The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

How to make chocolate truffles

How to make chocolate truffles
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There is a very particular fear that runs down your spine when you realise you've forgotten to buy a gift, be it for a birthday, Christmas or as a surprise for a special someone. Whatever the occasion, the same panic spreads through you, the social anxiety of knowing that you have failed in gift-giving etiquette, that you’re going to have to receive their present with nothing to hand over in return.

Having learnt the hard way, this is why I like to have a little stash of homemade edible presents at home, ready to swerve such an occasion. Over the years I’ve done jams and jellies, fudges and toffees, little jars and crinkly cellophane bags, all bedecked with ribbons, ready to be doled out.

I actually don’t think there’s anything lovelier than a homemade, edible gift. I’m probably biased, as I’m slightly more likely to be the gift giver than receiver in this particular equation. I love the jars and boxes I’ve received from friends and family over the years: they’re inherently personal, intimate even – an insight into the gifter – as well as usually being delicious (let’s forget about the year I tried my hand at lime marmalade). This year, I’ve been making chocolate truffles: partly because they’re quick and easy to make, meaning that I don’t have to be terribly organised, partly because I can adapt them to whatever is already in my cupboard, and partly because they are near-universally popular. Who doesn’t love a little bag of chocolates?

This is, I think, more a method, or a set of suggestions, more than a recipe. Really, what you’re doing is making a simple ganache and chilling it, then rolling it in something that isn’t sticky. Once you’ve got that blueprint, you can make it your own. You can flavour your ganache with whatever you fancy: keep it straightforward with just dark, milk, or white chocolate, or try a splash of booze, a couple of tablespoons of hazelnut paste in with the ganache, or infuse the cream with orange zest or whole spices. I used seville orange gin to go with my dark chocolate, a dollop of really good peanut butter with my milk chocolate and, in place of normal white chocolate, used blonde, caramelised chocolate – but the whole point is to be led by what you have in your cupboards, or simply what you fancy trying.

The classic coating for truffles is cocoa powder, which brings a welcome bitterness (very good with dark chocolate), but I also like finely chopped nuts, toasted coconut, or chocolate strands or sprinkles. You can go as glitzy or as kitsch as you like: gold hundreds and thousands are extremely tempting, or you could drizzle white chocolate and add hearts.

While this is intended for you to flavour and finish as you see fit, a note on quantities: if you’re using peanut butter or nut paste as a flavouring, use 100g, and omit the butter. If you’re using a spirit to flavour the ganache, use two tablespoons, and add it to the cream before heating. If you’d like to flavour the truffles with whole spices, citrus or vanilla, add these to the cream, bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and then let stand for half an hour, before sieving out the flavourings and continuing with the recipe as normal.

Chocolate truffles

Makes: 40 truffles

Takes: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Bakes: No time at all

300g chocolate (dark, milk, or white, as you wish), chopped

300g double cream

50g butter (see note above if using peanut butter or nut paste)

50g cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, toasted coconut, or sprinkles

  1. Heat the double cream in a small pan until you begin to see bubbles around the edge.
  2. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Leave it to stand for a couple of minutes, then gently whisk the mixture, starting from the centre of the bowl, until the whole mixture is combined and glossy.
  3. Leave to chill for three hours, then use a teaspoon to spoon small blobs out onto a tray, and then return to the fridge until firm.
  4. Prepare your coating: toast the desiccated coconut in a shallow pan over a medium heat and leave to cool, or finely chop any nuts you are using. Roll each blob of chilled ganache between your two hands, until round and smooth, then immediately roll in the filling. I find it easiest to toss the filling over the ganache to ensure an even and complete coating. Refrigerate until ready to eat or gift.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.