Tag Archives: confectionery and sweetmeats

Recipe: Weirdly Addictive Mostly Raw Peppermint Raspberry Truffles

I can already hear what you are thinking.  You are thinking, wow, that’s a really bizarre combination for truffles.  And you are quite right, of course.  These truffles are not love at first bite.  Your brain and palate are far too busy trying to work out whether they are peppermint truffles or raspberry truffles to really delight in them.  But when you sneakily go back for more – just to try to work out what they actually do taste like – you discover that, actually, they really are rather good.  And you want another one.  And another after that.

The fact that they are shaped like teeny tiny teddy bears doesn’t hurt, either.

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Of course, this still doesn’t explain what possessed me to come up with such a bizarre flavour idea.  In fact, it was a unique conjunction of events.

First, today is Andrew’s birthday (happy birthday, Andrew!), and Andrew really likes chocolatey peppermint things.  Over the fifteen or so years we have known each other, I have been steadily escalating the chocolate-mint birthday cakes to ever more ridiculous levels of elaboration and richness.

But the last few weeks have been absolutely hellish at work, and not a lot of fun outside it.  Which I haven’t been, very much, because I have been working very long hours just to keep up.  So by the time I got home yesterday evening, I was in no mood for serious baking.  Raw truffles seemed like just the thing.

Which brings me to the third factor (which may be the one you don’t want to know about, but if I have to suffer, I don’t see why others should escape scot-free), and that is the fact that I currently have my period.  And, in addition to causing quite a bit of pain and other un-fun side effects, my period has a truly bizarre effect on my sense of smell.  Since I cook largely by smell, this means that my culinary judgment at this time of the month becomes seriously iffy, and in really good months, I get to have a nervous breakdown about the fact that I can’t cook, that everything I cook tastes terrible, that everything I cook will always taste terrible, and if I can’t cook, then what is the point of even being a Catherine?

Add all this together with the fact that I’m seriously tired, and what you get is a Catherine who is trying to adapt a recipe while simultaneously not being capable of reading it correctly, and who then finds herself with something that tastes like Dreadfully Wrong Peppermint Truffle, casts wildly about the pantry and the freezer for something with which to fix it, and randomly throws in an entire packet of freeze-dried raspberries.

Of such conjunctions, brilliant recipes are not made… but, in spite of everything, this is still actually quite a good one.  The coconut oil is optional, because I put it in by accident and strongly suspect that this was the reason my truffle mixture separated in such an unsightly fashion.

After all this, you might well ask why I am posting such a manifestly imperfect recipe.  It’s quite simple, really.  I can’t stop eating these things.  They are seriously more-ish.  I have no idea what it is that makes them work – they shouldn’t work, I’m quite positive, and yet, I keep going back to the fridge for more.  And my sister-in-law felt the same way about them, so it’s not just weird Catherinishness.  There’s something in this flavour combination that actually does work.  I just don’t know what.

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This teddy bear is here to help you.

Your Shopping List

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cacao powder or good dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup melted cocoa butter
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup pistachio butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
5 tbsp water
1/2 tsp, or thereabouts, peppermint oil
40 g freeze-dried raspberries

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Reflection and Recipe: Life-affirming apricots with pistachio butter and chocolate

Today was the last of a sequence of strange and difficult days at work for me.  You see, a couple of weeks ago, a member of staff – not one of my scientists, but a long-term member of my little work choir – passed away.  We were not close, though we chatted regularly about music and her cats, and so, while I was shocked and saddened, it would not be true to say that I was deeply emotionally affected by her loss. (It sounds rather cold to say this, but it would feel self-aggrandising and dramatic to claim a strong emotional reaction.  I liked her, I liked singing with her, and we spoke occasionally outside choir.  Others were much closer to her than I was, and I don’t want to belittle their grief by claiming otherwise.)

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Recipe: Raw Baklava Truffle Balls, and a trek along Melbourne’s South-Eastern coastline

truffles2It hurts to write this.  No, literally, it *really* hurts to write this, mostly because in a feat of macho stupidity, I walked more than 23 kilometers yesterday, and now even sitting at my computer hurts.  My whole body is complaining about *everything* just now…

I’ve mentioned before that my workplace is doing the Global Corporate Walking Challenge, in which teams of seven wear pedometers for four months, obsessively record every step or other bit of activity, and log this into a website which informs us just how far we’ve walked (we spent all of last week in virtual Yellowstone National Park.  The park itself is probably gorgeous and fascinating, but trust me, the virtual version is not an exciting place to spend a week). 

