White Chocolate Almond Truffles

Continuing in our week of chocolate, I thought I’d share a white chocolate recipe. These are rich, quite sweet¬†little treats, that don’t taste strongly of almonds or white chocolate. The flavor seemed almost caramelly to me. But not even exactly that either. ūüôā Still, these would make a unique addition to your holiday treat repertoire.

I did find the rolling of these to be incredibly tedious. Truffle rolling is always messy, but somehow these just didn’t want to be rolled.¬†See my note below the recipe¬†with a possible alternative finish to these candies.

WHITE CHOCOLATE ALMOND TRUFFLES

1 pound white chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup natural almond butter
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup blanched almonds

Break chocolate into pieces no larger than a lima bean. Either pulse chocolate in a food processor fitted with a steel blade or chop by hand.

Heat cream, almond butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a simmer. Stir in chocolate. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan, and allow chocolate to melt for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture until smooth, and transfer to a 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Chill mixture for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

While mixture chills, preheat the oven to 350¬įF. Place almonds on a baking sheet, and toast for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven, and in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse to finely chop the almonds. Or chop finely by hand. Set aside.

Place chopped almonds in a bowl. Using a spoon, scoop out 2 teaspoons mixture, and gently form it into a ball. Roll balls in chopped almonds, and then refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Cook’s Note: If I make them again, I think I might grease my square pan, sprinkle in a layer of finely chopped, toasted almonds, pour in and spread the hot truffle mixture, and then sprinkle the top with the remaining chopped toasted almonds. Then, instead of little truffle balls, you could cut truffle squares.

Variation: Substitute natural peanut butter and dark chocolate to make chocolate peanut butter truffles.

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Baker’s Delight: Cherry Chocolate Almond Oatmeal Cookies

Do they have a long enough name? ūüôā These are from the wonderful Bon Appetit Dessert Cookbook. I adapted them based on the ingredients I had but they were delicious! I’m going to go ahead an include the recipe as written in the book because I would totally make them exactly as written.

Cookies are one of my favorite desserts – they are perfect for picnics and pitch-ins, most of them freeze very well, and they are usually fairly easy to put together. They are also one of my favorite things to bake!

CHERRY-CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES
Bon Appetit Dessert Cookbook
Print This Recipe

1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. plus 2 Tb. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. dried tart cherries
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted

Position racks in center and top third of oven and preheat to 325¬įF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar in large bowl until well blended. Mix in egg and both extracts. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in oats, then chocolate chips, cherries and almonds.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 12 minutes. Switch and rotate baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden, about 6 minutes longer. Cool cookies on baking sheets (cookies will firm as they cool). (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

International Cuisine: Chrov Plov

My oldest two sons were born in Kazakhstan. We feel so blessed to have the chance to celebrate and explore another culture. And we truly love the country, people, and food (!) of Kazakhstan. March 22 marked the Kazakh New Year (Nauryz) and so we enjoyed celebrating with friends and eating some traditional dishes. This was one of my absolute favorites but I will be sharing four different recipes throughout the coming weeks Рthey were all delicious.

The recipes were adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2 – my mom and I both have recipes in the book as well as many other talented cooks (how is that for a shameless promo! :)). Please feel free to check it out – the fundraiser is put on by Two Hearts for Hope and all proceeds from the sales of the cookbook benefit orphans in Kazakhstan. And the cookbook features many different types of recipes in addition to several Kazakh recipes.

CHROV PLOV
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
Print This Recipe

1 c. rice, uncooked
¬ľ c. almonds, chopped
2 T. currants
2 T. raisins
6 dried prunes
3 T. dates, chopped
4 T. butter
¬ľ c. dried apricots, cut into strips
1 T. honey
2 c. water

Soak dates, currant and prunes in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry, mix with apricots and raisins. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat and add the fruit mixture and almonds. Reduce the heat to low and stir for four minutes. Stir in the honey, rice, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, serve hot.

*I very successfully made this in my rice cooker by adding the sautéed fruit, almonds, butter, and honey to the rice and water in the cooker.

Off The Shelf: A Year in Provence

When I read the first sentence of A Year in Provence¬†by Peter Mayle, I knew¬†I would love the rest of the book: “The year began with lunch.” What better way for a book about food, Provence, and life in general to begin!

If you love food and travel and have never read Peter Mayle, I suggest you begin! His first book, A Year in Provence, is my favorite. It chronicles a year in his life as he and his wife settle as foreigners into a house in the depths of the Provencal region of France.

Mayle gives funny little anecdotes of what he finds life to really be like living in a place where most people only go for a week’s holiday. He gives special attention to describing the food he discovers and eats throughout the year. Let me give you an excerpt from his record of that first day of the year:

“…when we heard that over in the village of Lacoste, a few miles away, the proprietor of Le Simiane¬†was offering a six-course lunch with pink champagne to his amiable clientele, it seemed like a much more cheerful way to start the next twelve months.

By 12:30 the little stone-walled restaurant was full. There were some serious stomachs to be seen — entire families with the embonpoint¬†that comes from spending two or three diligent hours every day at the table, eyes down and conversation postponed in the observance of France’s favorite ritual. The proprietor of the restaurant, a man who had somehow perfected the art of hovering despite his size…quivered with enthusiasm as he rhapsodized¬†over the menu: foie¬†gras, lobster mousse, beef en croute, salads dressed in virgin oil, hand-picked cheeses, desserts of a miraculous lightness, digestifs. It was a gastronomic aria which he performed at each table, kissing the tips of his fingers so often that he must have blistered his lips.”

A Year in Provence is not a recipe book, it’s a food memoir. Needing a recipe for this post, I began looking for something quintessential Provence. And then I realized what the 6th of January is: La Fete des Rois or “The Celebration of the Kings” (i.e. Epiphany). In Provence, and all of France, a special dessert called a “King’s Cake” will be made (or bought) and served throughout the land in honor of the kings who visited Christ after his birth. It seemed most appropriate.

I had my doubts about how this would taste, having never seen, nor heard, about this cake before. I was pleasantly surprised, along with the others at my table. The feathery light pastry combined with the just-sweet-enough, soft almond filling makes for an amazing dessert. We all loved it and I already have plans to make it again before the month is out.

KINGS’ CAKE
(adapted from a recipe found on recipezaar.com)

1 package puff pastry sheets, thawed (my package had 2 sheets)
1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. almond meal or flour (I had to grind raw almonds in my heavy-duty blender)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
1/4 c. flour

1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. water for glaze

Make the frangipane: cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the almond flour and almond extract. Add the eggs one at a time, to gradually incorporate them. Fold in the flour.

Cut a circle the size of your baking pan from¬†one sheet of puff pastry. Place in a 9-inch tart pan (I used my 10-inch springform¬†pan). Spread the frangipane¬†mixture over the top, not quite reaching to the edges. Brush egg lightly around the perimeter so¬†top layer of pastry will adhere to bottom layer. If you want to be authentic, you will at this point hide a bean¬†somewhere in the frangipane to bring “good luck” to the finder. (I was too afraid of dental bills to do that.)

Cut a second circle of pastry. Using a knife, cut a design in the top, or at least make vent holes. Place the pastry over the frangipane and press edges to seal. Brush the cake with egg.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (mine took about 42 minutes) until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool.

Serves 12.