If you walk into a fantastic chocolate shop like Jacques Genin in Paris and ask for a truffle, they’ll point you to one particular type of sweet rolled in cocoa powder. But maybe you wanted the square ones with Szechuan peppercorn and the rectangular ones with bergamot instead? That’s when it pays off to know the difference between a truffle and a bonbon.
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In the U.S., we pretty much call every bite-size confection a truffle. But the proper name for most of these treats is “bonbon.” The word translates to “candy” in French, but it’s come to mean any type of confection filled with ganache, praliné, salted caramel, nougat—the list goes on. Most tend to be filled with ganache, an emulsification of chocolate and cream, and chocolatiers often experiment with different types: Think oolong tea and even doughnut ganache.
Bonbons can be round, square, cone-shaped, and so on, and they are often decorated with bright colors, cocoa nibs, and freeze-dried raspberries—or even in one desperately-seeking-millennials move to look like tattoos. They are almost always enrobed in a thin layer of chocolate.
Some of my favorite places to snag a bonbon or two (or 24) are Soma Chocolatemaker for bean-to-bar-to-bonbon treats like Roasted Cacao Bean (a whole cocoa bean enrobed in dark chocolate), Recchiuti Confections for single-origin varietals and the famous burnt caramel truffle, and Ginger Elizabeth for their wildflower-honey-and-yogurt bonbon, made with local artisans’ dairy and honey.
“We wanted to pack as much yogurt flavor into this bonbon [as possible], so we formulated the ganache recipe to only use yogurt, no cream,” says founder Ginger Hahn. “Balancing different types of dairy with chocolate—buttermilk, crème fraiche, yogurt—and not limiting ourselves to the traditional use of cream is all part of what makes our bonbons special.”
A truffle, on the other hand, is a particular type of bonbon that is filled with ganache and usually rolled in cocoa powder. One of my favorite truffle makers is La Maison du Chocolat for its strict adherence to the classical style. Truffles must be kept cool and are extremely perishable—so you won’t find many available online.
Whether you’re looking for bonbons or specifically truffles, they should have:
Smooth and silky centers. The ganache shouldn’t be grainy or watery, and caramel or praliné centers shouldn’t be “too blond or dark/burnt,” says Hahn—and shouldn’t be grainy or stick to your teeth.
Short shelf life. Think weeks, not months. “A longer shelf life means the bonbon is packed with a high percentage of sorbitol and any number of other moisture-binding sugars,” she says.
Thin coating of shiny chocolate, decorated tastefully. The chocolate shell around a bonbon should be as thin as possible, without chocolate pooling around the bottom (called a foot).
Now you can be trufflin’ every day!
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor, $32 on Amazon
Feeling inspired? Create your own truffles and bonbons with the ultimate guide!
Related Video: How to Make Triple Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
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