This week, we have been challenged to walk 100,000 steps each over seven days, so we decided to give ourselves a head start yesterday by walking from Cheltenham station to the coast, and then along the coast all the way back to St Kilda.  There’s a Coastal Art Trail that runs from Beaumaris Bay around to Eltham, with plaques and illustrated information boards showing the points at which local artists painted famous landscapes along the coast.  We figured that Eltham was all very well, but St Kilda has cake *and* trams to take us home again, and it’s only a few more kilometers…

Of course, any long walk deserves suitable energy snacks (which take priority in my packing over a spare pair of shoes – possibly not my best ever decision).  I decided to make not one but three kinds – a sort of rice bubble, sour cherry and almond butter slice of my own invention (OK, but nothing stunning), Amber Shea Crawley‘s lemon and coconut curd, formed into little balls of lemony evil (delicious, but they would *not* set), as well as her raw chocolate truffles, given a jaffa-ish tang with the addition of freeze-dried mandarins and tangerine oil.

But none of these were really enough, in my rather bizarre worldview in which five people seriously need four kinds of energy snacks for one day-long trek, so I had to make something else.  Something that wasn’t chocolatey or citrussy.  Then my eye fell on Amber Shea Crawley’s raw baklava slice recipe, and I was inspired!  Amber’s baklava slice is a very classic set of baklava flavours, and I love the idea of brushing it with agave nectar to simulate the honey syrup, but I wanted something that would roll into a ball and wouldn’t be unduly sticky. Also, I’m a Sydney Road girl, and I have Opinions about baklava.  My favourite kind is, I suspect, from the Turkish or Iranian end of the world, rather than the Greek, being full of cardamom and cinnamon, studded with cloves and drenched in a syrup infused with lemon juice, rosewater and honey.

Could this work in a raw truffle, without making it all too wet to stick together?  As it happens, it really can, and I’m extremely pleased with the way these little baklava balls turned out – they really do taste like the baklava I make, minus the filo pastry.  Healthy baklava!  And I’m finding I don’t even miss the pastry that much.

(Oh God, I shouldn’t have written that down, because now I am possessed by a craving for the baklava they make down at Zaatar… which I DO NOT need, since my house is still full of truffle balls of various flavours…)

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Recipe: Amaranth and Not-ella Truffles

ballsThis recipe is the fault of my friend Scott, which seems a little unfair, since it actually isn’t the recipe he asked for, and in fact probably isn’t going to do him  much good at all!  Sorry, Scott – the quinoa one will happen later in the week.  He requested a recipe for a high-protein snack that used cooked quinoa and Nutella and was sweetened with agave nectar.

I had every intention of doing this, but currently my oven is full of a cake that will take 4 hours to cook, and my ideas involving cooked quinoa all necessitate baking, so that the snack ends up crispy rather than soggy.  And I wanted to try something *now*.  Also, I had this popped amaranth sitting around, waiting to be used.  And then there was the fact that I don’t actually like Nutella, and that if one is wanting a snack sweetened with agave nectar, it’s a bit silly to include Nutella, which is full of sugar…

And it all went downhill from there, really.  But in a good way, because these little snacks taste gorgeous, and look incredibly cute, all black-brown with little white dots of amaranth through them.  Try them and see…

Your Shopping List

120 g hazelnuts
30 ml cocoa
30 ml agave nectar
30 ml almond butter (can you tell I had this 30 ml measure just sitting there, looking convenient?  So many recipes develop proportions based on what’s clean and nearby at the time…)
3 dates
1 cup popped amaranth

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Recipe: DIY Lemon Curd Tarts, and other last-minute Christmas ideas

Yes, I know.  It’s three in the morning, and here I am on my blog.  I’d like to say that this is because my meringues are cooking, but that is sadly not true, because my meringues were a disaster, and I’ve decided to turn them into Forgotten Pudding (cheat’s pavlova) instead.

Actually, I’m online because it’s three in the morning and it’s still 30°C out there, and as it happens, I still have Christmas presents to make and wrap, and it isn’t as though I can sleep in this weather, so…

Anyway.  Since I am engaged in last-minute gift making myself, I thought I’d write about what I’m making for Christmas presents, and suggest a few other quick and easy recipes that can be made on Christmas Eve and will look as though you meant to do that anyway…

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Recipe: Easy Last-Minute Fruit Mince for the Disorganised Cook Who Still Needs Mince Pies

I survived the confectionery!  And the last minute mad baking frenzy for the end of work!  And all the work Christmas parties!  And (so far) all the carolling, though since I still have the three big services left to sing, I probably shouldn’t gloat quite yet...

