February 12, 2011

Celebrating Chocolate With Coconut Truffle Squares, Oreo Cookie Truffle Hearts And Spiced Fruit & Nut Mincemeat Truffles!


One thing that a whole lot of people look forward to in February has to be Valentine’s Day. Love is definitely an emotion that needs to be celebrated and if there has to be a special day for that every year, so be it. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day no longer seems to be about celebrating love but more about the illusion of it. Personally, I’m not a Valentine’s Day fan (or at least of it in its present form) and why restrict yourself to celebrating it on one day when you can do so throughout the whole year in so many different ways?

You may not agree with me, and could point out that there are so many other occasions we celebrate once a year and how is this different from those. That’s fine because I’m not belittling the thoughts and emotions behind celebrating Valentine’s Day, just being a bit disappointed at the commercial hype that has come to surround it. As I always say, I’m all for celebrating and since chocolate seems to inextricably linked to February I’m going to do a bit of chocolate celebration in this and my next post.




There are many ways to celebrate with chocolate whether as pure chocolate, cakes, mousse or various other complicated and intricately fashioned confections. Yet nothing is quite the same as chocolate truffles, those small bite-sized bits of delicious decadent chocolate. Whether they are uneven brown coloured balls of chocolate ganache, have interesting centres or are prettily decorated confections, everyone can find a favourite in the world of chocolate truffles.

I haven’t made truffles in a very long time and now that I finally got down to it, I decided I wouldn’t restrict myself to making one or two and ended up making five different kinds! This was partly because I got a bit carried away with the whole truffle making thing. The other reason was that Santa paid me a visit last week.

Finla, a very good friend and fellow food blogger sent me a stash of baking and other food stuff including Belgian chocolate, speculoos and dried lavender amongst other things. Her very accommodating husband, who was a guest at the annual Monte Music Festival in Goa, lugged down all the stuff. Between them, they not only made my day but probably the whole year!




Making truffles is quite easy though it helps if you keep some things in mind. All one needs is to mix everything up, refrigerate it overnight, shape them, refrigerate them again, enrobe them in chocolate or just cover then in cocoa, refrigerate them once again and you’re done. So you actually get to do it in stages over even a couple of days if you choose to take your time with it. Then pretty them up a bit, serve them and be prepared for all “oohs” and “aahs” when you serve them.

In this post, I’m including the recipes of three of the five truffles I made. First are the Coconut Truffle Squares, then some Oreo Cookie Truffle Hearts, and finally my Spiced Fruit And Nut Mince Truffles.



Coconut Truffle Squares




These truffle squares are a lot like Bounty chocolate bars, just smaller and taste much better. They’re not very difficult to make and if you like coconut, then these are for you. Just remember that after cutting the coconut mixture into squares it is better to refrigerate them once again before covering with chocolate. Work quickly as dropping the squares in hot/ warm melted chocolate can soften them up if they’re not coated quickly.
Coconut Truffle Squares



Ingredients:


150 ml cream (25%)

50 gm butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp powdered cardamom (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups desiccated coconut*



For covering the truffles:

About 1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate

2 tbsp oil



*You substitute 1 cup of fresh grated coconut if you like, as they will make for a more moist and juicy centre, but will have a shorter shelf life. Since this recipe makes a small quantity, these squares will most likely be eaten before they get a chance to spoil!



Method:


Place the cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it starts to boil (bubble up), take the pan off the heat. Add the coconut, salt and cardamom and mix well. If the mixture seems too wet add a little more desiccated coconut, but not too much. Remember that once it cools down the coconut mixture will thicken.




Press into 8” by 8” tin lined with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the tin and turn the set coconut mixture onto a board and peel off the parchment paper. Cut with a sharp knife into 30 squares. Refrigerate till ready to coat with chocolate.

Melt the chocolate over warm water (or in the microwave), add the oil and mix till smooth. Drop each square in the chocolate, coat it completely using two forks. Remove excess chocolate and place each square on a sheet of parchment paper to set. Drizzle more chocolate or decorate as desired.

This recipe makes 30 square truffles.

Oreo Cookie Truffle Hearts




These truffles are bound to a favourite with children especially. So it might be a good idea to use milk chocolate to cover them as younger children would find semi-sweet chocolate a bit bitter.

If you can find cream cheese use that. When I can find cream cheese here, it is very expensive so crumbled and blended paneer is an excellent substitute. Please use home-made paneer as the moistness of fresh paneer gives the blended paneer a very smooth and creamy consistency.

