Monday, November 05, 2007

Chocolate Linguistics Part 4:
Truffles v. Bon Bons

In the last week, I have come across an uncanny number of references to the literary value of the petite madeleine in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, including Marshall Jon Fisher's 2002 essay "Memoria ex Machina" and D.T. Max's review of Jonah Lehrer's Proust was a Neuroscientist in the New York Times Book Review. Without dwelling too long on the dismaying fact that I've never read Proust, I'd like to explore my own preoccupation with the connection between dessert and language. In Chocolate in Context's most recent Chocolate Linguistics installment, several industry insiders pondered the definition of "couverture." This time, three chocolate entrepreneurs address a new question:

In your own words, what's the difference between a "truffle" and a "bon bon"?

Monica Passin
Owner of Painter Girl Chocolates and fundraiser for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts

In my estimation, a truffle would contain heavy cream, that is, a ganache center, coated with chocolate and/or dusted with cocoa powder. Bon bon is a more general term which can be applied to a variety of confections, chocolate or not. I use the term "bon bon" for my "laissez les bon bons roulez!" because of the play on words, and because the product does not have heavy cream.

Karletta Moniz
San Francisco sophisticate behind the Art of Tasting Chocolate blog and consultant to everyone from Neiman-Marcus to Seeds of Change

A truffle is a confection that consists only of chocolate and cream. That's it. The truffles I dream of are hand shaped to resemble a 'real' truffle, of the fungi variety, and are dusted with cocoa powder. Bon bons are fillings that are coated with chocolate. The fillings can be ganaches (chocolate, cream, flavoring), pralines (ground nuts), marzipan, caramels or creams. I suppose if it doesn't move fast enough and you can cover it in chocolate it can be called a bon bon!

Jeff Shepherd
Chocolate-making founder of Lillie Belle Farms and champion of edible chocolate art.

A truffle, as I understand it, is simply a ganache, flavored or not, thinly coated in chocolate and dusted in the cocoa powder of your choice. They look like the funky fungus of the same name. Of course that's too simple and now anything that has a ganache filling of any kind is being passed off as a truffle. I have always tried to keep the two separate in my collections. If I roll it out and put it in powder I call it a truffle, if I enrobe it I call it a ganache or a bon bon.

The term bon bon is a whole other story though. In french "bon" means good; so we are off to a good start. But I use the term to describe everything that is NOT a ganache filled piece. Fondant, buttercream, nut filled, liquor concoctions; they all fall under the guise of bon bon to me. But what do I know? Truthfully though, if it is small and it tastes good then it can be a bon bon--whether or not it's all chocolate or filled with something else entirely. We have a saying at our place: "It's chocolate, there are no rules!"


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