Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hazelnut White Chocolate Truffles

This is a recipe that I sort of ended up making by accident; I initially saw this list of candy recipes on and wanted to make the Brown Sugar-Pecan Balls (still do!), but the truffle recipe was slightly simpler and fit better into the limited time that I had. The truffles started out as Coconut Macadamia Truffles, but I swapped in hazelnut for the macadamia due to the contents of my freezer, and brandy for the rum ('cause I've always got brandy around...), and suddenly the flavor was hijacked by the nuts and a hint of brandy bitterness.

These are great if you need a sweet treat that takes very little prep time, and can be made ahead - you just need to allow for the 4 hours setting time and time to roll them into balls prior to serving. Definitely a good holiday candy!

Hazelnut White Chocolate Truffles

8 oz. white chocolate chips
1 C (5 oz.) dry salted roasted hazelnuts
1/4 C heavy cream
2 T brandy (omit or reduce to 1 T if you aren't a fan)
1 1/2 C finely shredded unsweetened desiccated coconut

Finely grind white chocolate in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Pulse nuts in food processor until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).

Bring cream to a simmer in a medium skillet. Remove from heat and stir in brandy. Whisk in white chocolate until melted and ganache is smooth. Stir in nuts. Pour ganache into a plastic-wrap–lined 8-inch square baking pan and chill, uncovered, until firm, about 4 hours or overnight.

Invert ganache onto a work surface and remove plastic wrap. Cut ganache into 64 squares and roll each piece between your palms to form a ball. When all balls are formed, roll in coconut to cover completely, then chill truffles, covered, until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Omelettes à la Julia

My time in France and Israel has convinced me that an omelette is a great meal for any time of day, even though most Americans limit it to breakfast. I've discovered that it is a convenient and quick way to get some protein and veggies into my diet, and tastes like a treat when I cook it up fresh. You may not think that an omelette is a quick meal, but if you see the way Julia Childs does it, you'll want to have one every day.

After viewing Julie and Julia I started youtubing some of her TV show clips, and this one really captured me. Okay, to be honest, immediately after viewing the movie I bought a baguette and Brie, but later on, I searched for videos of her and found this one of her making a flat French omelette. It made me realize one crucial point: I have always overcooked my eggs. If Julia can cook an omelette in 20 seconds, what am I doing just letting mine sit in the pan for minutes and minutes? Granted, I'm not quite sure how she makes hers happen if there are fillings involved, but I'm working on it.

Here's the process if you want a straight-up, simply-egg omelette; be sure to watch the video to get nice footage of the pan sliding/shaking part:

1. Heat up a 7 or 7.5 inch diameter nonstick pan REALLY hot. I put my pan over as high a heat as my stove can do. Julia adds a tablespoon of butter, I spray the pan with canola oil - but you need something to grease the pan to make this work.

2. Crack 2-3 eggs into a bowl and scramble them. If I want to cut calories, I use one whole egg plus two egg whites. You can add salt and pepper here, and a tablespoon of water if you like.

3. By the time the eggs are ready, the pan will be hot, so you pour the eggs into the pan and let them just sit for a few seconds.

4. Then you start swirling the pan around flat to get the eggs to wiggle and set. I try to shift the cooked egg on the bottom so that the liquid egg on top has a chance at sliding over to the hot pan surface. Gradually start jerking the pan towards you and let the egg start turning over on top of itself. I do this until all of the egg seems solid (but not rubbery), keeping the back-and-forth movement in order to prevent browning (unless you like the browning, but it makes it less tender). I still do this longer than Julia does because I'm not a fan of runny eggs, but it ends up tender.

5. Roll up the omelette, either by hand or by rolling the omelette out of the pan onto a plate, salt and pepper, and shave cheese over it if you like.

Sometimes I scramble the eggs in a Tupperware at night, so that in the morning I can throw the greased pan on the stove to heat up, grab the eggs out of the fridge, and just dump them in the pan. Fresh breakfast in less than a minute!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monkey Cupcakes!

