Kissing in Manhattan was gorgeous–the rare book in Alex and my towering bookcases that we both, two years later, came with a copy of–but the truffles were something else. Not only were they the most rich and hands-down putting to shame any and every chocolate I had ever encountered previously in my life, they were painfully expensive. It just wasn’t fair.
In an effort to build my karma they became my go-to hostess gift and it was because of this that I learned one year at a holiday dinner where a Gourmet editor was a guest that the secret of the Robert Linxe’s La Maison du Chocolat Truffles were not sealed in an offshore vault along with the original Coke recipe and the location of Jimmy Hoffa but free for the clicking on Epicurious.com.
So, this is the point in the story where I am supposed to run home and make them the very next day, but this doesn’t happen for two reasons: one, she said that she’d made them, but it had been the kind of endeavor where you end up with chocolate from the floor to the ceiling and two, it involved these:
And latex gloves are scary.
Flash-forward two years–two years in which I have conquered babka, bread making, tortilla de patatas and multi-hour braises–and I realized this past weekend that it was time for me to conquer my fear of latex gloves, I mean, Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles, once and for all.
And seriously? I was scared of this? They are not very difficult and unlike many other famed recipes that never taste at home they way they do when cooked by the recipe’s creator, they taste precisely like the original goods–a mildly bitter soft truffle encased in the thinnest, flakiest, most barely-there shell of hard chocolate and dusted heavily in unsweetened cocoa. And finally, they can now be mine anytime I want them–and yours too.
How to Make Your Own La Maison du Chocolat Plain Truffles
Begin by finely chopping eight ounces of Valrhona 56 percent chocolate. Yes, he actually names this brand, and I am not sure if it because the chocolate is, indeed, amazing or because he was being paid by them, but nevertheless, my store didn’t have any left and I bought Scharffen Berger instead and, lo, the world did not come to an end. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
Boil 2/3 cup of heavy cream in a heavy-bottomed small pan. Linxe boils it three times because he believes this makes the ganache last longer. I boiled mine twice, cooling it between simmerings, but honestly don’t think the truffles lasted long enough for their shelf life to be a concern. Pour the hot heavy cream over the chopped chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a spoon.
Stir with this mixture together in concentric circles starting in the center and working your way to the edge with a whisk, being careful not to beat air into it and create bubbles. Don’t freak out if the mixture looks curdly and uneven–it will come together into a smooth ganache. And it will be stunning.
Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about 1 hour. However, at the 1.5 hour mark, when mine was still too soft, I became impatient and put it in the fridge, swearing I’d only leave it there for five minutes, but of course forgot and then the ganache became too stiff and uneven but I was too lazy to heat it again and the moral of the story is: don’t do this. Let it sit until it’s ready unless you can be 100 percent attentive to the ganache-stiffening process.
Using a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch opening or tip, pipe into mounds (about 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide) on parchment-lined baking sheets. When piping, finish off each mound with a flick of the wrist to soften and angle the point tip. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
[There are no pictures of this part of the process because, one, it went horribly for me due to my aforementioned over-chilling of the ganache and ensuing impatience and, two, I don't need to tell you what these lumpy brown mounds looked like. You're welcome. Fear not, not matter how much you botch this process, it will have no effect on the final product.]
Melt three more ounces of the same chocolate.
Finally, here is something that I can truly add to the recipe: while your truffles are freezing, set up your station assembly line style with five slots. Because your hands will end up covered in melted chocolate, it is neatest to have everything ready so you’re not touching anything you don’t need to. Like every single surface in your all-white kitchen, or your nose.
The first space will have your frozen truffles. The second one will have the bowl of just-melted chocolate, with a spoon or small spatula in it. The third will have a bowl with unsweetened top-notch (again, he recommends Valrhona but I had Droste on hand, so I used that) cocoa powder and a fork. The fourth will have a small mesh sifter or strainer and a bowl to catch the cocoa. The fifth and final space should hold an empty parchment-lined tray.
Now comes the fun part: Don Ye Now Your Latexed Apparel. Give it a nice snap while you elicit a cackle while your significant other looks at you strangely while quietly inching away.
Smear some melted chocolate on a gloved hand.
Gently rub each chilled truffle in the smear of chocolate to coat it lightly with chocolate. This is the secret of the truffle–the delicate coating–and when you try the finished product, you’ll understand.
Plunk the coated truffle in the cocoa.
Use a fork, toss it around in the cocoa until it is covered, then dig it out. It will look like a truffle, freshly dug from the earth. Get it?
Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cacao.
(Whoops, no picture of this. I am forced to retaliate on my photographer, who is paid in truffles and also by being spared latex gloves. Or so he thinks.)
Store the truffles in the refrigerator. Pack them in lovely gift boxes, but be sure to leave one or two for yourself, or you might find yourself moping in the days that followed that you have been too generous, and start calculating your next batch.
Or in my case, pat myself on the back for getting another scary recipe off my to-do list, and ready myself to conquer the next one.
Elsewhere: Because I still have vacation on the brain, I keep forgetting to tell you that I wrote a short article on dinner party tips for Culinate that was published last week. As someone who loves to have people over but lives in the eensiest of apartments, I’ve learned a few things over the years that I hope will be helpful as well. And if you have any of your own, I’m sure Culinate’s readers (like me!) would love to learn them as well.
Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles
Gourmet, February 2001
Makes about 60 truffles (Linxe says not to double the recipe).
11 ounces Valrhona chocolate (56% cacao)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Valrhona cocoa powder for dusting
Finely chop 8 ounces of the chocolate and put in a bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Make sure your pan is small, so you’ll lose the least amount of cream to evaporation, and heavy, which will keep the cream from scorching. Linxe boils his cream three times — he believes that makes the ganache last longer. If you do this, compensate for the extra evaporation by starting with a little more cream.
Pour the cream over the chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a wooden spoon.
Then stir with a whisk in concentric circles (don’t beat or you’ll incorporate air), starting in the center and working your way to the edge, until the ganache is smooth.
Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about 1 hour, then, using a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch opening or tip, pipe into mounds (about 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide) on parchment-lined baking sheets. When piping, finish off each mound with a flick of the wrist to soften and angle the point tip. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 3 more ounces of the same Valrhona and smear some on a gloved hand. Gently rub each chilled truffle to coat lightly with chocolate. (The secret to a delicate coating of chocolate is to roll each truffle in a smear of melted chocolate in your hand. Linxe always uses gloves.)
Toss the truffles in unsweetened Valrhona cocoa powder so they look like their namesakes, freshly dug from the earth. A fork is the best tool for tossing truffles in cacao. Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cacao.
Store truffles in the refrigerator.