Amarena Cherry Cake

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I always have Amarena cherries on hand, because my husband loves Manhattans, and I put them in his cocktail. I’ve also used them in sangria, but never baked with them. Until now.

If you buy Italian Amarena cherries, via Amazon, the beautiful jar has a recipe attached for a cake using them, along with this terrible photo. It looks like my grand daughter made this cake!

My cake definitely turned out prettier, and more what this cake is meant to look like!

On the left, below, are the cherries I order from Amazon. Trader Joe’s also sells these cherries.

It’s challenging to describe Amarena cherries. They’re almost candied, but not really. They’re not as sweet as a Maraschino cherry. And they come in a lovely cherry syrup. They would be wonderful on ice cream, or topped on buratta!

I’ve also seen Amarena cherries in biscotti, at the blog Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. I cannot wait to make those!

Amarena Cherry Cake with Chocolate
Cake with Amarena Cherries and Chocolate

200 grams Amarena cherries, drained
2 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine-grained cornmeal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat butter with powdered sugar until light.

Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat in orange liqueur and the syrup. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to a soft peak; fold in gently. Fold in the cherries and chopped chocolate until just incorporated.

Bake in a greased and floured 9” cake pan (loaf pan) at 375 degrees for approximately 65-70 minutes. (I baked mine at 350 degrees and removed it after 45 minutes.)

I’m sure by now you know that this cake is exceptionally good. How could it not be with these cherries and chocolate together?!

Warmed up, served with unsalted butter, was heavenly.

In the photo of the recipe, shown below, the name of this cake is plum cake. I consulted my friend and Italian cooking expert Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help explain why it’s called plum cake when there are no plums.

“It is not necessarily a cake with cherries that is called a plum cake in Italy. Any cake that more or less follows the “quatre quarts” recipe is called a plum cake in Italy.

Originally, a plum cake is any cake that has dried fruit in it, like prunes or raisins. The word “plum” is used loosely. In Italy, plum cake is thought of as a recipe from England. I believe that nowadays a plum cake is usually called a fruitcake in England.

In Italy, the name plum cake is used for any cake that is rectangular and has flour/sugar/butter/eggs as the main ingredients.

A cake in Italy that is rectangular with flour/sugar/butter/eggs plus cherries would probably be called a plum cake, or more completely a “plum cake alle ciliegie” (literally: plum cake with cherries).”

I hope that helps! It’s still a little confusing to me. This photo shows part of the recipe.

Chocolate Yogurt Mousse

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My sister recently told me about a dessert she often serves to company. It’s a chocolate mousse made with Greek yogurt. The original recipe came from Maria Speck, Food 52. To serve, the mousse is topped with orange marmalade.

The purpose of my making this mousse was two-fold. Firstly, I wanted to try out the recipe, since it’s obviously beloved. But secondly, I wanted to attempt to duplicate the dessert my mother and I shared at a restaurant, that I mentioned in my previous post. It was a chocolate dirt pudding – chocolate mousse topped with crumbled cookies and served with mint chocolate ice cream, except we had them leave off the ice cream.

The mousse was so intriguing to me because it tasted like a chocolate mousse folded with sour cream or creme fraiche. Turns out, it could have been yogurt. In my memory, the mousse was so similar to this recipe.

The key to this recipe is using a good dark chocolate. Also, my sister suggests that if you don’t want a liqueur included, to use some kind of extract as a substitute.

Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4

6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other good-quality orange liqueur
1 cup (240ml) whole Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons orange marmalade

Place the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and leave it to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.


Stir with a spatula or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ganache.

In a small bowl, beat the Greek yogurt with a small whisk or a fork until smooth.

Fold the yogurt into the chocolate mixture using a spatula until thoroughly combined, then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.
If you like a boozy dessert, add the second tablespoon.


Spoon the mousse into four small serving cups and chill until firm, or up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto each serving. It was truly a magical combination. I added whipped cream, but that did nothing for me.

My sister told me not to bother to use raspberries; they get lost in the strong chocolate flavor. During the summer, she uses peaches tossed with rose water as a topping. Lovely.

