Truffles are one of the most prized culinary ingredients, with their intoxicating, singular flavor and musky scent. They are a commodity that can add a touch of refinement to even the simplest of foods, and they can elevate a fine-dining experience.
While they are prized today and are even being cultivated- they’ve been around for a pretty long time. The oldest known fresh truffle recipes were written around 400 A.D.
What is a Truffle?
Not to be confused with the chocolate treat- a truffle is a type of fungi that is found on the roots of trees. Truffles grow entirely underground unlike the common mushroom varieties. Primarily found in Italy, they thrive in similar Mediterranean climates around the world.
There are several species, the most common edible ones being Tuber Melanosporum (black Truffles) and Tuber Mangnatum (white Truffles). The most valuable of them are produced in Europe, with Truffle hotspots in Spain and France. While Australia and North America have plenty of Truffle farms.
Black Truffles vs. White Truffles
Tuber Melanosporum, or Black Truffles, are the most common type of Truffle. They are also known as Black Gold, French Black, or Périgord. They’re in season from mid-November till mid-March.
Tuber Magnatum, or White Truffles, are also known as Whitish Truffle, or Bianchetto. They have a garlicky flavor profile. White Truffles are available from mid-January till the end of April.
Truffles vs. Mushrooms
Both Truffles and Mushrooms come from the Fungi kingdom. Although, there are some key differences; they thrive in different climates, grow in different places, and have their unique place on the table. Truffles and Mushrooms can be thought of as distant cousins, as they’re both prized ingredients.
What Do Truffles Taste Like?
It’s hard to describe what they taste like unless you’ve tried them yourself. Black Truffles have an earthy aroma taste, while white Truffles have a pungent flavor and smell.
What Are the Characteristics of Truffles?
In terms of appearance, Truffles look like lumpy potatoes. Typically, Truffles weigh between 30 to 60 grams. They also range in color, from sandy white to dark brown- depending on the type of Truffle and its host tree.
Are Truffles Healthy?
Yes, they are healthy. They are a good source of fiber, protein, and carbs. Truffles are also rich in nutrients like Vitamin C, Calcium, Manganese, Sodium, Iron, and Phosphorus.
They are also high in antioxidants, including Vitamin C, Gallic Acid, and Homogentisic Acid- which are anti-inflammatory. Truffles also contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
Why Are Truffles Expensive?
Truffles can go for hundreds and even thousands of dollars per round. Why are they so expensive? Truffles are expensive because nobody has been able to cultivate them, they’re seasonal and can only be found in the wild. Depending on the growing location, you can find different varieties of Truffles at all times of the year.
Even farmers who cultivate Truffles find them finicky. This is because Truffles require a complex combination of conditions to grow, and they’re extremely high-maintenance. How to find truffles? Hunting with truffle dogs or pigs. Pigs love those true truffles and eat them after finding so many farmers prefer dogs for hunting.
Truffles need damp springs and cool winters, followed by moderate rain and hot summers. They also have a symbiotic relationship with certain types of trees, and grow near their roots. Truffles grow slowly, it takes six to seven years to get harvested and their season is short.
How are Truffle fungi Used in Cooking?
Truffles have a very strong and powerful taste, so ½ a teaspoon of oil or paste, a shaving, or a thin slice of Truffle can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of your dish. Most importantly, Truffle shouldn’t be the dominant flavor in a dish. They should be added in small quantities to pair well with mild foods.
What are the Best Alternatives to Truffles in Cooking?
They taste best when they’re fresh – meaning, they need to be used within a few days of purchase. If you have leftover truffles, put them to use by making truffle butter.
Butter is made by adding truffle oil, paste, or shavings with salt and butter. The butter is best enjoyed with polenta, mashed potatoes, and steak.
Truffle oil is lightly infused oil with Truffle flavor. The oil is best sprinkled over french fries, vegetables, scrambled eggs, poultry, fish, and more.
Truffle Mushroom Dumplings – Home Cook recipe
Truffle Dumplings ingredients
- ¼ cup (½ stick) of unsalted butter
- ½ pound of an assortment of wild mushrooms, such as Chanterelles, Shiitakes, and Oysters. Wipe them clean and chop (about 3 cups).
- ¼ cup of minced Shallots
- 1 tablespoon of chopped Garlic. If you like Garlic and Ginger together, mix them.
- ¼ teaspoon of Salt plus a pinch
- ⅛ teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper.
- ¼ cup of Heavy Cream
- ½ teaspoon of Black or White Truffle Oil or Paste
- 8 cups of water
- 20 Won-ton wrappers – dumpling wrappers
In a medium-size sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the assortment of wild, chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring for two minutes.
Add the minced Shallots, Garlic, Salt, and Pepper and cook for an additional two minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.
Add the Heavy Cream and Truffle Oil or Paste, simmering the combination for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool completely.
In a large saucepan, place the water and salt and bring them to a boil. Meanwhile, spoon 1 ½ teaspoon of the mushroom mixture into the center of each of the Won-Ton wrappers. Brush the edges lightly with water, folding one corner to the opposite corner- forming a triangle. Crimp the edges and seal.
Poach the WonTon wrappers in the boiling water until they’re soft and tender- for about three minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the dumplings from the water and drain them on paper towels. Season the dumpling with a pinch of truffle salt. Soy sauce or other dipping sauces if needed.
The best way to store Truffles to maintain their freshness is by individually wrapping them in a clean paper towel, and placing them inside an airtight container.