Tips for the Truffle Novice

June 26, 2023

Tips for the Truffle Novice

By Alexandra de Blas, 

There is no need for trepidation when it comes to cooking with black truffles. If you follow a few basic principles, you are bound to succeed.

What is a truffle?

The Perigord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is the fruiting body of a subterranean fungus. The fungus forms a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with the roots of hazelnut and oak trees and is harvested by dogs who are trained to find the powerful aroma of the mature truffle.

The truffle is a deep black colour with a rough outer surface formed by many small diamonds. Inside the black/brown flesh is filled with a network of white veins. The perfume is very difficult to describe. It has an intense earthy, musky aroma with sweet, roasted notes but how we experience the scent is highly subjective. Analysis of the truffle found it has around 150 flavour compounds which vary between truffles.

Truffle magic

The truffle can work in three ways,

  • It can draw out the flavour of other foods making dishes taste absolutely delicious, enhancing the umami flavours, but without necessarily smelling strongly of truffle.
  • A strong truffle taste and aroma is often evident in simple foods that have formed a deep connection with the truffle such as scrambled egg or custard made from eggs that have been trufflated for several days in the fridge.
  • Smelling and eating truffle can create a frisson or sense of joy and excitement. I call it the purring pussy cat feeling because I feel it in my cheeks. Perhaps this is partly why it has an age-old reputation as an aphrodisiac.

Cooking with truffles

As soon as your truffle arrives, place it in a glass jar with fresh eggs with paper towel to absorb moisture. I call this process trufflation (pronounced truffle-ation or the verb to truffle-ate). Change the paper each day or so as the truffle produces moisture when it respires. The aroma will permeate the shells and after two or three days when you crack the egg open you will be hit with wafts of intense aroma. Generously shave fine truffle pieces into the egg, cook gently without overheating and add truffle shaving over the top when you serve.

The volatile organic compounds that give truffles flavour are fat soluble, so it is good to cook truffles with foods high in natural fats such as butter, cream, lard or eggs.  Heat also brings out the flavour. Renown Sydney chef, Stefano Manfredi, says heating truffle between 40 to 60 degrees Celsius is ideal. It is also important to shave or grate the truffle to break the membrane holding the flavour molecules.

While truffles have a powerful aroma that will infuse other foods, the truffle will also absorb scents. Make sure you store them in a sealed container, so they don’t pick up other smells from the fridge. If you are planning to make a risotto or rice dish, set aside the amount of truffle you plan to use and place it in a jar with the rice. The perfume will infuse the rice. Unlike eggs which don’t diminish the truffle’s power, rice can dehydrate the truffle and lessen its effectiveness in other dishes. If you use it with the rice you have trufflated it will still work well.



Truffle custard

4 egg yolks

1-2 teaspoons of corn flour

50 grams of castor sugar

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

600 ml of cream (replace some with milk if you prefer)

5 grams of truffle in custard

1 or 2 grams for shaving on top

Trufflate the eggs in a glass jar in the fridge for two to three days.

Separate the eggs and yolks and grate a few gams of truffle into the yolks and set aside for a day. In a sealed container.

Dissolve corn flour in a small amount of cold water in a cup, add to eggs, sugar and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the cream and shave in one or two more grams of truffle.

Poor mixture into a double boiler and stir consistently until the custard thickens. Enjoy taking it slowly and be sure not to boil.

Shave additional truffle over custard before serving with your favourite fruits.

Truffle meringue

I discovered the joy of truffle meringue in 2009 when I bought a truffle to celebrate my first year in business at de Blas Communications. I held a dinner party for about thirty friends and made a truffle egg custard with plums and quince for dessert and noticed everyone went back for multiple helpings. I had masses of egg whites left over and decided to make several pavlovas to use them up. I was blown away by how delicious they were. Trufflation plus truffle shavings elevated the humble pav to a whole new level. I’ve included my recipe for meringue below but you can swap it for your pavlova recipe.

4 trufflated egg whites

2 grams of truffle

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla

200 grams castor sugar

Preheat oven to 150 degrees and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form then add sugar a little at a time while still beating. Then beat in vanilla. Place small spoonfuls of meringue on baking tray and bake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off, leave door slightly ajar and allow meringues to cool completely in the oven. Store in an airtight container lined with greaseproof paper.

Meringues go well with truffle custard, cream and seasonal fruits.

For more ideas about what to cook at home visit the truffle recipes page.

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