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Brittle and truffles and bark, oh my!

 

If cooking is an art, and baking is a science, then candy making is molecular chemistry combined with astrophysics. Candy making is fussy; it requires patience and complete precision. For example: when making fudge, you have to cook it to 240 degrees (also known as the soft ball stage). If you undercook it, you get hot fudge sauce; if you overcook it, you get a fudge brick. I should know, I’ve done both.

 

Candy making is also the most satisfying when done correctly; the perfect chew of taffy, or the crackle of brittle. I decided to make 3 different candies for some Christmas goodie bags; peanut brittle, Irish Crème truffles and almond peppermint bark.

old-fashioned peanut brittle Bon Appétit | November 1992


Makes about 3 1/2 pounds.

ingredients
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
4 cups coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
preparation
Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. Stir first 4 ingredients in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until candy thermometer registers 260°F., about 40 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Mix in peanuts and butter and cook until thermometer registers 295°F., stirring constantly, about 15 minutes. Add baking soda and vanilla and stir briskly (mixture will foam up). Immediately pour out onto prepared baking sheets, dividing evenly. Spread out brittle as thinly as possible. Let stand until cold and hard.

Break brittle into pieces. Store in airtight containers at room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 month ahead.)


Perfect Chocolate Truffles


These truffles are meant to look like the real thing—small, irregular mounds instead of perfectly spherical balls. If you decide to omit the liquor flavoring, reduce chocolate from 9 to 8 ounces. For microwave-oriented cooks, you can melt the chocolate at 50% power for about 3 minutes. The ganache mixture is quite forgiving. If it cools too much in step 1, place the bowl in a larger pan of warm water and stir the mixture until it has softened and warmed up. If this overwarms the mixture, cool it again as directed. The same flexibility applies if you overwhip the ganache by mistake. Simply warm it over the hot water, cool it, and whip it again. One person alone can dip and coat the truffles, but the process is simpler with a second person to roll coated truffles in cocoa and lift them onto a clean pan.

Makes 2 dozen 1-inch truffles


Ganache
9ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarse
1/2cup heavy whipping cream 
2tablespoons unsalted butter 
1tablespoon light corn syrup 
2tablespoons  Cognac , dark rum, Grand Marnier, Framboise, Kirsch, Frangelico, Amaretto, Kahlua, or port

Chocolate and Cocoa Coating
8ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate
2cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder , sifted


1. For the ganache: Melt chocolate in medium heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water, stirring once or twice, until smooth. Set bowl aside. Bring cream, butter, and corn syrup to strong simmer (about 160 degrees) in non-reactive pan over low heat. Remove pan from heat, cool for 5 minutes, then whisk into chocolate. Whisk in liquor. Refrigerate mixture until it cools to 80 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Either in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment or with handheld electric mixer, whip mixture at medium speed until slightly lightened and thickened to a texture like store-bought canned chocolate frosting, 25 to 30 seconds. Spoon ganache into large pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tube. Following illustration 1, hold bag perpendicular to pan and with tip about 3/4 inch above work surface, and pipe 3/4 -inch mounds (pulling tube away to the side to avoid leaving points) onto parchment or wax paper-covered baking sheet. Alternatively, scoop mounds with tiny (less than 1 tablespoon) ice cream scoop or melon baller. Refrigerate mounds until hardened, at least an hour.

3. For coating: Following directions in step 1, melt coating chocolate, then cool to 90 degrees, making certain that no water comes into contact with chocolate. Arrange chilled truffle mounds, bowl of melted chocolate, and cocoa-filled high-sided roasting pan on work surface. Working one mound at a time, dip palm of one hand about 1/4-inch deep into melted chocolate, pass one truffle mound with other hand to chocolate-covered hand and close hand around mound to coat, re-dipping hand into chocolate every third or fourth mound (see illustration 3). Drop coated truffle into cocoa; roll to coat using fork held in now empty clean hand, leaving truffles in cocoa until chocolate coating has set, about 1 minute. Repeat process until all mounds are in pan of cocoa. Following illustration 4, gently roll 5 to 6 truffles at a time in medium strainer to remove excess cocoa, then transfer to serving plate or tightly covered container. (Can be refrigerated for up to one week.)

Almond Peppermint Bark

G’s own creation

 

An easy recipe, just time consuming, waiting for all the layers to solidify. You can use any type of chocolate or nuts that you’d like.

 

1 lb of white chocolate

1 lb of dark chocolate

1 box of candy canes (crushed)

½ cup of sliced almonds (or any other nut)

 

Layer a large rimmed baking sheet (13 X 17) with parchment paper.

 

Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler, add nuts. Spread evenly on parchment. Refrigerate till solid. Crush candy canes. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler, add 80% of the crushed candy canes. Spread evenly on top of the dark chocolate. Sprinkle remaining candy on top. Refrigerate again, till solid. Break in to pieces and put in tins of bags.



It was a time consuming ordeal and certainly a labor of love, but what is Christmas about? Besides, it was a perfect activity to do while I watched R shovel outside in the cold, snowy, icy weather.

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