Food & Drink: Harsh truths, dark secrets: Most shop-bought chocolate truffles are not worth the money. Make your own, suggests Joanna Blythman

TO THE advance guard of home-made Christmas foods building up in your store cupboard, I would like to suggest an addition - the chocolate truffle. Why should you labour over a bowl of melting chocolate when the supermarket down the road sells all manner of luxurious Belgian and Swiss confections? Because your own will almost certainly taste better. And they are quite easy to make.

We asked Taste Trials, a professional tasting organisation, to put on a blind tasting of 20 different dark-chocolate truffles. We stressed dark, so that we could get as close as possible to the quality of the base chocolate. The bought truffles were selected as being the darkest and most 'chocolatey'. The rest we made with various dark chocolates to an identical recipe (see right).

The unanimity was stunning. Shop-bought truffles were found to be overpriced and disappointing - particularly the Belgian and Swiss, which do not deserve the reverential status they enjoy in Britain. Three of our top four, which stood out a mile, were French.

Our tasters were a discerning lot: Chantal Coady founded the Chocolate Society and Rococo Chocolates; Jean Charles Carrarini buys for his impressive specialist food shop and restaurant in Marylebone High Street, London; Matthew Pinhey of Porters sells chocolate to top chefs the length and breadth of Britain; and Jean-Christophe Novelli, chef of the Provence restaurant, near Lymington in Hampshire. Your correspondent cites years of devoted searching for the best dark chocolate as credentials enough.

Our number one truffle was made from the French organic chocolate discovered by the Independent more than a year ago: Green and Black's Organic (pounds 1.89 for 100g (4oz) in wholefood shops). It has 70 per cent cocoa solids and we tasters voiced the same sentiments: a strong, almost fruity cocoa flavour which was pleasantly unsweet.

A close second came the legendary Valrhona Guanaja, another French 70 per cent cocoa truffle (pounds 6.90 per lb in specialist food shops). This proved finer and less rustic than Green and Black: we remarked on its rich, chocolatey, slightly alcohol-and-fruit flavour, with just the right amount of sugar.

Two offerings shared third place. One was a truffle made with Waitrose's Continental plain chocolate (an absolute snip at 56p for 100g), also French. This had 72 per cent cocoa solids and packed a strong punch. It lost points for its texture, variously noted as 'gritty' and 'floury', and artificial vanillin flavouring. 'When a chocolate is this good, why don't they use real vanilla?' asked one taster. Our other third choice was a truffle made from Charbonnel and Walker's 'Chocolat a Fondre' (pounds 7.15 for a 500g tin, Harrods). This is made in Belgium, and again is a 70 per cent cocoa solids chocolate, made to a recipe devised in England by a Frenchwoman. We enjoyed its rich fudgy texture and smoothness but some tasters picked up 'burnt' and 'coffee' undertones.

Well behind in everybody's ratings were a clutch of truffles home-made from middle-priced, widely available dark chocolate (all around the 45-55 per cent cocoa solids band), which had the same crucial fault - too much sugar. The best, and most expensive, of these was Lindt Excellence (99p for 85g), but tasters still found it characterless. Several in this group were notable for their grainy textures (Scotts Real Dark Chocolate, for example); others, such as Sainsbury's Swiss Plain Chocolate, offered 'peculiar tastes' such as rosewater, which we put down to unspecified 'flavouring'.

The real shockers were the very pricey truffles which sell on their up-market reputation. We christened this the 'Milky Bar Kid' section: you might buy them for a fix of white sugar, but not for their chocolate character. They represented poor value for money.

The worst was Thornton's Select Triple Chocolate Mousse. We ate only the plain ones, which contain 30 per cent cocoa solids (pounds 1.89 for seven). These, we felt, could not even be classed as a dark truffle. 'Nulle points,' observed one tester wryly. 'Hideous, pure sugar and greasy texture,' said another. Nearly as bad were Sainsbury's Belgian Truffles, the darkest the chain seems to offer (pounds 2.09 per 125g box). 'Very nasty', 'horribly sweet and milky' and 'despicable' were some of the comments. Godiva (pounds 2.74 for seven) and Gartner (pounds 2.34 for seven) both shared a sweet, sickly, emulsified texture.

There were several oddities. We all detested the one joker in the pack: truffles made with carob. However healthy carob may be, any chocolate lover would take a pledge of abstinence rather than turn to it. 'Gritty', 'health-store soap and cereal aroma' and 'soy sauce' summed up the tasters' disgust.

We had expected to like Gerard Ronay's hand-made truffles (pounds 2.97 for seven) which had been favourably reviewed elsewhere, but they did badly. 'An odd perfumed aroma', 'very light, tastes commercial', 'inside too sweet and milky' were our comments.

Our award for weirdness goes to the cult chocolate Noir Infini, where French chocolate wizard Michel Cluizel has pushed cocoa solids up to 99 per cent and produced a price tag to go with it - pounds l20 for 30g (1oz). Made into truffles by our recipe, they were proof that you can go too far with cocoa solid content. Around 70 per cent is about as dark as even sophisticated palates can find pleasant. 'Inedible: an intellectual exercise,' said one taster.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones