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.

Florentine Truffles

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I love to share recipes. I’m not one of those who hides them away, not revealing the “secret” ingredient in my sauce or cookie recipe. Which is good, actually, since I have a blog. It would be odd to have a cooking blog with no recipes.

But oddly enough, this is one recipe that I’ve held dear to my heart, and I have no idea why. It’s not for sentimental reasons. I copied the original recipe on an index card when I was young, from a recipe in my mother’s collection. The original recipe was actually an Italian cake recipe – Segretto della Dama. I will make it one day for the blog, because it’s delicious and quite unique, in that the cake requires no cooking.

One day about a million years ago I decided to turn the cake recipe into rum balls. I made this recipe twist specifically for a Chocolate and Champagne gala in my town. Being a local cateress, I was asked to participate, and I was happy to oblige. (I was also on the board of this particular arts council!) I ended up winning a beautiful silver platter for these Florentine truffles. They were definitely a big hit.

Truffles, real ones, are made from chocolate and cream. They are actually named after the fungus known as truffles because of their physical similarity. Sort of lumpy spheres. Rum balls, on the other hand, have a crushed cookie or cake mixed in with the other ingredients. They’re much less delicate, but that doesn’t make them less yummy. The reason I named this confectionery truffles is because they actually look like real truffles, even thought they can be categorized as rum balls.

I decided to make these “truffles” for my wedding anniversary last month, sort of at the last minute. I didn’t want to make a giant cake for just the two of us, but I knew we’d both enjoy a little sweet treat after dinner.

Normally, these rum balls are made with lady fingers – the soft kind – not Savoirdi biscuits, which are the only kind I can find locally. In the past, I’ve actually made lady fingers just for this cake recipe because it’s that good. I never pipe out the actual fingers, I just put the batter in a pan and baked it. You see, you end up crumbling and processing the lady fingers for this recipe anyway.

But without lady fingers of any kind, I decided to cheat a little, even though it’s really not like me to take some major shortcuts in the kitchen. So forgive me, but what I did was pick up a pound cake at the store. I trimmed the sides and weighed it.

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So here’s the recipe for my rum balls, or cognac balls, to be exact. I think you’ll find them exquisite, in spite of the purchased pound cake!

Florentine Truffles
This recipe makes about 2 dozen balls

1/2 cup of whole almonds, approximately 2 1/2 ounces or 70 grams
8 ounces pound cake, broken up
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

First, toast the almonds in a skillet on the stove. Let them cool.

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Place them in the jar of your food processor and process them until finely ground.
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Add the pieces of pound cake and process again.
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You want the cake and the almonds to end up the same consistency.
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Add the tablespoon of cognac. If you want these to taste strongly of cognac, add more. I didn’t.
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Then add the butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar.

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Process until a “dough” is formed.
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Place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
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Meanwhile, make up a mixture of 2 parts cocoa powder and 1 part powdered sugar in a small bowl. You will only need about a total of 3-4 tablespoons total for this batch of truffles. Alternatively, use a high-quality cocoa mix. I actually used Ghirardelli brand hot cocoa mix. Hmmm. Another shortcut. The cocoa powder and powdered sugar is much prettier.

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Roll teaspoon-sized balls of the dough with your hands,
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and them place them in the cocoa mixture.
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You can actually roll quite a few balls, and then toss them around in the cocoa mixture at the same time; it saves your hands from getting too chocolatey.

I like to toss the balls in the cocoa mixture, and then also roll them again between my hands, because I feel that way they look more like truffles. But you can leave them nice and powdery if you prefer.
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The only problem with these truffles is that they’re not stable at room temperature for long. I wouldn’t serve them at a party that lasted hours, unless I kept replenishing chilled ones. The butter just makes them too soft.
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Also, these truffles freeze really well. I’ve made multiple batches of them for the holidays, and just pull them out of the freezer before company is coming over. They’re a nice little treat.
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I just freeze them in sealable plastic bags. I also toss some of the leftover cocoa mixture over the top so they don’t end up sticking together.
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What you taste when you eat one of these is buttery chocolatey goodness, along with some almond and cognac flavor. They’re quite lovely! And also, what I like, is that they’re little bites.

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note: Do not adjust the ingredients in this recipe. If you add too much cake or too many almonds, there will not be enough butter to keep the rum balls soft and moist, and you’ll be disappointed in the texture. Weigh out the almonds to keep the ingredients at the proper ratio.