History of a Truffle

French cuisine is synonymous with culinary luxury, and chocolate is part of that. Rich chocolate mousse and chocolate éclairs are just two of the famous chocolate creations that were created in France. Interestingly enough, the chocolate truffle comes out of that same tradition of culinary greatness among patissiers.

In true competitive fashion, two stories circulate about how chocolate truffles were invented. Both involve famous French bakers, and regardless of which story you choose to believe, they have one thing in common: Both patissiers believed that their concoction looked like a wild mushroom, so they named their creation after it.

Louis Dufour

According to this legend, French patissier Louis Dufour came up with the idea for chocolate truffles on Christmas Day 1895 in Chambray France. When he ran out of ideas for Christmas treats he could make to sell to his customers, he chose to try something new. He made up a batch of ganache, shaped it into a round ball, and then dipped it into melted chocolate. He then rolled the chocolate-covered ganache balls in cocoa powder.

In 1902, Antoine Dufour immigrated to England and brought his family's truffle recipe back to London to use in his newly opened Pestat Chocolate Shop. The Dufour family was a well-known family of patissiers. While it is certain that Antoine and Louis Dufour were related, what isn't known is the degree to which the two men were connected.

Auguste Escoffier

Another version of the origin of chocolate truffles is attributed to an apprentice who was working for the famous French cooking giant, Auguste Escoffier, in the 1920's. The apprentice made a mistake by not pouring the hot cream he had just made into a bowl of beaten eggs and sugar. Instead, he poured the cream into a bowl that was filled with chunks of chocolate. His mistake resulted in what is known today as ganache. When the paste hardened, he rolled it into a ball. He then rolled the ball into cocoa powder.

The Importance of Ganache in Chocolate Truffles

True chocolate truffles must contain a ganache filling. According to the Joy of Baking, ganache is a French concoction that is made of chocolate and cream. The error made by Escoffier's apprentice resulted in ganache, although the origin of this creamy delight is uncertain. It does appear to have been invented sometime around 1850; however, some claim that it originated in Switzerland, and others claim that it originated at Paris' Patisserie Sarvadin.

Ganache is used as frosting for cakes, or as a filling for other pastries. As chocolate became more and more popular, pastry chefs experimented with other flavors to add to ganache to create truffles that had different and distinct tastes. For example, adding peanut butter to a ganache mixture results in mouthwatering chocolate peanut butter truffles. Other possible additions include cognac, champagne, nuts, and more.

Earliest Known Authentic Recipe for Chocolate Truffles

When W.O. Rigby released the 19th edition of Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher in the 1920's, he provided documentation of the earliest known authentic recipe for chocolate truffles. He wrote that chocolate truffles are made by dipping “a plain vanilla cream, one as small as possible in milk chocolate coating, then before the coating dries, roll each piece in macaroon cocoanut so that the cocoanut sticks to the chocolate.” His next instruction was to allow the coconut covered chocolate vanilla cream balls to dry on a piece of wax paper.

Truffles aren't truffles unless the hardened ball is filled with ganache. Chocolate covered balls that are filled with fruit cream or whipped cream aren't true chocolate truffles as they were originally conceived of in France. Over the course of the 118 years since Louis Dufour came up with the idea for what is now known as the chocolate truffle, bakers and pastry chefs around the world have experimented with different ingredients to add to their ganache, and today, the ganache filling includes everything from fruit to nuts, champagne or even Cognac.

Did you know today was National Truffle Day? Celebrate with our Assorted Milk and Dark Chocolate Box of Truffles.

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