Valentine’s Day and chocolate just go together—like spaghetti and meatballs or peanut butter and jelly—and it’s pretty much all we think about on February 14. This year, we’re taking matters into our own hands (literally) and making chocolate confections from scratch—it’s not as hard as you might think. Our friends at Valrhona, who know a thing or two about chocolate—they’ve been producing fine chocolate in a small French village since 1922—developed an easy, at-home chocolate truffle recipe for us (and you) to enjoy.
Valrhona pastry chef Sarah Tibbetts is an expert in the chocolate field (side note: a chocolate field sounds magical, right?) and walked us through the process for making chocolate truffles.
Though it may seem daunting and maybe you’ve heard horror stories, Sarah will assure you that working with chocolate isn’t so difficult. It’s actually very forgiving and if you’re dealing with the sometimes-tricky technique of tempering—a process that heats the chocolate to align its crystals to make a smooth, silky consistency used for candy-making—you just have to remember you can always re-temper it.
Valrhona’s go-to truffle recipe only requires three ingredients: chocolate, honey, and heavy cream. Sarah likes to use a special 63% dark chocolate from Valrhona called Illanka chocolate, which has a creamy texture with notes of dark fruits. We’ll walk you through the recipe below, or feel free to skip right to it!
First thing to know: the key to making great chocolate is emulsion. Making chocolate ganache, for example, is like making a chocolate mayonnaise: it needs to be really well-mixed so the final product is as smooth as can be. To do this, Sarah recommends melting the chocolate in a microwave (Good Tip: use these silicone measuring cups when melting chocolate in the microwave because the honeycomb pattern dissipates heat and makes it safer to touch straight from the microwave) on full power for 20-30 second intervals. Yes, you read that right—microwave. See ya later double boiler! Using a microwave is a dry method to melting chocolate and takes out the element of water, which can ruin the chocolate (also known as seizing chocolate) by turning it into a thick paste. It also avoids burning the chocolate if your water bath gets too hot and that scary feeling that you’re really messing something up. It’s important to do short intervals in the microwave and to stir often because chocolate can burn in there too, but you have much more control.
Once the chocolate is melted and between 105-115ºF (which you can easily check with a digital thermometer), slowly pour the heavy cream and honey mixture over the chocolate and mix with a spatula to form a thick paste. Then slowly add more of the mixture to thin out the paste. The chocolatey/creamy mixture may look broken and separated, but that’s OK.
After adding a bit more liquid, switch to a whisk to get an elastic, shiny look. The last of the liquid is added, stabilizing the water molecules and allowing the chocolate to crystalize. If the water is not stabilized, it will evaporate, leaving you with a dry, grainy-textured ganache, and we do not want that for our truffles. Use an immersion blender to ensure the emulsion process you started by hand is complete, and you’ll be left with a silky smooth ganache.
Next, the ganache has to crystalize, which it will do by sitting in a refrigerator for a minimum of four hours. Crystallizing is important because this is when the ganache firms up so it’s malleable.
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop up the hardened ganache, set it on a baking sheet and you have yourself some truffles. Feel free to coat them with cocoa powder, chopped almonds (you can use this chopper), dried fruits or sprinkles! If you want to go the extra step, coat your truffles in tempered chocolate. The truffles can be left out at room temperature for 5 days or refrigerated up to one week.
Recipe created by Valrhona Pastry Chef Sarah Tibbetts: Makes 24 truffles
Active Time: 30 minutes: Total time: 4 1/2 hours (most of that time the truffles are sitting in the fridge)
8 ounces heavy cream
1 ounces honey (or you can substitute for maple syrup, golden syrup, or molasses)
7 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (we love Valrhona's illanka 63% chocolate)
- Combine the cream and honey in a small saucepan and bring to just under a boil.
- Melt the chocolate in a microwave on full power for 20-30 second intervals mixing often, until completely melted (chocolate should be 105-115ºF).
- Slowly pour the cream mixture over the melted chocolate in several additions, mixing well with a spatula before adding more liquid. As the ganache becomes more viscous, switch to a whisk and continue adding the liquid until full incorporated. Finish with an immersion blender to smooth the ganache.
- Pour into an 8x8-inch baking pan and cover the surface with plastic film. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to a day in advance. Remove from refrigerator and allow to set at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Use a cookie scoop or roll the scoops with the palms of your hands to create round ganache balls (warning: the latter will be messy!). Place on a baking tray.
- Once all balls are rolled, either coat in desired topping or refrigerate then coat in tempered chocolate (see recipe below) followed by desired garnish. You can leave truffles out at room temperature for 5 days or refrigerated for up to one week. (Note: some toppings, like freeze-dried fruit, may have adverse reactions when refrigerated).
12 oz Illanka, melted
2 oz Illanka, un-melted
- Melt the larger quantity of chocolate in a microwave on full power for 20-30 second intervals, stirring often. Using a probe thermometer, heat the chocolate to 122-130ºF.
- Stir with a spatula and begin adding the un-melted chocolate, several pieces at a time, not adding more until the pieces are completely melted. Continue this process of adding the un-melted chocolate and stirring constantly until the temperature of the chocolate reaches 84-86ºF. You may need more or less of the un-melted chocolate to achieve this temperature. Once the temperature is reached, the chocolate must be used immediately.
- In a separate clean bowl, take 4-5 rolled truffles and gently roll in a small handful of the tempered chocolate. Place the coated truffles onto a parchment lined baking tray and sprinkle with desired garnish before the chocolate sets.
Toppings & Garnishes
- Chopped almonds and other nuts
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate sprinkles
- Sea salt
- Crushed pretzels
- Freeze-dried fruits like raspberries