Amy's Kitchen Blog

A Culinary Journey

Mint Truffles

The overall feedback on my mint truffles was that these are my best truffles yet!  I’m not actually a big fan of anything mint flavored, but friend of mine requested these and when I came up with a recipe that seemed right I had to try making them.  Originally, I thought I would have to put mint extract into a chocolate ganache, but I was hoping for a filling that wasn’t chocolate based so I kept looking.  The mint filling is actually adapted from a mint brownie recipe that includes a similar mint layer on top of the brownies, but the filling doesn’t actually include any chocolate itself.

One difficulty of this approach is that the filling is quite soft.  It must be frozen before it is handled, both to roll the truffles and to dip them.  Even after spending hours in the freezer, the filling will not be frozen solid.  This makes dipping particularly tricky; the entire truffle must be coated in warm chocolate, the excess removed, and the product safely transferred back to a hard surface.  I began dipping using a dipping spiral, but the filling melted into the spiral too much to be reasonably easily or presentably removed.  I had the most success with a two-pronged dipping fork.  I still wasn’t able to tap off excess chocolate as much as I would usually like to after dipping these, but once the chocolate cooled and hardened, I just went through and broke off the “feet” where it had made a little puddle around the bottom of each truffle.

An observation I made about the finished product was that some of them seemed to ooze a little bit if there was a crack in the chocolate or any place where the filling was exposed.  I’m not sure what caused this, but it’s something to look out for.  I’ll have to see if it happens again next time and investigate further.

Just one last note about an ingredient.  I had to check around at few local stores before finding mint extract.  Even the more “specialty” grocery stores didn’t carry it.  For once, Wal-Mart saved me!  If you can’t find it locally it is available online, but is generally more expensive if purchased that way.

Recipe:

Makes 25-30 truffles.

Ingredients:

2 .5 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
2 drops green food color
7 ounces dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients except chocolate. Freeze until firm.
  2. Use scoop to form mint filling into balls. Freeze until firm.
  3. Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl. Melt chocolate in microwave at medium power. Use dipping fork to coat mint balls in chocolate. Place on wax paper on cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm.  Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
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Crème Brûlée

This is a surprisingly easy recipe for a dessert that seems so extravagant.  It takes just a few simple ingredients as well as the right tools.  The main custard part is easy and there are many variations on the flavor.  I had a harder time with the caramelized sugar on top because I’m not a crème brûlée connoisseur and wasn’t quite sure how it was supposed to turn out.  Fortunately, it hardened up without too much trouble despite a few spots that started browning (I’m not sure if that means it’s overcooking?).  I used a kitchen torch to caramelize these, but the original recipe (Betty Crocker’s Crème Brûlée) includes directions to use a broiler instead if you don’t have a torch.

I bought the ramekins (ceramic dishes) and a kitchen torch together in a set from Amazon.  They are also available locally at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and Target.  If you’re thinking about investing in a set, are a lot of options available; I chose my set based upon price, size of ramekins, and customer reviews.  A good starter set will run between $20 and $35 for the ramekins and torch. Some include the butane (usually not included when purchased online, but your local grocery store should cell butane for lighter refills that can also be used to fill the torch) or a package of dry ingredients as well. There are also some higher-end sets that are more expensive but higher quality, and sometimes include a rack to hold the ramekins in a water bath while baking (they are still easy to bake in a water bath without the rack).  As far as ramekin size goes, I thought bigger would be better so that each guest could have more and therefore bought 6 oz ramekins.  There are smaller, shallower ones available and in hindsight I would recommend these.  The dessert is quite rich and it is difficult for one person to eat the entire 6 oz portion.  The shallower ones often have more surface area for the caramelized sugar which is also a plus.

Recipe:

Makes 4 6 oz. servings.

