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.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'