Now, on to the chocolate dirt pudding. I added scoops of mint chocolate ice cream to the chilled mousse, and sprinkled crumbled Colpa Degno cookies over the top.

Wow. Let me first say that I’m not a huge fan of mint chocolate ice cream. However, this dessert was out of this world.

My husband’s favorite sweet flavor combination is mint and chocolate, so he was really happy with my blogging experiment.

There is just something about this mousse! With the yogurt, it’s thick and chocolatey, but not overly sweet. And with the crumbled cookies, it was outstanding.

 

Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4
6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other good-quality orange liquor
1 cup (240ml) whole Greek yogurt (2% is also okay, but don’t use nonfat)
4 teaspoons orange marmalade

Place the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and leave it to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir with a spatula or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ganache.

In a small bowl, beat the Greek yogurt with a small whisk or a fork until smooth. Fold the yogurt into the chocolate mixture using a spatula until thoroughly combined, then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

If you like a boozy dessert, add the second tablespoon.

Spoon the mousse into four small serving cups and chill until firm, at least one hour, or up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto each serving.

Colpa Degno Cookies

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There is a lovely restaurant called Powder that I take my mother to when I visit. It helps that it’s close to where she lives, because if I visit at any time between October and May, who knows how much snow I have to contend with getting anywhere not close.

My mother lives in Park City, Utah, which is known for its powder-like snow, thus the name of the restaurant. The restaurant is in the Waldorf Astoria, which doesn’t really seem to fit in my mind with the quaintness of Park City. The Waldorf makes me think of New York City for some reason.

In any case, when I last visited Mom in December, we dined at Powder and luckily didn’t have to deal with a blizzard.

The food has always been superb there, and the service slow but good. It seems like we have always ordered their charcuterie and cheese platter to start. Here are three of them I happened to document.

The first hurdle is always my mother fainting over how the waiter pronounces charcuterie. Being French, it’s still hard for her, even after 65 years of living in the U.S., to hear French words mis-pronounced. I’ve given up trying to convince her that charcuterie is a difficult word for Americans to say.

Also being French, my mother has a daily chocolate requirement, or at least enjoys a sweet after lunch. So after our cheese and you-know-what goodies, including an outstanding paté, we perused Powder’s dessert menu.

I ordered the Chocolate Dirt Pudding, but without the mint ice cream. She thought it would be too rich, like that’s ever stopped her!

This is what it looked like, after we both attacked it like we were starving. Not the prettiest dessert, but the black cherry fudge sauce was indescribable. Neither of us tasted the cherry part, interestingly enough, but it didn’t matter. The sauce, which was really a pudding, was fabulous.

After getting back home, I looked into Colpa Degno cookies, which were the crumbled “dirt” on the pudding. Turns out the name roughly translates to “worth the guilt.”

From Food52: Created by Megan Fitzroy Phelan, currently an owner of Richmond, Virginia’s lauded Longoven restaurant, and formerly a Sullivan Street pastry chef, these cookies are small and addictive and so delightful that they are well worth any remorse you might feel from eating a half dozen or so.

The actual cookie recipe is in this book:

I’m not much of a cookie or dessert maker, but I really wanted to recreate the dessert, including the mint ice cream, for my husband’s birthday. He loves chocolate and mint together, and he deserves a sin-worthy treat! And it all started with my making Colpa Degno.

Colpa Degno Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 scant cup (40 g) unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Whites from 2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 g) milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup (100 g) dark chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt with a fork in a medium bowl to combine.


Whisk together the egg whites and the vanilla with a fork in a small bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg whites; stir the mixture with the fork until it just begins to come together.

Add the chocolates and stir until well combined. The dough will be extremely sticky and as dark as black licorice.

At the bakery, we use a #60 scoop (like a small ice cream scoop) to scoop and ball these, but an ordinary 1 tablespoon measuring spoon works well too.

Pack the batter into the spoon by squashing and dragging the spoon against the inside of the bowl to make sure the rounds of dough are tight and compact – if the dough is too loosely packed, the cookies tend to really spread out and separate as they bake.


Place the rounds of dough on the parchment-lined cookie sheet a good 3” apart and bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops are glossy and set.

