A holiday dessert for anyone too tired to make a holiday dessert

That’s all of us, right?

Published December 22, 2021 11:00AM (EST)

Prop stylistL Molly Fitzsimons. Food stylistL Lauren Lapenna. (MJ Kroeger / Food52)
Prop stylistL Molly Fitzsimons. Food stylistL Lauren Lapenna. (MJ Kroeger / Food52)

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Don't save room for dessert. If the glazed ham is sweet enough, if the latkes are crisp enough, if the spinach is creamy enough, go back for seconds. Go back for thirds. Go back for fourths. You deserve it.

There is a running gag at my family festivities, maybe yours, too, that by the time the pie or tart or cake joins the party, everyone is already so stuffed, they only want "a sliver — just a sliver — no, no — even smaller than that." So instead of making a pie or tart or cake, why not make something sliver-sized to begin with?

I'm making chocolate truffles.

Though chocolate truffles are named for their resemblance to the "edible subterranean fruiting body of several European ascomycetous fungi" that costs hundreds of dollars a pound, these candies are relatively humble. You don't need a pig to hunt them down. Nor do you need a lot of money or ingredients or time or effort.

One of the earliest recipes for them, from "Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher" in the 1920s, instructs: "Dip a plain vanilla cream center, one as small as possible in milk chocolate coating, then before the coating dries, roll each piece in macaroon coconut so that the coconut sticks to the chocolate. Now lay them on a sheet of wax paper and allow to dry."

Modern truffles are even simpler. The cream center and chocolate shell have streamlined into a creamy, chocolatey orb. Every recipe is different, but also the same: Make a ganache (chocolate plus cream). Perhaps add butter or shortening, and maybe vanilla, too. Chill until firm. Scoop into portions. Roll into balls. Dust with cocoa.

Vanilla is a no from me. No disrespect to vanilla, which I love — say in vanilla ice cream or vanilla pound cake. But did you know that most commercial chocolates already include it? They do.

Butter or shortening, also a no, also no disrespect. With enough cream — my golden ratio is equal parts cream and chocolate by weight — the flavor is rich enough, the texture is silky enough, and that butter can be saved for toast.

The only catch? We actually aren't using any cream. At least, not heavy cream. Instead, enter crème fraîche. This French-style cultured cream has the tanginess of sour cream, butteriness of labneh, and happiness of a lazy Saturday morning. Plus, it can be heated without curdling, a godsend for melting chocolate.

It's a little swap that makes a big difference. While heavy cream can be just that — heavy — crème fraîche is lively, like a cup of coffee after rolling out of bed. Coupled with bitter chocolate, the tartness is so subtle that someone might not be able to name the ingredient (in fact, none of my relatives could), but compelling enough that they'll ask, "Why is this so good?"

So good you can't help but eat one or three. Even if you didn't save room for dessert.


Recipe: Easier Chocolate Truffles

Prep time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: About 18 truffles


  • 8 ounces (1 cup) crème fraîche
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao), chips or chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Your pick of toppings (optional, see Author Notes)


  1. Add the crème fraîche to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it's melted and hot, turn off the heat and add the chocolate and salt, shaking the pan so the chocolate is evened out. Let sit for a couple minutes, then stir to combine and melt the chocolate. 
  2. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a baking dish (a brownie pan works well), spread into an even layer, and cover. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until the chocolate is scoopable, like ready-to-eat ice cream. 
  3. Use a 1-tablespoon–size cookie scoop (or similar) to portion the chocolate mixture into truffles on a parchment-lined plate; use the side of the dish to create level scoops, so they're evenly sized and flat on the bottom. If you'd like, roll in your pick of toppings, then serve immediately or refrigerate for later. (If you are eating them later, make sure to let them come to room temperature first.)

By Emma Laperruque

MORE FROM Emma Laperruque

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Chocolate Desserts Food Holidays Recipe Truffles