Use the biscuits/ cookies with the cream. To crush them, just put them in a plastic or ziplock bag, close it and bash the bag with your rolling pin! Great stress reliever too, though if you get over zealous, the bag might burst and cause you even more stress!!
Oreo Cookie Truffle Hearts

(Adapted from Kraft Foods)


Ingredients:


3/4 cup fresh crumbled paneer (or 1/2 cup cream cheese)

3 cups crushed Oreo cookies*

Cocoa powder for shaping truffles



For covering the truffles:

2 cups chopped semi-sweet (or milk) chocolate

2 tbsp butter


*You can use Britannia’s Pure Magic biscuits with vanilla cream instead of Oreos.



Method:


Run the crumbled paneer in the blender till smooth and creamy.

Put the crushed biscuits/ cookies and the blended panner (or cream cheese) in a bowl and mix together using your fingers into a dough-like mixture. If it feels too soft to shape, refrigerate for about an hour.




Dust your palms with a bit of cocoa powder and take about 1/3 rd the mixture. Roll it into a smooth ball and flatten into a disc using your hands. Using a rolling pin, lightly flatten it some more to a uniform thickness of about 1/2".  Using a small heart shaped cookie cutter and cut out little hearts. Repeat with remaining mixture. If it gets soft, refrigerate for about an hour and then cut out more hearts. Refrigerate till ready to cover with chocolate.
If you prefer you can just roll the mixture into 1 1/2" balls.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl, over warm water. Using two forks, drop each heart (or ball) into the melted chocolate and coat well. Working quickly, remove the excess chocolate and place on a sheet of parchment paper to set.

Decorate as desired. This recipe makes about 40 small truffle hearts.

Spiced Fruit & Nut Mince Truffles




I got the idea for these truffles from some carrot and almond mincemeat I had in the fridge. I had bookmarked this recipe ages back and was waiting for the red, juicy and sweet winter carrots to be in season to make this mincemeat. Since I wanted to make some truffles with a fruit and nut filling, the mince seemed perfect.

You can use whatever you have on hand but I’m including my adaptation of the Rajani’s “Carrot And Almond Mincemeat” just in case you want to make some of your own. Even if you’re not going to make these truffles, the mincemeat is worth making because it is absolutely gorgeous and an excellent way to preserve the winter carrots before the season is over.

Again you can use semi-sweet chocolate to cover the truffles, but I personally felt the spice in these truffles called for milk chocolate to balance out flavours.
Spiced Fruit & Nut Mince Truffles


Ingredients:


100 ml cream (25% fat)

1 1/4 cups chopped semi-sweet chocolate

5 tbsp fruit and nut mince (recipe follows)

Cocoa powder for shaping truffles


For covering the truffles:

1 cup chopped milk chocolate, melted

1 1/2 tbsp butter



Method:


Heat the cream in a saucepan, over low heat, stirring frequently till it is quite hot but not boiling. Take the pan off the heat and add the chopped semi-sweet chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted completely and is smooth. Add the fruit and nut mincemeat and mix well.




Refrigerate the mixture overnight, or for 4 hours at least. Overnight refrigeration brings out the flavour better. Dust your palms lightly with cocoa powder and shape the mixture into 1 1/2” balls. Refrigerate till ready to coat with chocolate.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl, over warm water. Using two forks, drop each ball into the melted chocolate and coat well. Working quickly, remove the excess chocolate and place on a sheet of parchment paper to set.

Decorate as desired. This recipe makes about 35 truffles.



Carrot Almond Mincemeat

(Adapted from Eat.Write.Think)



Ingredients:


3 cups grated red winter carrots, well packed

3/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

1 cup finely chopped almonds

1 cup chopped prunes

1 cup chopped dried fruit (golden raisins, figs, papaya,

1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger

1 cup Demerara (or brown) sugar

1 tsp lemon zest/ rind

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp powdered cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp chai masala

1 tsp red chilli flakes

1 1/2 tbsp melted butter

1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice



Method:


Cook the grated carrots and the orange juice together in the Microwave (or steam cook it), until the carrot is cooked and soft.

Mix the cooked carrots, the almonds, prunes and other dried fruits, candied ginger, the sugar, the zest, all the spices, salt butter and apple juice in a large bowl. Mix together and leave at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Then refrigerate in an airtight glass jars until required. Though this mincemeat does not contain alcohol, no one would believe it after tasting it!

This keeps in the fridge for about a month (that’s as long as I know it lasts).
I shall be posting the remaining two truffles in a couple of days so watch this space. I shall also be announcing a giveaway in that post and tell me what’s better than chocolate and a giveaway?
In the meanwhile, I'm sending my truffles which are perfect for Meeta's Monthly Mingle which is being hosted this month by Astrid with the theme "Small Bites - Soul Food For Loved Ones"!

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