When the cookies are done, they will be quite gooey, but they will continue to cook as they cool.

Once they’ve cooled off enough to eat, they should be soft and chewy – if they’re hard or crisp, they’ve baked too much.


Cool the cookies on the paper, set on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Serve these cookies the day they are made.

Sneak preview to next post!

The Dirty Snowman

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It’s rare that I peruse a men’s clothing catalog, because my husband isn’t a stylin’ kind of guy. Which is fine with me, since I’m not either. We probably often look like a couple of vagrants.

But during the catalog-intense period of time prior to Christmas, I happened to check out a men’s catalog that intrigued me. It’s called Huckberry, and the catalog pages were cute, with photos like this one.

But what got me excited was a cocktail recipe that was in the catalog, called The Dirty Snowman.


It contains cognac and dark beer, neither of which I like. I think it was the chocolate and hazelnut rim on the glass that got my attention!

Here’s the recipe:

The Dirty Snowman
Makes 1 drink

Cocoa nibs and chopped hazelnuts, for garnish (I used chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1/2 ounce simple syrup, plus a little extra for the rim
1 teaspoon cocoa nibs (again, chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1 1/4 ounce cognac
3 ounces dark beer (I used Guinness)
Splash coconut milk (I used freshly whipped cream)

Use simple syrup to rim a glass with the hazelnuts and chocolate.



In a shaker, muddle the 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of chocolate.

Add the cognac and shake well with ice.

Strain into the rimmed glass, add ice, and top with beer.

They suggest floating a splash of coconut milk on top, which could be tasty, but I preferred to add unsweetened whipped cream.

My husband loved it, and suggested I make some on Christmas eve.

Oh, and it turns out that Huckberry sells much more than men’s apparel. Cute stuff.

Mille Crêpe Cake

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Mille. What is that – a million? Well, a thousand, but still, a lot. A Mille crêpe cake is one created from stacked crêpes that form layers. In between the crêpes can be just about anything from jam, curd, mousse, marscapone, whipped cream, pastry cream, and much more. The flavor possibilities are endless, with fruits or chocolate or nuts included.

Here are photos I discovered on Pinterest of Mille Crêpe cakes; photo credits below.

Aren’t they just stunning?

Just recently, my blogger friend Suzanne, from A Pug in the Kitchen, wrote a post that really spoke to me. She wrote about challenging herself in the kitchen, so as to present posts of her creations that were much more than “everyday” food.

All of us who follow Suzanne love her blog just as it is, plus admire her tireless work as a passionate animal advocate as well, but I completely understood what she was saying.

I actually went through this quite a few years ago, before I began my blog. It stemmed from the fact that my daughters had moved away, I had retired from catering, and I was only cooking for my husband. His meal requirements are simple, which is fine, but I missed the creativity from the years I cooked for others. And you can only have so many parties!

So I began making dishes that were “out of my comfort zone,” so to speak. One Christmas I made a yule log, for example, and it came out pretty darn well! And all of that led to me starting this blog almost four years ago, where I’m able to make dishes I consider fun, and use ingredients I personally love.

The only negative with food blogging, when there’s no one around to eat what you make, is that you must eat it all yourself, or feed friends who have similar tastes. That is challenging when my favorite foods are snails, steak tartare, pigs feet, pork belly, stinky cheese, and everything liver.

In any case, what also seemed poignant in Suzanne’s blog post was that she planned on taking a whole day off of work in order to make a Mocha Daquoise for her upcoming birthday!

I also had an April birthday, and I’d pondered making a Mille Crêpe cake for so long, that I decided it was finally time! In all honestly, Suzanne has a much bigger challenge on her hands.

To make this cake one must first make crêpes. Then I had to figure out a filling.


The very top middle photo is by Honestly Yum, and the filling is a mixture of marscapone and dulce de leche. I happened to have chestnut cream in my pantry. Mixed and lightened with marscapone will make a perfect filling.

For the top? So many options, but I thought of simply melted dark chocolate. Done.

Just to see if she had a Mille Crêpe in her book, I looked at Dorie Greenspan’s book “Around my French Table.”

