Florentine Truffle Balls

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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 soup. Which is good, actually, since I have a blog!

But oddly enough, there is one recipe that I’ve held dear to my heart, and I have no idea why. It’s one I copied from one in my mother’s collection. The original recipe was an Italian cake – Segretto della Dama. And it was incredible, with the addition of an buttery coffee icing my mother made.

One day many years ago I decided to turn the cake recipe into rum balls. I made this twist specifically for a Chocolate and Champagne gala in my town. Being a local cateress, I was asked to participate, and ended up winning! They were a big hit.

Truffles, real ones, are made from chocolate and cream, and are best made by a true confectioner. They are named after the fungus known as truffles because of their physical similarity. Sort of lumpy brown spheres.

Rum balls, on the other hand, have a crushed cookie or cake mixed in with the other ingredients. They’re much less delicate and easier to make, but that doesn’t make them less yummy.

The reason I named this confectionery truffle balls because it’s like a rum ball and sort of looks like a truffle! I call them Florentine truffle balls is because my friend, a now retired florist, decorated my table at the Gala with floral fabric and a statue that was Tuscan-inspired. The recipe has Italian heritage, after all.

Normally, these truffle balls are made with ladyfingers – the soft kind – not Savoirdi biscuits, which are the only kind I can find locally, as well as on Amazon. This is a first for Amazon disappointing me.

I could have made ladyfingers from scratch, which I’ve done it before. And if I can do it, anyone can. Just use a baking dish; no need to pipe the batter into “fingers,” when you’re going to be crumbling them up. I’ve always used Julia Child’s recipe from Masters of Cooking.

Another option is to make your favorite pound cake and lighten it by folding a couple whipped egg whites into the batter before baking.

Even though it’s really not like me to take major shortcuts in the kitchen, I picked up a pound cake at the store to substitute for the ladyfingers. It’s a heavier texture than lady fingers, but it works, and has no specific flavor.

So here’s the recipe for my truffle balls. I think you’ll find them exquisite, in spite of the purchased pound cake! Since I know how good they are, I doubled the recipe!

Florentine Truffles
Makes about 2 dozen balls

1/2 cup of whole almonds, approximately 2 1/2 ounces
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces ladyfingers or pound cake, broken up
1 tablespoon cognac, or to taste
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

First, toast the almonds in a skillet on the stove. Let them cool completely. Or, do this the day before. Place them in the food processor and process them until coarsely ground.

Add the chocolate chips and process until the chocolate is a similar texture to the almonds.

Add the pieces of pound cake and process again.

Add the tablespoon of cognac and sprinkle it into the food processor. If you want these to taste strongly of cognac, add more. I didn’t. Then add the butter and powdered sugar.

Process until a “dough” is formed.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, sieve 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.

Roll teaspoon-sized balls of the dough with your hands, or use a small cookie scoop, and them place them in the cocoa mixture.

Toss a few balls at a time in the cocoa mixture to coat completely, then place in a ziploc bag.

These truffle ball aren’t stable at room temperature for long because of the butter. I wouldn’t serve them at a party that lasted hours, unless I kept replenishing with chilled ones.

Also, these truffles freeze really well. I’ve made multiple batches of them for the holidays in previous years, and just pull them out of the freezer before guests come over. They’re a nice little treat.

What you taste when you eat one of these is buttery chocolatey goodness, along with some almond and cognac flavor. They’re quite lovely!

If you make these, be prepared to want to triple the recipe next time!

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

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Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

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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Home-Made Nutella on Buttered Toast

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.

Chocolate Pecan Mousse

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I’ve fallen in love with a product. Here it is. I buy it at Whole Foods in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and just now when I looked up their website, I realized that the company is in Oklahoma! We have a lot of pecans here. (As of 2020, I have not been able to find this product.)

It’s toasted pecan butter.

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Yes, I know. I finally have a Vitamix and I could so easily make this myself. It’s pecan butter, just like a peanut butter, but made from toasted pecans, and sweetened a little.

But instead of just spreading it on apples and overindulging, because it’s that good, (there’s a chunky version that is heavenly) I decided to use this stuff in a dessert, so I could really enjoy it.

I was having friends over for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a disaster of sorts with the pumpkin roulade I’d planned on serving. Let’s face it – things don’t always work out in the kitchen.

So that morning I ran to the grocery store to get some last-minute produce, and bought chocolate to make a, wait for it… chocolate pecan mousse!

I had a good 7 hours of chill time in the refrigerator before I served dessert, so I was pretty sure this would fit the bill. A bit of chocolate and pecan indulgence, but not too much. Topped with whipped cream and candied pecans. Oh, and layered with a creamy pecan butter!

