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Top Pick Of The Week

February 14, 2006

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Chocolate Truffles
Not gorgeous, not perfect, but looks are not the point with XOX
Truffles
; they’re perfect tasting. The white chocolate truffle in our photo is actually pure white, but it was packed in a box with cocoa-dusted truffles. Photo by Melody Lan.

XOX Truffles: Truffle Hugs & Kisses

XOX Truffles was born of a love match. Jean-Marc Gorce was chef at a popular San Francisco restaurant in 1996 when he met Casimira Tobilla at a trade show. Gorce wanted to open his own restaurant, Tobilla wanted a product she could package and sell, and a year later, XOX Truffles was born as a business partnership—with a romance and a marriage to boot.

From a modest storefront in the North Beach area of San Francisco*, glorious chocolate truffles are made in twenty-five flavors and are shipped beyond the ‘hood to points as far away as Italy. The company’s website claims to offer the finest truffles in San Francisco. We can extend that geography: this may be the finest collection of French-style truffles in the country.

*The shop is a short walk from the historic Cannery at Del Monte Square on Fisherman's Wharf. There’s a second shop in Oakland’s Montclair Village. Addresses for both are on the company’s website, XOXTruffles.com. 

French-born Gorce makes chocolate truffles the original way: he creates a dense ganache from bittersweet chocolate and cream and rolls it into small, slightly irregular-shaped balls that are dusted in cocoa. The original chocolate truffle was inspired by the actual Périgord truffle, that rare fungus so dear to French hearts (ours, too).  It is not a perfect round ball or pretty, but an lump that simply tastes spectacular.

As does the rest of the XOX Truffles family, with its creative explosion of flavors. If you’re a truffle classicist, the Dark Chocolate (without liqueur) or the Cognac (with) are the easy choices. But then, you’d be missing out on this chocolate-truffle cornucopia:

Flavors With Liqueur Flavors Without Liqueur
  • Amaretto (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Black & White Ball (Dark Center,
    White Chocolate-Coated)
  • Cognac (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Crème de Framboise/Raspberry (Cocoa
    Powder-Dusted)
  • Crème de Menthe (Cocoa Powder-
    Dusted)
  • à la Kahlua (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Liqueur de Noisette (Hazelnut-Coated)
  • Red Wine
  • Rum Coco (Coconut-Coated)
  • Rum Raisin (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Triple Sec (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)

Vegan

The vegan truffles are made with soy milk instead of cream:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • à l’Orange
  • Noisette
  • Caramel (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Casimira’s Favourite (White
    Chocolate-Coated)
  • Citron/Lemon (Cocoa Powder-
    Dusted)
  • Coconut (Coconut-Coated)
  • Dark Chocolate (Cocoa Powder-
    Dusted)
  • Earl Grey (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Framboise/Raspberry (Cocoa
    Powder-Dusted)
  • French Roast (Coffee Crunch-Coated)
  • Noisette (Hazelnut-Coated)
  • à l’Orange (Cocoa Powder-Dusted)
  • Peanut Butter (Dark Chocolate
    Hard Shell-Covered)
   

How to choose? Pick all of your favorite flavors, of course! We liked every one of them, although our personal favorites are caramel, white, citron, coconut, framboise and orange. As with most fine artisanal products, there is no wrong choice. Get them all, and order extra caramel—it’s extremely popular. The truffles will keep two to three months in the refrigerator.

Bite-Sized Is Better

Truffle QuartetIn these supersize-me days, there is an expectation of bigger as better. We have seen truffles the size of small pastries, and generally the eyes—and the truffles—are bigger than the stomach. XOX Truffles are tiny: there are approximately 80 truffles in a pound (there are perhaps twenty pieces of chocolate in a standard 1-pound box). The truffles are an inch long, but they are not spherical; they are like rocks or tiny Idaho potatoes.