She doesn’t have an actual cake recipe, but she had this to say.

To me, that sealed the deal. No recipe is really needed. Turns out this may not be as challenging as I previously thought, but still a little more attention to detail than what I typically put into a dish.

To make the crêpes, I followed my own recipe, adding a little vanilla extract. You might have your own tried-and-true recipe; just make sure you get 18 – 20 crêpes for the cake.


For the filling, I mixed together 32 ounces of marscapone and 12 ounces of chestnut cream, both at room temperature.

After refrigerating the crêpes overnight, I began the ordeal of stacking and filing them. It didn’t start well.

My filling was a bit on the thick side, even though it was at room temperature. At that point I probably should have added some whipped cream, but I didn’t. I pursued. I discovered that pressing with the top crêpe with my fingers was the best way to get the filling spread evenly, all the way to the edges.

This is important otherwise the cake would be domed in the middle. This was definitely tedious, but I persisted.

I covered the cake with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Then I proceeded to melt 12 ounces of dark, bittersweet chocolate. One bit of advice I read in a cookbook is that when you are tempering chocolate, you are melting it. You are not cooking it. I always have remembered that, and even if it takes a bit longer, I melt chocolate over very low heat.

Now comes the challenging part for me, as I am no pastry chef. If you haven’t figured that out already, you will definitely come to that conclusion on your own.

I gently poured the chocolate over the cake, and let some dribble down the sides. Then I refrigerated the cake for 30 minutes.

The cake sliced easily enough, although the hard chocolate shell wanted to crack.

That was when I realized I should have made a chocolate ganache instead of using melted chocolate. Oh well.

The cake itself was delicious, although a ganache would have made the “icing” more pleasant.

Will I make a mille crepe cake again? Probably not. But I’m glad I made it and survived my challenge. It was truly delicious. And, I ended up with a birthday cake that was just as enjoyable the next morning with coffee!

The green matcha cake is from http://matchatearecipes.co.uk/post/122421717800/matcha-mille-cake
The black and white cake is from https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyhorng/awaken-your-dessert-love-sensors-with-this-black-white-mille?sub=4201473_8372322&utm_term=.nnJJKl0pQ#.vbZNyXZOz
The red velvet cake is from https://www.sweetandsavorybyshinee.com/
The Boston cream cake is from http://www.willcookforsmiles.com/2013/08/boston-cream-crepe-cake.html

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

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Back when I followed the recipe for a chocolate and nutella spread that was supposedly “better than Nutella,” I made three suggestions for utilizing the spread. One was to mix it with whipped cream and create a chocolate hazelnut mousse.

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So that’s just what I did. I’ve actually done it with real Nutella. It takes a little coaxing, but eventually the whipped cream and Nutella will blend into a wonderful mousse-like texture.

It’s so easy. The most important thing is to warm the Nutella to room temperature first.

Pour 2 cups of whipping cream into a large bowl. Whip the cream, using an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form.

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Place about 6 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl.

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Add a few tablespoons of the whipped cream, and gently beat the two together until the spread softens.

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Then gently fold the remaining whipped cream in to the Nutella, taking your time.

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Save about 4 tablespoons of whipped cream for a topping, if desired.

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Place in 4 serving glasses.

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If you don’t mind deflating the mousse a bit, you can use your electric mixer to get a smoother blend.

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The mousse can be served immediately; it doesn’t require chilling.

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Serve with a dollop of the extra whipped cream, or marscapone or creme fraiche.

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Chocolate curls would be pretty too!

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Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, I enjoyed my mousse with a glass of sherry!

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Enjoy!

Better than Nutella?

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Many years go I purchased a Vitamix, Professional Series 300. Having gone through various brands of blenders, I was excited to finally get one with a strong reputation.
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I also purchased a smaller blender jar for dry ingredients. I’d always thought it would be fun as well as economical to make nut butters. But have I? No.

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While on a road trip in November, I read many food magazines (doesn’t everyone?) and came across this recipe. Chocolate hazelnut spread that is better than nutella. Nutella is pretty darn good, but home-made is always better of course. So I knew this would be the recipe to christen that dry blender jar.

