The chocolate truffle was actually invented in 1895 for a Christmas feast so it seems rather fitting that we still give them as gifts at Christmas over 100 years later! Pâtissier Louis Dufour created the first chocolate truffle in Chambéry, France after running short on ingredients for his Christmas sweets. He used the ingredients he had to hand and dusted the finished confections with cocoa powder. He named them truffles as they resembled the prized truffles found underground.
Chocolate truffles were introduced to London by Antoine Dufour and his story can be found at Prestat, one of London's oldest chocolate shops. Antoine established Prestat in 1902 and quickly became famous for its cocoa-dusted truffles, named ‘Napoleon III’ (after the 19th Century gourmand French emperor who spent several periods of exile in London with his loyal chef).
Prestat makes chocolates for Her Majesty The Queen under Royal Warrant and has a long history of celebrity customers from the actress Sarah Bernhardt in the 1910s through to Sir John Gielgud and Dame Peggy Ashcroft in the 1950s, Princess Diana in the 1990s and Stephen Fry today. Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, was also a fan of Prestat truffles and made them central to his novel My Uncle Oswald.
In the 1960s, a giant version of the Napoleon III truffle was created by Prestat named The Prestat Bomb truffle. It was available in Plain, Coffee and Orange flavours. Apparently Prestat are recreating it for Chocolate Week (October 10th -16th, 2011).
Prestat's Pink Champagne truffles are made with Marc de Champagne which isn't easy to find here so I have come up with a simpler recipe to try at home. Marc de Champagne is a traditional Eau de Vie (brandy) that is produced by distilling the grape skins, seeds and stalks, which are left from the pressing process in the first stages of Champagne production.
250g dark chocolate
250g milk chocolate
100 ml whipping cream
1 egg yolk, beaten
100 ml pink champagne
4 tsp brandy
cocoa powder to dust
Combine the chocolate, butter and whipping cream in a saucepan. Heat until the chocolate has melted, stirring continuously. Add in the beaten egg yolk and stir. Return to the heat and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from heat. Stir in champagne and transfer truffle mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Beat cooled truffle mixture with electric mixer for about a minute. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Use a small scoop to form 1 inch balls. Place each ball on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until firm. Roll truffles in cocoa powder. If you want to make a pink dust to coat your truffles you can use pink sanding sugar.