Although it’s far too early to be thinking about Christmas, particularly in this fabulous weather, the gift of chocolate is always in season. We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the luxurious Christmas collection from La Maison du Chocolat, available come November (pear and caramel, anyone?), but for now we are content to sample their delicious truffles. No better gift, perhaps for a loved one, or to impress dinner guests, than the luxurious Truffle Collection: the plain dark truffles are full-bodied and bittersweet, the raspberry flavoured with fresh raspberry pulp in a dark chocolate ganache, the orange with fresh zest, and the caramel truffle, milk chocolate infused with vanilla and a pinch of salt. All triple-boiled cream ganache coated in the luxurious Valrhona cocoa powder. ‘A light and airy texture, surprisingly silky with a light finish on the palate.’ Truly exquisite.
Only the finest ingredients are used by La Maison. Founded by Robert Linxe in 1977 in Paris, later opening up in Madison Avenue, NYC, and now with a flagship store (including a patisserie – the Tarte Chocolat is heavenly) in Piccadilly, along with outlets in Harrods and Selfridges, they have a huge respect for their products. All chocolates are hand-sculpted, all cocoa is scrupulously sourced and only the finest vintage selected (yes, cacao beans, too, have a vintage!).
With all the groundwork done, you can attempt to make your own truffles using this recipe, the original by Monsieur Linxe himself, still used today by Master Chef, Nicolas Cloiseau. The cream is boiled three times as they believe that this makes the ganache last longer. A flavour such as vanilla or a blended and reduced fruit pulp can be added to the hot cream.
Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles (La Maison du Chocolat)
Makes about 60 truffles
300g Valrhona chocolate (56% cacao, or as good a bittersweet chocolate as you can find)
150ml heavy cream
Valrhona cocoa powder for dusting
Finely chop 225 g 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.
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 centre 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 1cm tip, pipe into mounds (about 2 cm high and 2.5 cm 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 the remaining chocolate 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, using a fork, in unsweetened Valrhona cocoa powder so they look like their namesakes, freshly dug from the earth. Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cacao.
Store truffles in the refrigerator.