Everybody knows the phrase "sitting on the couch eating bon bons", but ask most people what a bon bon is, and they'd be hard-pressed to tell you.
The name bon bons stems from the French word "bon", which means "good". Think: Bon Voyage (have a good trip/voyage), Bon Appétit (have a good meal/appetite). Put a "bon" and a "bon" together and you've got something doubly good - a goody goody! We couldn't agree more.
Perhaps the confusion about what a bon bon actually is comes from the fact that the term "bon bon" is a universal word for "candy" in French, as well as many other languages like Dutch, German, Hungarian, and Turkish. In the United States kids bugs their parents by saying: "Can I have some candy? I want some candy!"; in France, children say: "Je veux un bon bon!"
Thus, you can find all different types of candies labeled as "bon bons". They include: hard candy, lollipops, chocolates, sweetmeats, taffy, sugarplums, sugar-coated almonds, fruit-flavored candies, and chocolate-covered confections.
Here at South 'n France, we've established a way to easily explain how to differentiate bon bons from other sweets. Chocolate-covered bon bons are most often confused with truffles. But truffles are a chocolate-based confection, usually made by starting with a chocolate ganache base (which is later rolled in cocoa powder, sugars, finely chopped nuts, coconut, etc.). The other major truffle category consists of a chocolate shell that is formed and later filled with a praline or liquor filling.
Bon bons, on the other hand, are not chocolates to begin with; they are sweet confections that can stand alone, but instead get dipped in chocolate at the very end of the candy making process. This creates a thin layer of chocolate around the candy instead of the thicker shell commonly associated with truffles (i.e. bon have less chocolate and more filling; truffles have more chocolate and less filling.)
Americans often associate bon bons with the fictional stereotype of the idle housewife depicted in pop culture (think Lucy Ricardo or Peg Bundy). Often, the bon bon used to portray this stereotype is a frozen vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate. This certainly fits the definition of a bon bon: a sweet confection (ice cream) that can stand alone, but is rolled into a bite-sized ball and dipped in chocolate. Other examples of bon bons (like the kind we make here at South 'n France) could be a peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate, a coconut ball dipped in chocolate, or chocolate chip cookie dough dipped in chocolate.
Although food experts often disagree on the definition of a bon bon, there are some common features that all bon bon share:
1) They are a sweet candy or confection
2) They are round
3) There is an outer shell (chocolate or hard candy) with contrasting filling inside.
Not only are there many different ways to define a bon bon, there are even multiple spellings. The most common spellings are bonbon, bon bon and bon-bon. Bon bons are a universal concept, and many languages have the same term. Hungarians say: bombon; Spaniards use the word bombón. For more translations of the word 'bon bon', visit Webster's Online Dictionary.