Sunday, February 11, 2007

Candy and Truffles

I heard from the hundredth person today that the candies my sister Bird and I made this Christmas were so fabulous that "I can't believe you made them yourself!" Hmmm. I'm not sure if this is a testament to the extreme fabulosity of the candy or the general assumption that I am, on the whole, incompetent. Either way, I thought I'd post a picture and some recipe info.

First of all, since I can never do any project on a reasonable scale, once the candy-making got started, we just kept rolling and dipping, and here's the final list of everything we made (in the form of the list I included with each gift box so that people would know what they were getting into). We almost had to buy a second freezer.

After Dinner Mints: bright colored minty fun
Almond Joy Truffles: coconut and chocolate rolled in crushed almonds
Caramels: don’t eat the wax paper
Caramel Truffles*: made with caramel liqueur inside milk chocolate, dark chocolate drizzle on top
Chili Truffles: chili and cayenne in chocolate, not for the faint of taste buds
Chocolate Covered Caramels: they’re squarish
Chocolate Covered Cherries: funny looking with red drizzle on top, but really yummy
Chocolate Covered After Dinner Mints: small and round, dipped in dark chocolate
Cranberry Cups: White and/or dark chocolate cups filled with cranberry chocolate filling and nuts
Cranberry Nut patties: White and/or dark chocolate filled with nuts and dried cranberries
Ginger Lime Truffles: lime and chocolate coated with ginger and covered in chocolate, green swirl on top
Mocha Truffles*: Kahlua and chocolate, rolled in cocoa powder
Orange Candies: round, covered in sugar, tasty but dangerous to one’s teeth
Orange Mint Truffles*: made with Cointreau and dipped in mint chocolate, sprinkled with powdered sugar
Oreo Patties: Dark chocolate patties with Oreo centers
Peanut Butter Balls: covered in milk chocolate
Raspberry Truffles*: made with Chambord, white swirl on top

*These contain alcohol.

Here's a picture of a few of the candies I still have left in the freezer (because of the aforementioned epic scale of my projects, I still have some left even after giving candy to everyone I know and some people I don't...) These are (top to bottom) ginger lime truffles, caramel truffles, cranberry nut patties, and almond joy truffles.

The funny thing about these candies is that, while I sometimes try to follow a recipe, it rarely works out and I end up making it up as I go along.
Truffles go something like this: Mix about 1/2 cup of coconut milk with about 1/2 cup of something else of the liquid variety, like liqueur, juice, or coffee - Chambord is one of the best options, in my opinion. Melt about 12 ounces, give or take, of chocolate in a double boiler (I am a microwave-hater, but supposedly it is also possible to melt the chocolate that way). You can use any kind of chocolate; I usually use a darker variety for the inside of the truffles, but it depends on the flavor. Mix the melted chocolate with the liquid mixture and refrigerate until it's firm. Then roll it into little balls and dip it in something, usually more chocolate. When I make the chocolate for dipping I use the double boiler again (I borrowed one from a friend this year so I could have two kinds of chocolate melting at any given time) and add a little Crisco (or more healthily, coconut oil) to it to make it a better consistency for dipping. Finally, dip the balls in the melted chocolate and lay them out on wax paper to cool. This year we did some dipping (which for me generally results in extremely tasty truffles that look like little odd-shaped turds - sigh), but we mostly used molds, which is more time-consuming, but makes them look nicer. To do this, we spooned chocolate into the bottom of the molds, then added the ball of truffle insides, then spooned more chocolate in to fill the mold. To expedite the process, put the filled molds in the freezer for a few minutes and when they've cooled, the chocolate pop right out. These candies can generally be kept in the fridge for quite a while and the freezer for a good long time.

Notes about melting chocolate and dipping or molding:
  • Milk chocolate melts more quickly than dark chocolate - pay attention
  • Milk chocolate and white chocolate do not remelt well, so use small amounts at a time and make more as you need it
  • Melt the chocolate completely, but let it cool a bit before dipping/molding
  • The truffle insides should be cool, but not really cold - the further apart the temperatures of the insides and outsides are, the harder it seems to be to make them work together
  • You can get candy molds at craft stores and often the grocery store

Caramels go like this: Mix equal parts (I think I used 2 cups at a time in a big old pot) condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and corn syrup. Cook on the stove until the mixture reaches what real candymakers called "firm ball stage" or about 248 degrees. Use a candy thermometer - it's much more economical than throwing out a few batches of hard-as-a-rock candy, not that I would know. It takes a while, and it will be bubbly. Keep it on medium heat and be patient. If you've got aching feet, pull a chair up to the stove and just keep stirring. When it reaches the right temperature, pour it into a greased cake pan, let it cool for several hours, cut it into squares with a table knife, and wrap it in squares of wax paper. These keep in the freezer for a long time.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about candymaking. Everything here is from reading recipes online and experimenting. I'd love to hear anyone else's ideas on the subject. Email me if you're interested in a recipe for anything on the list above.

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