The Happy Accident That Might Have Led To The Invention Of Chocolate Truffles

If truffles were never invented, we might have to resort to raspberry brownies as our Valentine's Day dessert of choice, or else a plethora of chocolate-free dessert options – which would be a national tragedy, although these treats are tasty. But thankfully, chocolate truffles were born in either the late 1800s or early 1900s, depending on which lore you believe. And since then, we've made them in an array of tasty flavors, including white chocolate lemon, dark chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and orange-cardamom chocolate. But back when the chocolate confections were first invented, they didn't come in all these fancy varieties. 

In fact, they first resembled truffle mushrooms from France and Italy, which is how they may have gotten their name. In one story, the apprentice of Georges Auguste Escoffier, a French chef, accidentally dumped hot cream into a bowl of chocolate pieces, creating what we now know as chocolate ganache. Initially, Escoffier was furious at his pupil and called the mixture a "ganache" (meaning "fool" in French) as an insult. But after rolling the resulting melted chocolate into balls, the apprentice then coated them in cocoa powder, and dessert truffles were born.

Chocolate truffles were the pinnacle of luxury

Of course, this is just one theory about how chocolate truffles came to be (though it's arguably the most popular one). The other main story involves a French baker named Louis Dufour, who claimed to have come up with the concept in 1895. Searching for an innovative Christmas dessert he could sell in his shop, he rolled up ganache balls, coated them in melted chocolate, then finished them up with a layer of cocoa powder. When his family member, Antoine Dufour, moved to England in 1902, he sold the creations out of his Pestat Chocolate Shop in London. And still another legend claims that chocolate truffles were first created at a patisserie in Paris in 1850, so we may never know the whole truth for sure.

Either way, truffles, which are similar to Brazilian brigadeiros, began to take off after their birth. At first, only the wealthy in France could afford them. They were seen as a luxurious dessert, an idea which has somewhat carried over to the modern day. The first legitimate truffle recipe appeared in the 1920s book "Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher," and it involved vanilla cream, a milk chocolate layer, and a coconut coating. Truffles have evolved quite a bit since this early recipe, but the fact has remained that a good chocolate ganache is a starting point to whip up a batch of these treats.