So I set to work but then got a phone call from my daughter. I hadn’t even gotten the chocolate melted yet, but I don’t get to talk to my busy daughter that often. Oh, and I should point out that phones don’t work in my kitchen, which is why I just had to run in, turn off the heat, and run out. But after about 30 minutes I told her that I really needed to go.

Then, I got a call from a friend, and we gossiped chatted for quite a while. I have to say that I was getting a little nervous, because I usually make chocolate mousse the day before I plan on serving it!

Let me just say that I made it, chilled it, served it, and it was fabulous. Here’s my recipe if you want to try it, too! (And it worked with only 5 hours of chill time!)

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Chocolate Pecan Mousse

8 eggs
12 ounces good, semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup white sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons cognac
1 – 10 ounce jar pecan butter, divided
Cream, about 1/2 cup
Whole pecans
Sugar, about 1/4 cup
Whipping cream, slightly sweetened

Firstly, separate the eggs. Place the yolks in a small bowl, and the whites in a larger bowl.

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Place the chocolate, butter, sugar, espresso powder and cognac in a pot that is over a pan filled halfway with water over medium heat. This is also called a “double boiler” system.

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This is tempering, or melting the chocolate. Often chocolate is tempered by itself, and one drop of water or anything can seize up the chocolate and you have to start over. However, if there’s a significant amount of other ingredients, like the butter, in the pot, it will work perfectly.

Pour the oil from the pecan oil into a small bowl and save it. I actually used it on the roasted Brussels sprouts I made that evening, plus a little bit of pomegranate molasses. They didn’t taste pecan-y, but they were mighty good. Save the oil. Oh, and I tasted it because I didn’t want a sweet oil on the Brussels sprouts, but the oil itself that had separated from the pecan butter wasn’t sweet at all.

Now, back to the recipe. Add about half of the jar – a little over 1/2 cup – of the pecan butter to the chocolate-butter mixture. Gradually, using a spatula, stir the ingredients together until the chocolate and butter are completely melted. Remove the pot from over the hot water and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the remaining amount of pecan butter into a mini blender.

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Add cream and blend until it’s almost pourable, and set aside.

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Using an electric mixer on medium speed, begin adding one egg yolk at a time to the chocolate mixture, and beat it in well.

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The chocolate mixture starts out like this.

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And after all of the eggs are beaten in, it becomes thicker, very shiny and smooth.

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Because of the inclusion of the pecan butter, the chocolate-pecan mixture felt very differently than the traditional chocolate mixture does without pecan butter in it. I could tell it was much stiffer and would be more challenging to work with. But I kept going. Chin up.

Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Then, begin folding in the chocolate into the egg whites.

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Be patient, because it will, eventually work.

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I decided to quit folding and folding and just deal with some chocolate streaks within the egg white mixture – I didn’t want to deflate the mousse. My friends don’t care.

First place some of the creamy pecan butter in the bottom of parfait glasses.

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Then top that with the mousse.

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Refrigerate the parfait glasses immediately. If they would have been refrigerated overnight, I would have covered them with plastic wrap; I’ve always read that chocolate can pick up flavors from the refrigerator.

To make the candied pecans, place some pecans in a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle with white sugar.

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Eventually the sugar will melt. Don’t do what I did and completely forget that I’d just done this. I was playing on my ipad in another room when I started smelling burning pecans. The whole kitchen was full of smoke. Fortunately the smoke alarm didn’t go off, but it took about a half an hour to get the smoke out, clean the skillet, and start over.

So this is the sugar melting slightly.

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Use a spatula to move the pecans around and try to get them coated with what is essentially caramel – melted and caramelized sugar. When you’re happy with the color of the melted sugar, place the candied pecans on a plate to cool.

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Before serving, remove the parfait glasses from the refrigerator. You can do this up to an hour before if you like, but I like my chocolate mousse chilled. It’s your choice. Whip the cream and place a dollop on top each parfait glass.

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Chop the candied pecans coarsely and sprinkle them over the whipped cream. I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated way of “plating” this dessert, but plating is not my specialty. Again, my friends don’t care about such things!

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I was actually too full to have dessert that night, after all of the cheeses and other goodies I’d set out for hors d’oeuvres, so I enjoyed my mousse the next morning with an espresso. Don’t judge me. Desserts are fabulous for breakfast. As long as you can get past the heart beating extra fast for an hour or so.

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verdict: This mousse is even better than chocolate mousse. And chocolate mousse is heavenly. You can taste the toasted pecan flavor in the mousse itself, but having that layer of the bottom of creamy pecan butter really added to this dessert. A pretty tasty invention if I might say so!

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