Chocolate truffles have been around for a long, long time, pleasing discerning palates the world over, and delighting both children and adults with their tasty cocoa-infused goodness.
The modern chocolate industry as we know it came to life back in 1828 when the invention of the cocoa press made it possible to extract the natural fat from cocoa beans. This fat is better known today as cocoa butter, and it is a tasty byproduct of the cocoa bean’s solid interior.
The cocoa press was a great breakthrough because it allowed candy makers to create a solid chocolate bar for the first time. The very first solid chocolate candies were produced in Bristol England by Fry’s back in 1847. These solid chocolate “bars” were an instant success with the British public, and were soon a highly sought after export in Europe, the Americas and Asia.
The first solid chocolate was produced by combining cocoa powder and sugar with the newly developed cocoa butter and special flavorings like vanilla. Later, in 1879, the Swiss began producing their own unique brand of chocolate. Swiss entrepreneur Henri Nestlé developed an exclusive recipe known as “milk chocolate” by combining the new solid chocolate with a powder made of dehydrated milk and sugar.
Nestlé’s new milk chocolate was an instant sales phenomenon, and soon spurred a host of imitators around the world. For example, in the United States the Hershey Corp. began to produce a very similar type of milk chocolate, which many people believe was developed by “reverse engineering” the famous Nestlé’s chocolate bars. In any event, Hersey’s milk chocolate became extremely popular in North America, and continues to be so today.
But it was back in France where Nestlé’s milk chocolate had the greatest influence. Experimentation among chocolate producers in France led to the development of ganache, which is the center core of the modern truffle. The Ganache was an ultra-smooth combination of solid chocolate and cream that had a velvety, liquid-like texture. Chocolate truffles began to be made using this confection, and were often flavored with other ingredients such as dark or white chocolate, cocoa powder, or almonds or other chopped nuts.
Although truffles originated in France, they quickly became popular throughout all of Europe, North America, and eventually even in the Far East. Even the name “truffle” is French, and means “a small mushroom.” The sweets were given this name because they looked very similar in shape to small mushrooms which grew wild in the French forest.
Since that time, French chocolate truffles have come to represent the finest and most luxurious candies available. In fact, truffles are taken so seriously in France that there is a contest every year to judge the best from each individual region of the country. And in many French chocolate production factories, the finest and freshest ingredients continue to be reserved for exclusive use in truffles.
These days there are a great many different varieties of truffles available, but by far the original chocolate truffles are still among the finest delicacies available anywhere.