With some small truffles, bite-sized is frustrating: there isn’t enough of a taste to experience the flavor. With the intensity of XOX Truffles, that simply isn’t an issue: the ganache lays down a deep base of chocolate, and the perfect balance of the featured ingredient sails through. We had a mixed box of every flavor but didn’t have to guess which was Rum Raisin, which was Earl Grey, which was Citron. We even picked out the Triple Sec! That’s craftsmanship (Gorce’s, not ours).

An added-value benefit to these tiny truffles is that a very small amount of chocolate can be satisfying. Two or three with a cup of coffee make a splendid dessert or snack—and they weigh in at far less than half an ounce, sparing the calorie budget as well as the butterfat version of cloying (the feeling that arises when one has eaten too much of something made with cream, like truffles and mousse). 

We have had many a chocolate truffle. We find some too rich, some too bland, some too overblown with added sugar or flavor; with some, we just personally don’t like the base chocolate. Gorce uses 75% cacao bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder from Cacao Barry, a fine French producer that makes products only for the professional market (the beans are from the Côte d’Ivoire). He blends in top-quality hazelnut paste and flavorings in exactly the right proportions. There’s texture, too, in some flavors, via coatings of toasted coconut, ground hazelnuts, coffee crunch, and hard-shell enrobing. Each truffle melts in the mouth, making a pronounced but refined statement. These truffles could never be showy or voluptuous—not that there isn’t a time or place for that (a choice between Marilyn Monroe versus Grace Kelly, as it were). Eating half a box could never make one feel...regretful.

Do Try This At Home: Make Your Own Truffles*

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 12 ounces (about 2 cups) fine semisweet chocolate (at least
    60% cacao, up to 75% if you prefer a more bittersweet flavor)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract; or divide the batch and make half with 1 teaspoon vanilla, half with 1 teaspoon of your favorite liqueur
  • 1/4 cup top quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (about 2.5 ounces) sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) finely chopped unsalted hazelnuts or pistachios

Directions

  1. Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan and remove from heat. Add the chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth.
  2. Whisk in the vanilla. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Cover and chill until firm, about 3 hours.
  3. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Drop the mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the waxed paper. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
  4. Place the cocoa powder, coconut and chopped nuts into individual bowls. Hand-roll the truffles into balls. Roll 1/3 of the truffles in cocoa, 1/3 in coconut and 1/3 in nuts.
  5. Cover with plastic; keep chilled until ready to serve. The truffles can be made up to two weeks ahead: if storing for more than a day, keep in an airtight container so the truffles don’t absorb other flavors from the refrigerator.

*Recipe from THE NIBBLE files.

XOX Truffles' packaging is distinctive and beautiful: while we left the store with our truffles in a white Chinese take-out container, gift truffles can be nestled in a variety of individually hand-painted, papier-mâché boxes.

Harlequin BoxThe Blue/Gold Harlequin Box holds 20 ounces, or 100 truffles. Ballotin
The Ribbon Bow Ballotin holds 6 ounces, or 30 truffles.
Heart BoxThe Harlequin Heart Box holds 16 ounces, or 80 truffles.

We never knew Chef Gorce’s restaurant cuisine, but now that he is Chocolatier Gorce, we can only rejoice at our acquaintance.

—K.H.

XOX TRUFFLES

Chocolate Truffles

  • Ribbon Bow Ballotin
    30 Truffles, 6 Ounces
    $30.00
  • Georgette Bag
    40 Truffles, 8 Ounces
    $40.00
  • Harlequin Heart Box
    80 Truffles, 16 Ounces
    $60.00
  • Blue/Gold Harlequin Box
    100 Truffles, 20 Ounces
    $80.00
  • Other sizes available, as well as Christmas packaging

Purchase online at XOXTruffles.com

Shipping additional.

 

Click here to see our other favorite chocolates in the Chocolate section of THE NIBBLE online magazine...

 

...and check out some of our favorite chocolate gifts, below.

Truffles
Photo by Melody Lan.

 


 

 

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