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 teaspoons granulated sugar (for caramelizing on top)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In 13×9-inch pan, place 4 (6-oz) ceramic ramekins. In small bowl, slightly beat egg yolks with whisk. In large bowl, stir whipping cream, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla until well mixed. Add egg yolks; beat with whisk until evenly colored and well blended. Pour cream mixture evenly into ramekins.
  2. Carefully place pan with ramekins in oven. Pour enough hot water into pan, being careful not to splash water into ramekins, until water covers two-thirds of the height of the ramekins.
  3. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until top is light golden brown and sides are set (centers will be jiggly).
  4. Using tongs or grasping tops of ramekins with pot holder, carefully transfer ramekins to cooling rack. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours but no longer than 48 hours.
  5. Uncover ramekins. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons granulated sugar over each chilled custard. Holding kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from custard, caramelize sugar on each custard by heating with torch about 2 minutes, moving flame continuously over sugar in circular motion, until sugar is melted and light golden brown. Serve immediately after caramelizing sugar; if it sits for a while it will get soggy.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Tarts

These delicious little tarts were a hit for Valentine’s Day!  Hiding inside the chocolate cookie mix base is a filling of strawberry preserves.  You might not be able to tell from the picture, but they are actually mini-muffin sized which is good because the pink strawberry frosting and Cool Whip mixture piped on top makes them extra sweet.  I added the heart-shaped sprinkles instead of mini chocolate chips the recipe recommended to sprinkle on top to make them holiday-appropriate.

Some notes about the recipe:

First, try not to overfill the muffin papers. I only have enough mini muffin pans to make 24 at once.  The recipe says it makes 36.  I figured I’d just distribute the cookie dough among my muffin papers, filling them pretty full, and still had some left over.  The fuller ones rose too much, so I wouldn’t recommend filling the muffin papers all the way up.

Second, the recipe says to bake the cookie part for 8-10 minutes, but mine took a little longer (probably because I overfilled them!).  Just be sure to check if they’re done before pulling them out of the oven.

Recipe:

Makes 36 tarts.

Ingredients:

1 pouch Betty Crocker double chocolate chunk cookie mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping (thawed)
1 cup strawberry frosting
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (or sprinkles)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Place miniature paper baking cup in each of 36 mini muffin cups.
  2. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil, egg and water until soft dough forms. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into baking cups.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set. Gently press end of wooden spoon into bottoms and against sides of baking cups to flatten, being careful not to make holes in dough. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  4. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon strawberry preserves into each cookie cup.
  5. In medium bowl, fold whipped topping into frosting until well combined. Spoon frosting mixture into decorating bag fitted with medium star tip, and pipe into the center of each tart. Top with chocolate chips. Store loosely covered.

The original recipe can be found here: Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Tarts

Pink Meringues


These are an excellent and exciting twist on the traditional meringue cookie.  I’m really late with this post, but I made them right before Valentine’s day because the cookies turn out a festively pink color due to the addition of raspberry jello to the mix.  This recipe lends a subtle raspberry flavor to the cookie and is a wonderful complement to the little bits of chocolate provided by the mini chocolate chips.  As with other meringue recipes involving chocolate chips that I have attempted in the past, I can’t seem to get the meringue to remain pipeably stiff upon the addition of the chips.  Instead, the cookies must be spooned onto the baking sheet and fall into more rounded shapes than a traditional meringue batter would do.  I got the recipe from a friend of my mother’s; I might have her inquire about the technique if it is possible to keep the egg whites stiff.

Recipe:

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

3 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ½ tablespoons raspberry jello (do not use sugar free)
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup miniature chocolate chips  (preferable to regular sized ones)

Directions:

  1. Beat egg whites and salt until foamy.
  2. Add jello and sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
  3. Mix in vinegar.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Line cookie sheets with brown or parchment paper.  Drop by teaspoon onto paper.  Bake at 250 degrees for 1/2 hour and leave in oven turned off until totally cold (works well over night).

Dark Chocolate Truffles

 

These truffles are great if you like dark chocolate. I couldn’t really taste the Godiva Liqueur, so next time I plan to omit that and just add a little more heavy cream instead. It could also be replaced with a flavored liqueur to give it a little extra taste (like something hazelnut or berry flavored).  It’s a pretty standard plain chocolate truffle recipe.

Recipe:

Makes about 30 truffles using 1.5 teaspoon scoop.

