Chocolate Truffle Truffles and Real Aphrodisiacs
The ancient Greeks believed truffles were a result of lightning impregnating the earth and leaving its “seed”; that they are the spawn of gods, thunder rooted in the ground. Certainly, truffles are seen as pretty mystical and magical fungi, and have been considered an aphrodisiac for centuries (and for good reason: one of the reasons pigs are so good at finding them is because truffles emit a chemical almost identical to a pig sex hormone, which is also found in the underarm sweat of human men.)
Their scent is pungent and enchanting making them a valuable fungi indeed. Chocolate truffles get their name from these small brown lumps found under the soil among the roots of their host trees. Like fungi truffles, chocolate is also a known aphrodisiac, though that's pretty much where the similarities stop. But do they have to? These chocolate truffles not only look like their namesake all the way through, they’re flavored with them too!
Earthy black truffles are a surprisingly delicious match for rich dark chocolate - the combination brings out the floral and fruity notes in both. These truffles take a bit of time to create, but will stun whomever you share them with. But first, a little more truffle lore:
These knobby bits of fungi that grow under the soil are not much to look at, but they certainly are something to experience. They flavor many gourmet products from salts to oils to pastas. Though humans tend to attach the title “aprodisiac” to anything that looks even faintly like genitalia (such as asparagus or oysters), truffles may be the truest aphrodisiac we know of.
According to Diane Ackerman in her book A Natural History of the Senses:
“Turn a sow loose in a field where there are truffles, and she’ll sniff like a blood-hound and then dig with manic passion. What is the sow’s obsession with truffles? German researches at the Technical University of Munich and the Lubeck School of Medicine have discovered that truffles contain twice as much androstenol, a male pig hormone, as would normally appear in a male pig. And boar pheromone is chemically very close to the human male hormone, which may be why we find truffles arousing, too. Experiments have shown that if a little bit of androstenol is sprayed into a room where women are looking at pictures of men, they’ll report that the men are more attractive.”
It can be difficult to describe the scent of truffles, and different varieties vary greatly. They are all quite pungent, and may cause a surprised nose-wrinkle in the un-initiated. You may even find yourself repulsed at first… but then, for some reason beyond your understanding, you will come back for a second sniff. I think that good truffles contain a faint scent of ozone, something both ancient and ephemeral, almost electric. Some truffles have the strong mineral haze of petroleum or diesel, while others are balanced with the smell of fresh roses. The way that Helen Keller describes the smell of men makes me think of my experience with truffles:
“Masculine exhalations are, as a rule, stronger, more vivid, more widely differentiated than those of women. In the odor of young men there is something elemental, as of fire, storm, and salt sea. It pulsates with buoyancy and desire. It suggests all the things strong and beautiful and joyous and gives me a sense of physical happiness.”
You can read more about truffles and their ethical harvest below.
Chocolate Truffle Truffle Truffles:
A little bit of white fondant (about 1/2 c.)
1/4 c. whipping cream
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. sugar syrup
4 oz dark chocolate
a small piece of black truffle
4 more oz dark chocolate, for coating
black cocoa powder
- Since fatty substances absorb the flavor of truffles quite readily, you can just leave your cream (in a little dish), butter, and truffle in a sealed container in the fridge overnight to infuse. If you’d like a stronger flavored chocolate truffle (more suitable for slicing over desserts than eating in one mouthful), very finely grate the truffle and put it in the cream.
- Finely chop 4oz of your dark chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl.
- Over low heat, bring the truffle-infused cream and butter and sugar syrup to a very light simmer. Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate.
- Wait 5 minutes, then stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Leave the ganache out on the counter, stirring every 5 or 10 minutes until it reaches the consistency of cream cheese.
- Roll the white fondant out on some parchment paper until it is about 1/8” thick, 4” wide and roughly 8” long.
- Scoop the ganache onto the fondant and shape it into a log, then roll it up in the fondant and trim off any excess. You should now have a log of fondant-wrapped ganache about 1 or 1 1/2” diameter and 4” long (roughly.)
- Gently begin rolling this into a long snake. It’s best to roll it out until it’s about 12” long, then cut it into quarters. Wrap three quarters in plastic wrap to keep them moist and leave them on the counter at room temperature while you continue to roll the other quarter.
- Keep rolling, dividing as needed, until the “snake” is about 1/4” in diameter. It’s good to have a bit of variation in thickness, so don’t worry if some parts get thinner than that or even break. This part is a little messy and that’s okay.
- Once you’ve rolled out a long snake, scrunch it up haphazardly to form a ball. It should be slightly smaller than you’d like your finished truffle to be. Since truffles naturally vary in size and shape, it’s best to make several sizes and don’t worry about making them even.
- As you finish them, place the balls into the fridge to harden a bit. Unroll other segments of log as you get to them and repeat the process.
- Once all of your fondant-coated ganache has been rolled and formed into balls, melt and temper the rest of your dark chocolate. Place the cocoa nibs into a bowl.
- Dip the truffle balls into the dark chocolate and roll in the cocoa nibs. Place on a piece of parchment paper to harden.
- When the dipped truffles are hardened, dust them with black cocoa powder for an earthy look.
- To serve, eat as is or thinly slice and sprinkle over a dessert of your choice - they taste wonderful atop rice pudding or as an accompaniment to marinated strawberries or fresh fruit.
Black truffles tend to be more mild and earthy and occasionally floral, while white truffles have a unique aged garlic-richness and are best suited to savory dishes. All kind of truffles shine on starches: potatoes, pasta, popcorn, etc. Their odors are easily absorbed by fatty dairy products. You can even infuse eggs with the flavor of truffles simply by placing a little piece of truffle on a paper towel into an airtight container full of eggs in the fridge for a couple of days. When it comes to truffles, a little goes a long ways.
The most humane and environmentally responsible way to forage for truffles is by using a specially-trained truffle dog. Pigs can be used (as described above), but I would feel bad knowing that the poor lady pig was in such a state of un-requited arousement for the whole process! Besides, pigs are not as good at distinguishing the ripeness of truffles, and a green truffle is worthless and will not ripen once it is removed from its rhizome (the fungi equivalent of a root.) Some harvesters use special rakes to look for truffles but these cause immense damage to the forest floor and undergrowth and can greatly harm the entire ecosystem. As such, some areas are making the use of truffle rakes illegal. Dogs, however, can be trained to recognize the specific scent of a perfectly-ripe truffle and show their owners exactly where to dig, causing very minimal damage to the area. They are trained with treats and are quite happy nibbling on a piece of kibble while you keep your prized truffle. You can even have your own dog trained at truffle camps!
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