I know it's ridiculous, but I seriously can't move on with my life tonight until I post these photos. There's a monkey-themed baby shower tomorrow at work, so for weeks I've been scheming up how to get some cute monkey faces on the cupcakes without too much work (that is, less work than the fondant sculpting involved in this video).

I am so ecstatic that they turned out well with freehand piping; I found instructions on this website, and just went for it with cream cheese frosting on Mom's Carrot Cake (takes 20 minutes to bake the cupcake version). I am never able to execute piping with precision, but in this case that works out well - each face is different, in happy, quirky, childish ways.

Even the mud-colored icing I accidentally made (that kind of stuff always, always happens in cake decorating) came in hand for the eyes and mouths. I'm freezing the rest for the next monkeys...or whatever...that I make.

And here's one for my friend who had a bad day today: I'm going to save this guy for you to eat!

I had a brief moment of panic after making these when I thought "What if the mother thinks that I've tried to put baby faces on the cupcakes, but they just turned out ugly???" But then I remembered that it was the mother who chose the monkey theme...and I decided that I would make a "Monkey Cupcake" sign just to make sure all was understood.

Even if they would make pretty ugly babies, they are CUTE monkeys!

I hope you enjoyed this happy little album of crazy monkeys!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Alfajores con dulce de leche

I just made these bad boys (from the beautiful blog flagrante delícia), and I have to say that I feel sorry for my roommate, whose gluten- and dairy-free life prevents her from indulging in the decadence of thick creamy caramel just barely contained by flaky shortbread. Add chocolate and coconut on top, and I've now consumed the amount of calories I burned in my 90 minute run today...thank goodness I ran!

I've always been hesitant to make caramel by boiling a closed can of sweetened condensed milk for hours, since I feel like I should be able to make real caramel (see Dave Leb's post on how to make it just right) from good ole sugar and cream. However, for dulce de leche I decided to give this method a try, and I see the merit: it produces a wholly different consistency and flavor than could be produced through scratch caramel creation, and the process couldn't be simpler. I would recommend making the caramel a day or two prior to making the cookies, since it takes so long to be done (3.5 hours) and needs to cool completely before you work with it.

A couple of pointers on the alfajores: the crumbly dough will need to be worked into a ball by hand, and then should be rolled out as thin as possible; if it is thicker than 3-4 mm, the cookies will take longer than 5 minutes to bake. To produce the tenderest cookies possible, you'll want to remove them from the oven before they're browned on top. You'll know that they're done when they've puffed a bit taller (as in the photos, you can see some layers on the side of each cookie) and when you poke at them they feel dry to the touch and slide on the parchment paper. They end up very delicate, so dipping in chocolate is difficult unless you have the right equipment. You can always drizzle with chocolate instead!

If you don't have a kitchen scale, I've converted the gram measurements into American volume measures in parenthesis.

Alfajores con dulce de leche

Makes 40 (20 pairs):

Dulce de leche

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Place the can totally immersed in water in a pan.
Bring to boil over high heat.
Reduce to low heat and keep boiling for 3 1/2 hours.
Add water as needed.
Open the can when completely cold (very important!).
You can also use a pressure cooker.


112 g cornstarch (1 C)
125 g wheat flour (1 C)
1 egg
50 g butter, softened (~ 1/2 stick)
62 g icing sugar (1/2 C)
2 g baking powder (1/2 tsp)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 250ºC.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and the vanilla extract and continue mixing until well combined.
Add the sifted flour with the cornstarch and baking powder and mix until smooth.
Roll out the dough (3-4mm thick) over a floured worksurface.
Cut 5 cm diameter cookies.
Place the alfajores into the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 4-5 minutes.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack until completely cool.

Spread the bottoms of half of the cookies with a generous layer of dulche de leche.
Sandwich together with remaining cookies.
Coat with chocolate or grated coconut.