Belgian Chocolate Truffles, Straight from Bruges
Belgian National Day is upon us on July 21st, so in accordance, we thought of the first edible craving that popped into our food-fuelled minds – Belgian chocolate (followed by mussels, frites and beer, of course!). And so the hunt began for the richest chocolatier story and recipe we could find. That led us to Sydney’s Vanderwee Chocolates, whose Belgian owner Hendrik Vanderwee Rosseel defers his truffle making to his wife Hilde, who hails from Bruges, and who inherited the recipe from her grandmother. What became clear was that no matter if Belgian truffles are made in Bruges or Sydney, they’re equally delicious:
“When moving to Australia with my wife Hilde, part of the deal was that she wouldn’t have to miss her chocolate. So we opened a chocolate business, Vanderwee Chocolates, at the Glasshouse on King Street, Sydney in 1995. My wife and I weren’t involved in the food industry in Belgium; we both had a career change. But we’ve never regretted it. Also, we don’t have a family history in chocolate making, so Hilde and I are quite fortunate that we’ve managed to make a living out of our hobby.
“We work with amazing chocolate artisans in Bruges. We’ve worked with the same people for 17 years. The chocolates are flown here, so it’s the same quality as buying them in Bruges. It’s almost impossible to buy fresh Belgian chocolate outside Europe – only a handful of places have the real thing, such as Morocco and Durban.
“This truffle recipe originally belonged to Hilde’s grandmother. She was from Gent, near Bruges, and died ten years ago. She kept the recipe close to her heart. Hilde’s mother, Regina, who is 88 and lives in Bruges, now makes the truffles and passed the recipe on to Hilde.
“Regina usually makes the truffles on special occasions when the family comes over and around wintertime – chocolate-making is not a special hobby; it’s just something to do on winter evenings, like knitting or watching TV. Every family in Belgium works a lot with chocolate. It’s part of our daily life. Regina doesn’t make any other types of chocolates, but makes wonderful cakes, such as fruit cakes or chocolate cakes. They are secret recipes.
“Hilde can also make the truffles, but no other types of chocolate! It’s hard to make them [here] as it’s difficult to find the right ingredients in Australia. Occasionally at Easter, when our chocolate eggs are a bit damaged and they can’t be sold, Hilde makes truffles out of them.
“I don’t cook, but I have an excuse – I usually leave home at 7am and get home at 7.30pm. Hilde cooks Belgium food at home and [likes to] experiment. She makes fantastic pancakes and waffles. We also have mussels, beef casserole made with beer, and chips with mayonnaise for half the week. Hilde never cooks premade chips. She always cuts the potatoes herself.
“A large part of the tradition of chocolate making is being lost through people like me who are offering the finished product. A lot of the younger generation just goes to the shops and buys it. Part of the beauty of chocolate making [such as the truffles] is that it’s homemade – it makes it so special.”
– Story & interview by Jenna Chaitowitz
Belgian Chocolate Truffles
125g good-quality dark chocolate*
100g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
100g icing sugar
50g almond meal
1 egg yolk, lightly whisked
1/2 teaspoon alcohol, such as brandy, Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Cognac (optional)
Almond shavings and/or sugared cocoa powder, to coat
1) Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over pan of simmering water (otherwise known as a bain-marie) and stir until it slowly melts. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water, so as not to burn the chocolate. Stir butter into the chocolate until combined.
2) Once the chocolate mixture has melted, sift in the icing sugar and almond meal, then add the egg yolk and alcohol (if desired). Mix to combine, ensuring the mixture doesn’t become too runny. Allow to set in the fridge for about half an hour.
3) Line a tray with baking paper. Mould the chocolate into small balls and roll them in the almond shavings and/or sugared cocoa powder. Place truffles on the tray and allow to set in the fridge. If storing the truffles in the fridge, make sure to place them in an airtight container. They are best enjoyed within 2 days of cooking.
Geniet van uw creatie – enjoy what you created!
* Never consider using cooking or supermarket-bought chocolate. You should choose quality chocolate that has five ingredients or less such as Valrhona, Cluizel or Callebaut (ensure it is made in Belgium). We used Callebaut 70% dark chocolate.