I’ve been struggling – really struggling – to come up with header notes for my posts. I have completed stories already written; that’s not my problem. My difficulty lies in wanting to tell you about my encounter with Carlito, a charismatic Native American drug-addicted art peddler from New Mexico, and somehow tying that to my recent recipe for savory scones. I’m aware that my headers and recipes have never really synced. That red-thread between my life and my cooking has always been tangential at best. I don’t want to talk about Braeburns vs. Golden Delicious when posting an apple tart recipe – I want to tell you about the absurdity of my single girl life. But, some sort of transitional segue needs to be there – no matter how loose the connection. There’s a file folder full of delicious anecdotes and stories, like Carlito’s, languishing on my computer like the dibs and dabs of ingredients tucked away in Tupperware on the shelves of my refrigerator, just waiting for the right moment to be used. They never quite work with the recipe – or I forget about them. Weeks go by and the stories become stale and moldy, never seeing the pages of this blog; eventually they’re discarded.
Speaking of those dibs and dabs, I’ve been surreptitiously sneaking spoonfuls of leftover ganache from my fridge as my nightly dessert. Yesterday, I finally decided to turn the Tupperware of half-eaten chocolate crème into something I could proudly savor in public…and serve to my guests: Chocolate Truffles. Handmade truffles look impressive, yet they are so simple to make – and a basic ganache recipe can be transformed into dozens of flavor combinations that belie the limited hands-on time in the kitchen.
The ganache can be flavored with liqueur or extracts and the finished truffles can be rolled in various coatings for flavor combinations limited only by your imagination. I kept mine classic with a straightforward chocolate ganache and coated them in cocoa powder and maple walnuts.
6 oz. dark chocolate chocolate chips (60% cocoa)
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
Truffle coatings like cocoa powder, finely chopped candied nuts, chocolate sprinkles, crushed cookies or peppermint crunch
Place chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted (60-90 seconds). Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Using a small melon baller or spoon, scoop out truffles and roll into balls. Roll in desired coating and refrigerate until ready to use.
Bring truffles to room temperature before serving.
Inspired by one of my favorite recipes for Ginger Crunch Slices, these rich bars combine buttery shortbread, spicy ginger-cardamom caramel, creamy bittersweet ganache and sweet-salty hazelnut “croquant.”
I planned on giving them to the new neighbors across the street, but after eating two, decided to keep this batch all for myself.
More like an exotic candy than a cookie, the combination of butter, heady spices, bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts create quite a flavor bomb.
¾ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
7 Tablespoon butter
4 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons cardamom
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch square pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and beat until the batter just starts to clump together. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan, lightly prick the shortbread with the tines of a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel.
In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine caramel ingredients, bring to boil and pour over shortbread. Cool.
While caramel is cooling, heat sugar and water in a small nonstick skillet over high heat, swirling, until sugar dissolves. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, swirling occasionally, until amber, about 4 minutes. Add hazelnuts and stir for 30 seconds to coat.
Pour mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat, and immediately spread nuts on sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let cool. Coarsely chop.
Once caramel is cool, place bittersweet chocolate, heavy whipping cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk until completely melted and combined. Pour over caramel and smooth. Sprinkle with hazelnut croquant. Let set for an hour or two, or refrigerate until set. Remove from pan using foil, cut into 16 fingers.
I adore candied citrus peel. You won’t offend me if you’re not a fan (yet). You probably only know those chewy, tooth sticking, flavorless, processed nuggets that come in a grocery store tub. That’s what I thought candied peel was all about, too – until I made my own. Then, ooohhhh, I fell in love. Hand-crafted candied peel is pliant and juicy with the perfect balance between bitter peel and sweet syrup. Making your own takes a bit more work than opening a tub, but it’s the difference between a frozen beef patty and aged ribeye steak. I always make more peel than what’s needed for a recipe. That way, I can toss the remaining peel in sugar for a sweet snack.
Call me the uncertain Siren, keeping sentry over heaving oceans, afraid to beckon you; frightened that my foolish desires will leave you shipwrecked on rocky shores below. Yet, equally, I fear that the sweet chorus from my lips is not enough to entice you from your charted course. So I watch your ship pass, this melody trapped within my throat, and collapse heartsick atop my island bluff.
Oh my – chocolaty and creamy deulce de leche on top of a buttery shortbread crust.You can also reduce the salt in the shortbread to ¼ t. and sprinkle the tops with sea salt just before serving. Recipe from Gourmet magazine
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 13.5 can dulce de leche
4 large egg yolks
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, at least 60%, finely chopped
Make shortbread: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 9” square pan, line bottom and sides with 2 sheets of aluminum foil, butter foil.
With a fork, blend together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add flour and blend until a soft dough forms. Spread dough evening in pan, patting evenly into pan and prick all over with folk. Bake until golden 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack, about 30 minutes.
Make Topping: Bring cream and dulce de leche to simmer in a pan until fully combined. Whisk together yolks in a bowl and then slowly add cream mixture to yolks, tempering to avoid curdling eggs. Return to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture registers 170 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.
Pour chocolate mixture through a sieve over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until set, about 2 hours. Transfer to cutting board using foil and cut with a hot, clean knife (dip in hot water and wipe clean between cuts). Chill until ready to serve.
Each Easter, in addition to the milk-chocolate bunny, a nest of malted robins eggs, jelly beans and rows of peeps, the Easter bunny would leave me a ginormous fudge egg from See’s Candies called a “chocolate butter egg with pecans.” This thing was 13.5 ounces of pure chocolaty, sugary fudge and unconquerable for a child of four or five year old. I would try to consume this fudgy confection that was bigger than my hand, and each time, I would fail. I’d usually nibble the candy flowers from the top and maybe a slice or two of the fudge. That was the easiest way to eat it – to slice it like a loaf of bread, since it was about the same size. Eventually, I would donate my fudge egg to the family for consumption – that egg was no match for my four older siblings, but even still, it took a day or two to devour it completely.
I’ve never been a big fan of fudge – a little too rich, too thick, too cloying and too chocolaty – and also a bit temperamental to cook. I discovered this quick, no-cook fudge recipe recently and, cut into small, manageable 1-inch squares, quite conquerable, too. It was love at first bite.
5-minute Walnut Fudge
Sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
Semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
Chopped walnut, toasted
Flaky sea salt (like Maldon) – optional
Line an 8×8” pan with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. In a microwave, heat sweetened condensed milk and chocolate on high for 1 minute. Stir to combine. Heat an additional 30 seconds if needed until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla and walnuts. Pour fudge into pan and smooth. Sprinkle with sea salt (optional). Cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. Use aluminum foil to remove fudge from pan, cut into 1” squares. Store in an airtight container. Fudge does not need to be refrigerated – or donated to hungry siblings.