Your favorite dark chocolate ?
- emglow101 Sep 27, 2013 10:39 AM
I'm going to make chocolate truffles for Christmas gifts.I have never made them,but wanted to get a head start.I have been doing some research finding there is a lot of different choices of dark chocolate.I'm looking for good quality .Valrhona,Lindt,Godiva,the list goes on.I really do not eat much chocolate. So rather than buying multiple different brands and trying them I'm asking you for help.
I don't know what's available in your neck of the woods, but I find that for truffles any good quality chocolate around 70% cacao will do the job. I use Cacao Barry chocolate most of the time, but have used Belcolade and been happy with it.
You mention Valrhona, Lindt and Godiva, are you planning on buying chocolate bars for this? That's going to cost you a fortune. You should get your chocolate in bulk in either block of pellet form. Pellets are easier to work with and usually come in 1Kg or 2Kg bags which is more convenient than the huge blocks.
Another thing I would add is that, if you do decide to get bars anyway, don't get Godiva it's rather low quality. Valrhona is probably the best, but maybe not worth the money for truffles.
TJ Pound Plus is Callebaut. A fairly standard consumer-grade chocolate. Callebaut is the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world; they make chocolate for an amazing number of clients and applications.
I disagree STRONGLY that Valrhona is "not worth the money" for truffles. Indeed, ordinary Valrhona (not the origin bars) is perhaps even a little low-end for truffles. Since truffles aren't baked or cooked, and since they have a very high percentage of chocolate, the quality of the chocolate is going to be maximally apparent (indeed, this is the whole point of truffles). Perhaps in no other application for chocolate other than simply eating it direct is there more need to ensure you have the very finest quality chocolate you can afford.
First, you should be aware that very broad recommendations, like the one from treb (between 60% and 70%), or "get chocolate from country xxx) or whatever, isn't very helpful. (Sorry treb). That would be a bit like recommending what wine to buy based on its alcohol content or country of origin. It's not going to mean very much.
Second, you've listed 3 chocolates which are WILDLY divergent in actual quality. Valrhona is quite good - one might say a "premium" brand, but it's not super-high quality. Lindt is a consumer brand, but a better consumer brand. It's not truly high-quality chocolate *in general*, although I've had some good bars from them. Godiva is another consumer brand and I've seen no evidence from them that their chocolate (which they actually source (mostly) through the massive Belgian chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut - Godiva themselves don't make chocolate) is particularly good.
Third, you have to be very realistic on the price. Generally, $2.00/£1.00/€1.25 per 50 grams gets you commodity chocolate. $4.00/£2.00/€2.50 per 50 grams gets you better-quality "premium consumer" chocolate (e.g. the "normal" Valrhona chocolates). $6.00/£3.00/€3.75 per 50 grams gets you interesting quality chocolates that really are high-quality. And $8.00/£4.00/€5.00 gets truly world-class chocolate - with prices continuing to escalate from there. Truffles use a lot of chocolate, so you will be paying a LOT.
You can mitigate the cost somewhat by buying in confectioners' forms: bulk pastilles or drops (e.g. what Valrhona or Michel Cluizel put out), or blocs (big slabs, produced by e.g. Amedei or Guittard). Generally speaking the minimum order is 1kg, but you'll be surprised how much will go into the truffles.
Next, there really isn't any substitute for trying them. Good chocolate tastes great! It's fun to experiment. Some companies offer 5g tasting squares if you don't want to try too much at a time, but it's worth doing a side-by-side with a few chocolates. I can give you chapter and verse on taste-testing if you want but please ask me because otherwise this would be a long digression. The point of taste-testing is to isolate chocolates whose flavour either you enjoy, or you think will match well with the recipe you're making.
About that recipe. Are you using the traditional cream ganache-based approach? (The general method is: heat cream, pour over grated or chopped chocolate, stir gently, set aside, cool.) If so, what ratio of chocolate to cream do you have in mind, and what creams do you have access to? This sounds incredibly bizarre, I know, but you need to match your fat percentages between the chocolate and the cream or your results will be poor (Making truffles is an art!) This is not a problem if you're using a water-based method, however.
Are you making coated or uncoated truffles (in other words, are they just rolled ganache or are you enrobing them with a shell? If the latter, again, you'll need a reasonable fat percentage because otherwise the viscosity of the chocolate will be insufficient to flow smoothly over the centres. Also if so, start working on your tempering technique NOW. Tempering is an art only perfected by practice, and it's quite essential or your melted chocolate will separate as it cools and turn streaky (and unstable; the texture will be fudgy, the flavour off, and it will melt awkwardly in your hands). Again, I can give you detailed instructions - please ask. Some of it will depend upon what equipment you have/are willing to acquire.
Are you planning to add flavourings, or are you making a plain ganache? This makes a difference because different chocolates marry well or poorly with different ingredients. For example, mix something like a Vietnamese Bên Tré (a powerful, spicy chocolate with a distinct cinnamon note) with something fruity like strawberries and you will have a flavour disaster. But something dark like coffee marries very well. And so it goes. If you're using flavourings and have a list, I can give you specific recommendations for specific chocolates.
And finally, although this is only the start of a much more focussed list, which should be decided upon *after* you've worked out details like method, flavourings, recipe ratios, etc. etc., here are some chocolates I can recommend for truffles.
One of my standards is Amedei Chuao. It's available in convenient bloc form and has a powerful flavour that works well with truffles. Think molasses, blueberry, strawberry, raisin, liquorice.
Another chocolate, one of the greats of the world is Michel Cluizel Los Anconès. It comes in drops, or you can buy it as bars somewhat more expensively as well. Lovely flavours: prunes, tobacco, strawberry, woods.
