I haven’t written about Italy during this health crisis, though it hasn’t been far from my mind. The heartache of what was happening both there and here in the US was almost too great to bear and I focused my energy on those nearest to me. Everyone’s experience through this has been so vastly different and unique. I have so many friends who’ve lost their jobs, their businesses. I often ask myself, “How can I write about recipes and food when there are still so many people struggling to buy groceries?” I’ve remained largely quiet on the blog for that reason, and many others. Now, with the protests and unrest occurring nightly throughout the US and across the world, I wonder, “Will there ever be a right time to share this recipe?” The post has been written for weeks, and I contemplated waiting until next year to share the recipe, but who knows where we’ll all be then. Really, the right time is now, while it’s still technically spring – the season of fertility, rebirth and renewal. Please don’t see my decision to share this recipe and the story behind it today as indifference to the current events. My heart is broken for all that has occurred during the past weeks and months.
On most of our days spent in lockdown I felt like a bulldozer, plowing forward through the obstacles the virus presented, trying to tackle challenges and absorb the blows before they reached my kids and husband. It was an attempt to pave a smooth path for my family. I’m sure many of you felt the same. Now that the kids are on summer vacation and things are slowing down a bit around here, I realize that in my hyper-focused state of mind, I lost touch with the part of myself that experiences joy. It happens from time to time, especially when I’m stressed. I think it’s extremely important to stay deeply connected to what we love. It keeps us grounded, renews our creativity and feeds our souls. It’s been so long since I’ve immersed myself in the things that fuel my soul – visited a museum, surrounded myself with art, saw a play, listened to music, read a book for pleasure, or watched a film.
As things begin to reopen and life starts to veer toward a new normal, I’m focusing on recapturing the joy I’ve been missing. Music, movies, books and anything that reminds me of Italy. That’s where these little truffles come in.
I first discovered Capezzoli di Venere or “Nipples of Venus” in a little chocolate shop in Livorno. We walked by it almost daily on the way to the market. I remember being quite homesick that winter. I’d just graduated from high school the summer before and immediately caught a plane to Europe. A fledgling, learning to spread my wings and find my place in this world, I traveled often between the US and Europe and it was reassuring to know that I could always count on chocolate to be there, no matter which side of the Atlantic I found myself on. The shop’s window display changed every other week or so and around Valentine’s Day, these little treats showed up on a silver tray.
Later that year the movie Chocolat came out and it instantly became one of my favourite films. In the main character, Vianne, I felt like I had found a kindred spirit, traveling here and there, living a gypsy life. In fact, I loved the character so much that I later named my daughter after her, but that’s a story for another time. In one scene, Vianne offers a plate of “Nipples of Venus” to the town’s rigidly pious mayor. Given that it was the season of Lent, and that the mayor was a devout catholic, his reaction to her offering was particularly funny. This wasn’t the first time these sweets were featured in a major motion picture – they’re debut was in the 1984 film, Amadeus – but it was the one that piqued my curiosity. Of course, I had to learn how to make these “forbidden” confections, which are said to be so pleasurable that to eat them is like kissing the breast of the goddess herself.
I was lucky, during those years in Italy, that there was no shortage of amazing people to teach me to cook. We shared a communal kitchen with the other residents of our building, and it only took a few questions for people to start bringing out their family recipes, showing me how to temper chocolate, make ganache, chill it just long enough to keep it from melting when rolled between your palms. These truffles are traditionally made with chestnuts and topped with a raisin, but unfortunately, I’m allergic to nuts so I’ve taken a bit of creative liberty with the recipe. My husband and I really prefer this version. A white chocolate shell hides a supple, salted dark chocolate truffle, and the pièce de résistance is the little pink raspberry rosette on top. ♥️
Capezzoli di Venere (Nipples of Venus Truffles)
These are perfect to make around Valentine’s day, or anytime you want to serve a little romance with the dessert course. I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as we do.
8 oz. good quality semi-sweet baking chocolate (not chocolate chips)
2/3 cups heavy cream
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
16 oz. white chocolate candy shell (I use Dolci Chocolate Wafer Melting, 8 oz )
3 – 4 drops raspberry flavoring ( Lorann Oils Raspberry Flavoring, 1 Dram )
1 drop red food coloring
Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heat safe bowl. Add the butter and set aside.
In a sauce pan, heat the cream and vanilla until they come to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and butter and let sit, without stirring, for 5 minutes. The heat of the cream will melt the chocolate and butter. After five minutes, add a pinch of salt and whisk until the chocolate is smooth.
Cover the melted chocolate with a sheet of plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the chocolate. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, until the chocolate is firm, but not hard.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a melon-baller or small spoon, scoop out the chocolate ganache and place on the pan in tablespoon-sized mounds. Don’t worry if the mounds aren’t round yet. When all the ganache has been portioned out into mounds, place the pan back in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. After the ganache has hardened slightly, remove the pan from the fridge and roll each mound into balls between your palms. Place the balls back on the pan and put the pan in the freezer while you prepare the white chocolate shell.
Melt the white chocolate according to the package directions. (In the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring well between each interval until smooth.) In a small bowl place the raspberry flavour and the food coloring. Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the melted white chocolate shell into the bowl. Stir until the white chocolate, flavoring and colour are combined. The mixture should be light pink. Set aside.
Remove the ganache from the freezer. You want the balls to be very cold but not frozen. This will prevent the dark chocolate from melting into the white chocolate. To dip the truffles, insert a toothpick into the top of each ball and swirl it quickly in the white chocolate. Let the extra chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place the dipped truffle on a clean sheet of parchment paper and remove the toothpick. Don’t worry about the hole, you will pipe the raspberry rosette over it.
Transfer the raspberry flavoured chocolate to a disposable piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off. (If the mixture has become too hard to pipe, reheat it in the microwave for about 10 seconds.) When the truffles have hardened, pipe a small rosette on top of each one, covering the hole. Place the truffles in the refrigerator until chilled through before serving.
Store the truffles covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.