I used my cell phone to photograph the recipe and unfortunately do not remember from which magazine this recipe came, but I did find it on Epicurious.com.

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Here’s what I did to make the “real” Nutella, based on the above ingredients; my verdict below.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, or Gianduja

2 cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Toast the hazelnuts on the stove in a cast iron skillet. Let cool.

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Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

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Combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Melt slowly and stir until smooth and shiny.

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So here’s the deal – my hazelnuts and sugar never formed a “buttery paste” like they were supposed to. So I added all of the cream to the blender. You can see from the photo, the blender was working hard to combine the hazelnut mixture with the cream.

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The resulting mixture was stiff and thick, but smooth and not gritty.

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The recipe says to “whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste.” Since my hazelnut paste already contained the cream, I simply folded the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate, gradually, stirring well.

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Pour gianduja into four clean 8 ounce jars, dividing equally. Let cool.

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Gianduja can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled.

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Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.

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If you don’t know what to do with chocolate hazelnut spread besides eat it with a spoon, I’ve got a few suggestions:

1. Spread in warm crepes, roll and eat.

2. Thin with cream and serve drizzled over a fresh-out-of-the-oven Dutch Baby or Crespella.

3. Fold gently with beaten whipped cream for an instant mousse.

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For a treat, I spread some chocolate-hazelnut spread on buttered toast.

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verdict: I’m befuddled as to why my hazelnuts didn’t grind into a hazelnut butter. Secondly, the recipe claims that the nutella will thicken; mine was already really thick, and definitely not “pourable.” My husband said that the spread reminded him of cupcake batter, which I think is an excellent comparison. Also, I would suggest 12 ounces of chocolate instead of 16 ounces, or use bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet. It was too chocolatey for me.

So is this stuff good? Yes, but I will tweak the recipe next time.

Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.


In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.
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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!
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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.
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Chocolate Cashew Truffle Balls

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There is really no great name for these little treats, because they’re a cross between truffles and rum balls. So I call them truffle balls. I love to make up recipes for these bite-sized treats because just about everything works. Real chocolate truffles aren’t difficult to make, but they’re more delicate in nature. These “balls” are sturdier, with a cookie crumb base, mixed with chocolate and spices and sometimes rum or other liqueurs.

I posted on one such rum ball, namely ginger spice truffles, made with a base of gingersnap cookies, spiced with cinnamon and ginger. I created that recipe for a holiday charity event many years ago, because the ingredients are inexpensive, but the individual truffle balls are great for serving hundreds of people. But it’s really easy to only make a couple of dozen truffle balls, too.

For a dinner party, something like truffle balls are a generous treat with espresso or sherry, without being an overbearing dessert like a huge slice of cake that one feels obligated to eat.

At the bottom of this post is a guideline for creating your own truffle ball recipe. For now, here’s my most recent creation that I made for my cashew-loving husband.

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Chocolate Cashew Truffle Balls
makes about 2 dozen

8 ounces chocolate, I used semi-sweet
4 ounces or 1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup or 6 ounces cashew butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces, or approximately 6 graham cracker squares
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
2 heaping tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

In the top of a double boiler, place the broken up chocolate, butter, cashew butter, and vanilla extract. Slowly, over medium heat, let the water heat up and allow the chocolate and butter to begin melting. At a certain point, if you’re worried that the water is close to a boil, reduce the heat. The melting will continue.
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Using a spatula, stir occasionally. Remember, you’re not trying to cook these ingredients, simply melt them.
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At the point the ingredients have blended smoothly together, remove the pan from atop the pot and set aside for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, then place in a large bowl.


Pour the chocolate mixture into the graham crackers and begin to stir.
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Make sure the chocolate and graham crackers are uniformly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to make the balls, sift together the cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
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Scoop out the “dough” using a teaspoon or cookie scoop.

Roll them into similarly-sized balls, and then place them in the cocoa-confectioners’ sugar mixture. After you’ve made 4 or 5, toss them in the coating, then place them in a serving bowl, or a plastic bag. If you’re not serving immediately, they store very well in a sealable bag. In fact, they freeze well this way.

