Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Candy

Photo stolen borrowed from Chef in Training

I am famous within my circle of family, friends and church friends for making truffles every Christmas.  This year, I added a new one, Cake Batter Truffles, which I found at Chef in Training (via Pinterest, my newest obsession).  Oh my goodness!  They taste just like licking the beater.  I can rave about them, since they are a found recipe and not my own creation.  My niece, Ashley, and my daughter Jen and I made our traditional candies and Jen documented the proper way to dip truffles. 

Things to remember when working with chocolate/candy coating:
1) Water is the enemy.  Chocolate and candy coating is basically powder suspended in fat.  Add water, even a drop, and all the powder will try to clump to it.  That means don't melt it in a double boiler, because steam can ruin your chocolate without you ever seeing it. For the same reason, you don't want to chill your centers, because once you take them out of the fridge, condensation can form on the centers from the change in temperature.
2) Overheating/scorching. Chocolate/candy coating doesn't look melted when it melts.  Stir it often so you know when it melts.
3) Thinking hotter chocolate/candy coating will be more liquidy than cooler chocolate/candy coating.  When white chocolate/candy coating is first melted, it is too thick to coat properly.  Temper it as described below before dipping.

First you must buy high quality coating.  Please don't use 'bark' coating.  It's not reliable and the flavor is awful.  Wilton Candy Melts are good quality and easy to use, but I prefer Ambrosia brand which is sold in 1 lb. blocks at Woodmans.  Be sure to get candy coating, not real milk chocolate, because real chocolate is much harder to work with.  There's a whole process of  melting and cooling to a fairly exact temperature or your chocolate will be dull and/or grainy.  So candy coating is the way to go. 

Cut the chocolate (from here on I'll refer to candy coating as chocolate), by cutting it on a thin angle.  Don't try to cut it in squares, it won't cut or melt well.  Place your knife at an angle to the corner of the block of chocolate and cut it in thin 1/4" or so pieces.  It will fall into shards, that's what you want.  Scoop it up, put it in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup and put it in the microwave.  Heat it at 50% power (any hotter and you'll scorch the chocolate) and stir EVERY 30 SECONDS.  The reason you're using a 2 cup measure is: a) it's narrow and deep, which is helpful for dunking the centers; b) it only holds 2 cups so it won't solidify while you're in the middle of dipping, and c) glass holds heat, which helps keep the chocolate melted.

Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, stir it gently and lift up a spoonful and pour it back into the measuring cup from a height of several inches.  This is called tempering and is essential when working with white coating.  The dark chocolate coating comes out very liquidy, almost like chocolate syrup and is very easy to work with.  The white chocolate coating needs to be tempered.  As you stir, lift and pour the white coating, over and over, it will become thinner and more liquidy, and much easier to work with.

Now it's time to start dipping:

Drop one in:
Dunk it:

Scoop under it with a meat fork and let the excess run off:

Gently touch the bottom of the candy to the edge of the measuring cup.  The surface tension of the coating will help pull off excess coating.  If you don't do this you will end up with a large puddle of coating at the base of your finished candy.

Let the candy roll off onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Use the melted coating still on the fork to "touch up" any fork marks.

Add sprinkles while the coating is still wet.

Put it on your dessert table.  Be prepared to refill the plate frequently.

Want the recipe?

Cake Batter Truffles
Slightly adapted from recipe found at: Chef in Training
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix, dry
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sprinkles, plus extra for decoration
16 ounces white candy coating
Beat together butter and sugar using an electric mixer for 5 minutes.  Add flour, cake mix,  vanilla and salt and mix thoroughly.  Add 3 Tablespoons of milk.  If needed, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, to make a dough with the consistency of play dough.  Knead in sprinkles by hand.  
Using about a half tablespoon of dough for each, form dough into 1/2 inch balls and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Set balls aside for 15 minutes at room temperature to firm up.
While dough balls are resting, melt candy coating in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir between intervals. 

Once the coating is melted and smooth, temper it by lifting up spoonfuls and letting it drizzle back into the bowl.  It's ready to use when it flows like cake batter ; ).
Drop a ball into the melted chocolate.  Scoop under it with a 2 pronged fork and encourage excess to run off by touching the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl. Place truffle back on the cookie sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat with remaining balls until finished. 
Keep cake batter truffles in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.  Makes 40 - 50 truffles.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Creamy Potato Soup

I wish I had a photo that would give you the smell of this soup.  Creamy, thick, filling and satisfying.  It's what we had for dinner last night and what my husband had for lunch today.  He snagged the entire tub of leftovers - not that I blame him.

It's one of the quickest from-scratch soups ever.  Here's how to make it:

That's all you need for this soup.  Peeled diced potatoes, chicken broth, minced onion, seasoned salt and white pepper go in the pot:
Cover it and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to keep it from boiling over and cook until the potatoes are tender; about 40 minutes.  Then it's time to add the cream cheese.
Just cut it up a bit as you plop it in.  Then I hit it with my immersion blender.
If you don't have an immersion blender, a potato masher works very well.  Or you can use your blender or food processor.  Be careful while pureeing. If you overdo it, you'll get a gluey texture. Make it as pureed as you like; I keep a few chunks for texture. 
Serve with a salad and bread.  We didn't bother with either.  Just dove in.  Yum.

Creamy Potato Soup
Slightly adapted from Shawn H's recipe #150863 at

4 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese*, at room temperature
Optional toppings: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar, fresh chives/scallions

Place broth, potatoes, onion and spices in a large pot.
Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender.
Mash potatoes to desired puree.

*Note: Normally I use reduced fat cream cheese, but full fat was what I had on hand. Both full-fat and reduced-fat cream cheese work well in this recipe; I don't recommend using fat-free. It has an odd non-melty quality.