Ingredients:

7 ounces dark chocolate (Nói Síríus, 70% extra bitter)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1.5 tablespoons Godiva Original Dark Chocolate Liqueur
unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions:

  1. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt in double boiler.
  2. When chocolate is melted, stir in butter and heavy cream until uniformly mixed.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur.
  4. Refrigerate until firm.
  5. Scoop out truffles and roll in hands to make round (these don’t have to be flawless spheres, the cocoa powder will cover up a lot of imperfections in shape). It helps to coat hands in cocoa powder first to reduce the stickiness of the chocolate as it melts between your hands. I also found it easier to scoop a few truffles, then roll them all instead of scooping and rolling each one individually because of the mess they made on my hands.
  6. Roll truffles in cocoa powder, tap to remove excess, and refrigerate until firm. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

Blackberry Puree

I am trying to recreate a blackberry martini I recently had at a local bar. The first step is to make blackberry puree. I’ll post the actual drink recipe once I get that hammered out, but here’s the puree in the meantime.  I tried to find this ingredient online so that I didn’t have to make it, but I had a tough time finding any that was of a reasonable quantity and price.

This is an easy process, the longest part is waiting for the frozen blackberries to thaw. I also divided the final puree into small plastic containers so that I can just pull out a portion that’s just the right size for one drink so that I don’t have to thaw it all each time.  From on 16 ounce bag of frozen blackberries, I got a similar liquid volume of puree. I’m planning to also use this recipe with raspberries to make a raspberry martini. Yum!

Recipe:

Makes about 16 ounces.

Ingredients:

16 ounces frozen blackberries, thawed
6 tablespoons sugar

Instructions:

  1. Puree berries and sugar in blender.
  2. Strain to remove seeds (Don’t skip this step, there are a lot of seeds!).
  3. Refrigerate for up to 2-3 days or freeze.

Pumpkin Cake Truffles

I’m way behind on my posts.  I made these pumpkin cake truffles for a Thanksgiving Potluck in early November and they were a big hit, even with people who aren’t too crazy about pumpkin things.  The inner texture turns out similar to a pumpkin pie but maybe a little bit more firm and I think a lot more flavorful.  I tried to make the truffles a bit more festive by dipping them in a white chocolate that I had colored orange with some gel food coloring and then was planning to do them up like pumpkins with thin lines for the ridges around the pumpkin and a little green leaf and stem.  Unfortunately I have little experience working with white chocolate and it seized pretty quickly.  I only got a few dipped and they certainly weren’t pretty.  I was so disappointed! I finished the rest by just dipping in a semi-sweet chocolate.  They didn’t look distinctive at all, so I left out a picture this time.  I’ll have to look into how to work with white chocolate to avoid such a mishap again!

The recipe for these truffles is included below, but I found it here: http://crepesofwrath.net/2010/10/15/white-chocolate-pumpkin-spice-truffles. This website has wonderful step by step detailed instructions with pictures.  I made the cake in two 8×8 pans thinking maybe I would keep one as a cake and make the second into truffles, but the cakes fell and were quite dense (I think as a result of the pumpkin) so I made it all into truffles because the cake didn’t look proper for serving.

Recipe:

Makes 100+ truffles using 1″ scoop.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

For the frosting:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (plus another 2-3 cups as necessary)
2 teaspoons milk or cream
2/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the truffles:

16 oz. (1 bag) white chocolate (I used white chocolate chips – it’s probably best to have 2 bags on hand, just in case)
orange and green gel food coloring (do NOT use liquid food coloring)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Begin by browning the butter. Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat. It will foam at first, but just keep stirring occasionally. When it is a golden amber color, remove from heat, strain, and set aside to cool a bit.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and allspice. Set aside. In your large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat until combined, then add in the butter, mixing until combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Gradually add in the flour mixture, finishing by hand if needed so as to not overmix.
  3. Spread the batter into a greased and/or lined 9×13 cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and just slightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely before removing.
  4. While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined, then add the 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons milk or cream, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Beat until light and fluffy, as least another 3 minutes, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in another cup of powdered sugar, beat until fluffy, then another, and beat again until fluffy. The frosting should be firm but not stiff. Add another cup of powdered sugar if you feel that the frosting is not firm enough (it should hold peaks for a moment or two).
  5. When the cake has cooled, place it in a large bowl with half of your frosting and mix until combined. If the cake is not holding together in ball shapes, add half of the remaining frosting, mix, and check the consistency again. If you want, add the rest of the frosting, but you probably won’t need to. On a lined baking sheet, roll the cake into balls using a scoop, then place on the sheet. Continue until you have used up all of the cake, then place in the fridge or freezer to firm up for 20-30 minutes.
  6. To make the truffles, now you will have to melt your chocolate. Use a double boiler to do this. Heat over medium heat. Add 3/4 of the white chocolate into the top pan, maki stir ng sure there is absolutely no way that any water will ever come in contact with it, and stir gently until melted.
  7. When the chocolate has melted, add in a few drops of orange gel food coloring, and until you have the color you want. Take one cake ball at a time and roll it in the chocolate with a fork or dipping spiral until covered, then remove and place back on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have done all of your cake balls. Place in the fridge or freezer to firm up for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Now melt the rest of your white chocolate and add green food coloring to decorate the truffles with stem and leaf. Spoon the melted, colored chocolate into a piping bag with appropriate tip. Decorate truffles with a stem and leaf. Return to fridge or freezer until ready to serve.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Recipe:

