bowl, which you will add to your melted chocolate later. I use the smallest pieces for the 1/3 portion, or give it an extra chop since I’ve had some bad luck with my chocolate not melting all the way.
Lay a piece of parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat on two cookie sheets. Scoop even portions of the ganache onto the sheet about an inch apart. I used a cookie scoop that holds ~1 tablespoon in volume and leveled the amount with a knife, which gave me about 11-12 truffles.
At this point you can roll the chocolate globs in your hand to round them out. If they are soft enough, you can probably make them into nice round balls without a problem. If they’re too soft, they’ll dissolve into a chocolately mess in your hands. In that case refrigerate them for 5-10 minutes until they are a little more firm.
Once your chocolate ganache balls are ready, pop them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Now it’s time to “sort-of” temper your chocolate coating, which is a process where you raise and lower the temperature of your melted chocolate to crystallize the sugar in a way that makes the chocolate look shiny and have that signature “snap” when you bite into it. However, I’m still new to this process and haven’t mastered it yet (i.e. I suck at it), so the following is how I “sort-of” make my chocolate nice like tempered chocolate. (If you want to learn how to go pro, perhaps read SugarHero.com, Epicurious or The Kitchn. Godspeed.)
Fill a medium-size pot of water with about 1 1/2-2″ of water and set over low-medium heat until it simmers. Set your 2/3 portion of chocolate over the pot and let the chocolate sit untouched until it melts about 1/3 of the way, then remove from heat and stir with a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula until it melts completely. If there are any stubborn pieces that won’t melt, set back on the heat for 10 seconds and stir some more. Repeat as needed.
Begin adding the remaining chocolate pieces a little at a time. Add about 1/4 of the amount, stir until fully melted, and repeat. The goal is to gradually cool the chocolate until it is a little warmer than room temperature but definitely cool to the touch, ~82°F depending on which source you reference. This step can take a while and tests my patience every time. Again – I’m not your expert source on tempering chocolate.
One-by-one, drop your chocolate ganache balls into the melted chocolate, lift out with a fork or other useful dipping tool, tap for a few seconds to make the excess drip off, then slide back on the cookie sheet using a knife or toothpick.
Sounds easy, right? It is…if you don’t mind having truffles that look smudged and lumpy. I tried several methods to make my truffles look effortlessly perfect (pffft!) without having to thin the chocolate. This included several misguided attempts with a cooling rack I’d rather not think about. Just before I completely gave up, I found Crazy for Crust’s video appropriately titled, “How to Dip Truffles & Candy (Without Crying),” and conceded that I will need to thin my chocolate in the future. (Note: Dorothy from Crazy for Crust recommends a few candy coating brands, which are chocolate with thinning agents in them. I think these chocolates taste sub-par, especially compared to my beloved Icelandic Chocolate, which is why I don’t recommend them. I will explore thinning agents in the future and update this post when I find a solution I like.)
Once completed, set your truffles back in the fridge to let the chocolate harden – at least 30 minutes. Then decorate them however your heart desires. I like using melted white chocolate and candy coloring to drizzle them in different colors using a fork. Or you can just eat them. I won’t judge.
If you’re presenting these as a cheer-up gift to your friend, it’s also easy to make them look like a fancy gift. Pick up some mini cupcake paper liners while you’re at the grocery store, set your truffles in them, pack a layer in the bottom of a small box and tie it with ribbon or twine. (Craft stores and specialty food stores often have inexpensive treat boxes that neatly fit a layer of truffles. Or you can shop online.)
And that’s it – voila! People will be super impressed and think you’re a pro chocolatier! You might even feel like one! (It’s okay – your secret is safe with me.)
Recipe: Dark, Milk and Vanilla Chocolate Truffles
Yields: 33-36 truffles
- 4 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped* (recommended: 50-60% cocoa)
- 4 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped*
- 4 oz white chocolate, finely chopped*
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup heavy cream (divided)
- 14-16 oz very dark chocolate (recommended: 70% cocoa), finely chopped* (divided)
- 3-40z white chocolate, chopped*
*If using chocolate chips instead of chocolate bars, roughly chop chips.
- Place 4oz dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate in separate, heat safe bowls.
- Heat 1/4 cup heavy cream on the stove until it bubbles. Immediately pour over dark chocolate and gently stir until completely melted and smooth. Repeat for milk chocolate. For white chocolate, stir vanilla into cream before adding to chocolate. Note: If chocolate doesn’t melt completely, heat for 10 seconds in the microwave or over boiling water. Stir until smooth.
- Set all bowls in the refrigerator until completely cooled and firm, about an hour (stir after 30 minutes to redistribute heat). Ganache will be ready when it is firm enough to roll a ball in your hands. If the chocolate is hard and crumbles in your hands, heat for 5 seconds in the microwave or over boiling water, then stir until it has an even texture. If the chocolate is too soft, move to a cooler spot in the fridge or place in the freezer for no more than 15 minutes.
- Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper, wax paper or a silicone baking mat. Using a (1 tbsp) cookie scoop or (1 tbsp) measuring spoon, scoop level amounts of ganache onto mats, setting lumps about 1 inch apart.
- With clean hands, roll each ganache lump into a ball and set back on the mat. If ganache melts excessively in your hands, wash hands with cold water and continue (you may need to do this a few times).
- Move ganache balls to the freezer to chill for at least 15 minutes while you prepare your chocolate coating.
Melt chocolate & dip:
- Fill a medium-sized pot with 1 1/2-2″ water and heat on medium-low. Set aside 1/3 of very dark chocolate pieces (smaller the pieces, the better). Place remaining dark chocolate pieces in a heat-safe mixing bowl that fits over the pot without touching the water. When water is simmering and very steamy, set bowl on the pot and let the chocolate sit untouched until about 1/3 melted, then remove from heat and stir until completely melted and smooth (if pieces do not melt completely, set over water again for 5-10 more seconds at a time.)
- Gradually stir in remaining chocolate pieces a little at a time, letting each portion melt completely before adding the next. Place melted chocolate back over pot of water and stir until the chocolate just barely begins to thin out, no more than a minute. Note: This will also help melt any last stubborn pieces.
- Pull one tray from the freezer. Dip one truffle at a time: drop the ball in the chocolate, use a spoon to cover with chocolate, lift out with a fork. Tap off excess chocolate and slide back onto the tray with a knife or toothpick. Once all truffles are dipped, set back in the fridge to harden. Tip: Smear a little chocolate on your sheet to mark sections and keep track of the different flavors.
Decorate (aka mark the flavors):
- Melt 3-4 oz white chocolate, either over a pot of water or in the microwave. Make sure it is plenty of warm and thin enough to drizzle.
- Pull hardened truffles from the fridge. Drizzle white chocolate over the top with a fork or piping bag in different patterns to mark the different flavors.
- Set finished truffles back in the fridge to harden for at least an hour. Set each finished truffle in a mini cupcake paper liner and serve.