If you want to go in an entirely different direction, Pacari Raw 70% chocolate (yes, raw) offers a very unique flavour indeed. Here the hints are vegetable and floral, utterly different from your typical roasted chocolate. Very light; works well with light flavours, too, like rose. Beware that the Pacari chocolate is quite high-fat, this can make getting the truffles consistent without "breaking" difficult.
If you're in the USA, Guittard makes a superb selection of different origins; I personally like the Colombia for its light fruity/floral flavour. Guittard chocolates handle particularly nicely; you'll get perfect ganache with almost no work. Hard to find, though, if you're in Europe
In Europe, meanwhile, Felchlin's Cru Sauvage is one of the most delicate, subtle chocolates in all the world. With a flavour that somehow captures the whole of the chocolate spectrum in one pass, it's one of the most balanced chocolates ever made. Terrific in truffles; and its coating properties are very nice if you're making enrobed truffles.
As you can see there are an enormous number of chocolates - and I'll wager you've not heard any of these names before - or maybe only vaguely. But all are worth trying on their own sake, regardless of what you do with your truffles. Let us know how it goes!
I am a complete newbie and willing to learn how to make truffles.I know nothing about chocolate,or truffle making.I would love to learn about different chocolates,tempering,making a ganache,all of it. I know it's a long haul and that's Ok. I'm into trial and error,learning techniques,equipment,procedures,problems,and other. Is there books I could purchase ? Or anything to help me in my quest for making truffles? Thanks for all your great info.And I have not heard of any of the chocolate you mentioned
Paul Young's book, "Adventures with Chocolate" is really good because Paul hand-makes all his own chocolate - which means, unlike many professionals, his techniques and set-up are close to what you'll have available in a home setting. The recipes are also thought through with respect to what's practical at home. If you want to go all the way, there are professional references from, e.g. Culinary Institute of America that go through things from a pro perspective. However the professional references usually aren't practical in a home setting. They're useful more for theory than practice.
Which is what you should do - repeatedly. While experimenting, it's fine to use cheaper chocolate - because your experiments are going to be just that - many of the early ones throwaways. But be sure to get real chocolate, i.e. pure cocoa butter formulation and of a reasonable percentage, for experimentation. You're not trying to master taste here, merely technique and the ability to get results that are OK.
For tempering, I have a marble slab and palette knife. After melting, you pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the chocolate out onto the slab, spade it around until it just begins to solidify (it will suddenly take on a satiny sheen, too) and then *QUICKLY* scrape it back into the rest of the tempered chocolate, stirring to mix. That's the simple description. In practice it will take multiple attempts before you'll get this right; when you do, the chocolate will solidify in even, satiny layers with no streaking or blotching. There are other ways of tempering, too - the "seeding" method being common, as well as machines that can do this for you.
I prefer grating chocolate with a box grater; this seems to have the best results. Grater aperture size is key. It should be the fine round holes, but not super-fine. (e.g. microplane graters which reduce the chocolate to a powder, leading to poor results) But again chopping with a knife can be just as effective, provided the bits are small enough. They should be about mustard-seed size, or less, but not powder or dust.
Depending upon where you are the cream's fat percentage will be the trickiest. It also depends on your chocolate to cream ratio. For typical firm truffles, at 2 parts chocolate to 1 part cream, and a medium-fat (40%) chocolate, you'll need cream of a similar percentage, maybe a little higher - up to about 42% As the proportion of chocolate goes down, so should the cream's fat percentage, up to a point. For 1:1 ganache I try to get the fat percentage in the cream to be about 35% or so. The cream should be heated only to *just* beginning to bubble. When stirring it in, don't be timid, but use the fewest strokes possible and don't do this too vigourously. A gentle but confident folding motion is what's called for. Don't mix any longer than absolutely necessary for the chocolate and cream to mix into an homogeneous, smooth, glossy mass. Set aside very gently. It's probably you'll encounter "broken" ganache; you'll know it right away when you see it! The result looks mossy, almost like a murky tidal pool. If that happens, the ganache has been overmixed. *Some* degree of rescue is possible, by letting it cool, then reheating very gently, removing it from heat, and stirring it over an ice bath, again, gently, but it won't be quite as smooth or dense in flavour as if it had never been broken.
Enough for the moment - time for you to experiment and come back with questions.
Your info is wonderful - thank you.
Consider that the OP might not be quite that far along in the learning process to absorb and use that level of knowledge yet. He or she might be able to make lovely truffles that are perfectly acceptable to friends and family without searching out the best chocolate and without even tempering it.
I agree entirely with Alex's very comprehensive post, especially the advice about tasting. Different chocolates (even from the same producer) vary wildly in flavor, and you have to find something you like. For instance, I see there are a lot of Valrhona fans posting on this thread - I personally DETEST Valrhona chocolate, and actively avoid ordering desserts made with it (which can be tough, given that many high-end restaurants in NYC use it in all of their chocolate desserts). I would much rather eat Callebaut, even though it's not considered "as good" as Valrhona and is generally much less expensive. In fact, Callebaut is probably my favorite budget-friendly choice for general purposes.
In your quest to find the right chocolate, I would suggest browsing a bit at www.chocosphere.com - they have a huge selection, good prices and tend to carry large-format blocks and discs/pellets in addition to bars and other "eating" chocolate. I am a big fan of Amedei, Domori, Dolfin and Michel Cluizel, among others. Happy tasting!
ETA: for a ton of really valuable advice from people who know their chocolate, check out the forums at www.seventypercent.com.