Right before serving, take them out of the freezer or refrigerator and let warm slightly. They are not as sensitive to melting as real truffles, but I wouldn’t put these out hours before a party, either. The texture should be firm, yet melt in your mouth.

I’m very pleased with this recipe. The cashew flavor is mild, so I’m glad I didn’t include a liqueur.

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Because of the cashew butter, there is a slight grainy texture to these truffle balls, which I don’t mind. If you prefer, simply use chopped cashews in the chocolate and butter mixture. There are so many choices.

If you want to create your own recipe for truffle balls, here are some guidelines:

1. Pick a cookie, either a flavored cookie (like gingersnaps) or a plain one (like shortbread). Make it seasonal!

2. Pick a chocolate – the sweetness of the chocolate depends on the other ingredients.

3. Pick a liqueur. Because these truffle balls are not cooked, don’t go overboard.

4. Butter is a must because it helps firm up the balls and add richness.

5. Extraneous ingredients can include nuts, crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, broken candies, dried fruits, or in this case, cashew butter. Plus, there’s coffee or orange juice concentrate. Even rosewater.

6. Seasoning, if desired, can be cinnamon, nutmeg, espresso powder, etc.

7. Pick a coating. Truffle balls need something to fancy them up a little, which can be melted chocolate into which they’re dipped, or a combination of cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar, like I used. Adjust the ratio depending on how sweet you want the coating; just cocoa, or even cocoa mix will work just as well. I prefer my truffle balls not cloyingly sweet.

Fruit and Chocolate

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I have a thing for the combination of dried fruits and chocolate, like dried apricots dipped in chocolate. Every holiday season I plan on dipping some variety of dried fruit or candied fruit in chocolate, but I know, in the end, I will be the only one who eats them.

photo from Windy City Sweets

photo from Windy City Sweets

Then I came across a recipe that combines chocolate and dried fruit – figs, to be specific – with nuts thrown in. And these bars seemed like something everyone would love.

The original recipe is in the book shown below, and it combines bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, and figs. Doesn’t that sound spectacular? I made the switch to hazelnuts just because I happen to have a lot left over from the holidays; plus they’re my favorite nut.
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I typically would have added different fruits to the mixture as well, but I held back, limiting it to the nuts and figs like in the actual recipe.

This batch was made last week, and what my husband didn’t eat went into a freezer bag. Maybe I’ll pull them out on Valentine’s Day. But what is funny, is that he wouldn’t eat a chocolate-dipped fig, yet he gobbled up these bars.

And that’s life cooking for people, isn’t it?!!

So here’s the recipe as printed in the cookbook.
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No-Bake Chocolate, Macadamia and Fig Slices

100 grams/6 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
300 grams/10 ounces dark/bittersweet chocolate
100 grams/3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
6 digestive or other sweetmeal biscuits/graham crackers
100 grams/2/3 cup shelled macadamia nuts
100 grams/2/3 cup ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped

Place the butter and chocolates in a double boiler and slowly begin melting the chocolate. I omitted the honey.

Meanwhile, grind the graham crackers, or whatever biscuit/cookie you’re using, in a food processor until smooth.

Measure out the hazelnuts, or whatever nut you’re using, as well as the figs. Add them to the graham crackers.

By now the chocolate should have begun melting. You want to be patient and wait until it’s smooth and shiny.

Mix together the chocolate and the goodies, then immediately spread into a foil-lined baking dish. The recipe suggested a 7″ square pan, I used a 5″ x 9″ rectangular pan. No greasing of the foil is necessary.
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Let the mixture cool, then cover the pan tightly and refrigerate for a few hours.

To serve, slice in the shape of biscotti, and top with a light dusting of cocoa.


As you can imagine, these are a wonderful chocolatey treat. I like their rustic appearance as well.

I enjoyed one with an afternoon coffee, though it was hard limiting myself to one.
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I wasn’t kidding when I said my husband finished off all of the bars that didn’t fit into the freezer bag, which I think totaled six. Well, he’s not on a diet.

verdict: These are fabulous. I’m really glad I omitted the honey. My only complaint is that these could be heavier on the dried fruit and nuts. Next time I’ll include dried cherries and apricots.