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces dried cranberries
2/3 cups white chocolate chunks or chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, mixing well.
  3. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Stir in sweetened dried cranberries and white chocolate.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.

Snickers Bar Cookies

These cookies were a great way to use up an extra bag of Halloween candy and were a big hit at the office.  They’re even better if you put them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up before eating them.

When baking these cookies, stick with the lesser-end of the suggested baking time.  They may not look like they are browning when you take them out, but will dry out if you keep baking them until they start to turn golden brown.

Recipe:

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons salt
20 SNICKERS®  fun size candy bars (1 pkg.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cut candy bars in 1/2.
  3. In large bowl combine first 6 ingredients and cream well.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix well.
  5. Shape about 1 tablespoon of dough around each candy pieces, smoothing it into a ball. Make sure candy is completely covered.
  6. Place 4 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet, flatten slightly. Bake t 350 degrees for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown.  Be careful not to overcook as cookies will dry out.  Cool slightly and remove from cookie sheet.

 

Salted Caramel Truffles

 

Someone brought a box of salted caramels to a Girls Night I was at last spring.  None of us had seen them before, but once someone braved the first one and said how delicious they were the whole box was devoured in no time!  I had to have more.  I asked for purchasing information and bought the very last box from the store before they discontinued them.  Then I searched online and couldn’t find that brand anywhere.  Sure there were others, but I wanted what I had tasted and knew was good.  That’s when I decided that I would learn to make them.

Salty sweets seem to be the new trend.  A few months ago I tried a salted chocolate caramel recipe from some random website and found that a chocolate-caramel center doesn’t really taste like caramel at all because the flavor and consistency are obscured by the chocolate.  This time I got them right: make a soft, chewy caramel, then just coat that in chocolate and sprinkle some salt on top.  Perfection!

I poured the leftover caramel from dipping caramel apple truffles from my last recipe into a buttered pan and just sliced those up to use in this recipe.  If you want to just start with making caramels please look back at that posting for instructions.  You can use any variety of chocolate or salt you prefer for these truffles.  I used the Nói Síríus 56% bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with either a traditional white sea salt or Hawaiian Alaea Red Salt for a little exotic color.  Red Alaea is sea salt is created through natural evaporation when it is trapped in tidal pools and mixes with red volcanic clay. The red color itself comes from the extremely high amount of iron in the clay.  I didn’t really notice a difference in flavor and was expecting to get more of a bright red to contrast against the color of the chocolate.  That said, they did look nice and were quite good but I am not convinced that it is worth the investment to put a specialty salt on these.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

Caramels
7.05 ounces chocolate
1 tablespoon salt
  1. Measure even rows of caramel in pan and cut.  Roll each caramel into a ball and refrigerate.
  2. Fill bottom of double boiler with water (not enough to touch bottom of second pan).
  3. Heat water on low to medium heat until simmering, but do not boil.
  4. Place chopped chocolate in top of double boiler. Stir until smooth.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Dip caramels using dipping spiral. Tap off excess chocolate. Place on wax paper-covered cookie sheet.
  7. Cool briefly and sprinkle with salt before chocolate hardens.
  8. Refrigerate until firm. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.