I’m involved in some pretty serious Christmas Hamper Making, which means my house is full of food, and also, most of my scientists gave me chocolates for Christmas, so I really shouldn’t need to make mince pies, especially in this weather.  Except… we have this tradition in my family that you need to eat 12 mince pies between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve for good luck in the coming year.  And so, for me it isn’t Christmas without mince pies.

We have another, unspoken, traditionin our family, which is that while we always make mince pies, we never make both the pastry and the fruit mince from scratch.  My mother makes her own pastry cases but (I believe) uses shop-bought mince.  I make my own mince, but use shop-bought short-crust.  This is because I am more picky about the filling than the pastry…

(actually, that’s not true – I am picky in one sense about the pastry, and that is in the sense that there must not be too much of it!  Mince pies should consist of a thin, crispy casing for glorious fruit mince, not a thick, stodgy biscuit that once sniffed a sultana from a distance.)

I have many elaborate recipes for fruit mince, but this is my favourite and most-used one.  It requires almost no measuring, takes about five minutes to put together, and doesn’t need to sit for days to develop flavour (though I try to let it sit for a few hours or ideally overnight).  And it tastes absolutely brilliant.

Best of all, you can make it on the 23rd without making your day crazy.  Which is perhaps the best thing a fruit mince recipe can do for you at this time of year…

Your Shopping List

50 g butter
1 200g jar of marmalade (you will be using this jar to measure other things later, so don’t throw it out)
1 375g packet of sultanas
1 375g packet of raisins
1 300g packet of currants
1 200g packet of mixed peel
about 200 ml brandy (or port, or sherry, or marsala in a pinch)
about half a cup of sugar (brown, raw caster, or caster are all fine)
cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger to taste
 

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Recipe: Strawberry, Lemon and Walnut Balls

Just a quick post today – I have a whole bunch of things in the works to write about, but I somehow wound up spending a lot of the afternoon making the aforementioned elaborate pasta bake for friends who are coming to dinner this evening and have no idea of the overcatering in store for them (and these are friends who have been at my Shakespeare Feasts, I might add).  Since they will be arriving pretty shortly, and I still need to make the orange and fennel salad and the olive toasts and the balsamic strawberries, and also to clear the table, today is clearly the day for more raw truffles.

I made these raw truffles for Rhiannon and Reed’s recent wedding.  They were actually a last-minute, made-up-on-the-spot recipe, after a different one failed dismally, so I don’t really know for sure what I put into them.  It was all a bit of a haze.  They were rather imperfect – walnuts do seem to release a lot of oil in my food processor – but very popular, and I was asked for the recipe.  This is my best-guess reconstruction, still imperfect, but nonetheless tasty.

Your Shopping List

100 g walnuts
zest of one lemon, and a teaspoon or two of juice
100 g dried strawberries, preferably reasonably fresh ones, because if they are too dessicated they will never stick together
a tablespoon of agave nectar or honey (may not be needed, depending on the stickiness of strawberries)

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Recipe: Nearly Raw Truffles of Two Kinds!

Between work, singing and this allegedly-healthy global walking challenge, I seem to be in a constant state of exhaustion at present, which is not conducive to blog posts.  It doesn’t help that I’m so tired I’m actually following recipes at the moment…  However, I have a big excursion planned tomorrow for my walking team – we’re going to leave work at 3:30 and walk 13 kms to Williamstown, and then go on a Ghost Tour after dinner.  My team is, in fact, the slowest of the three teams at work, but we are also the coolest, because we do outings!  And surely that’s what really counts?

I’ve planned this outing in ridiculous detail – 8 weeks into the challenge, a lot of us are flagging or have minor injuries, so not only have I planned a very precise route, I have arranged it so that every kilometre or two, we get within shouting distance of a railway station or a bus stop, to allow anyone who needs it to ride the rest of the way. 

And, of course, I am providing snacks – healthy, energy-giving snacks, to speed us on our way.  I recently made Almost Vegan’s Five Minute Blondies with Hannah’s Raw Chocolate Icing (with avocado!), which were awesome, but a bit messy for my purposes, so I turned the blondies into truffles, and added a bit of ginger and cinnamon to suit their caramel goodness.  But I couldn’t stop at one recipe, and I had leftover dried figs and dried apricots from a pilaf yesterday, and hazelnuts and pistachios also hanging around the house, and raw cacao, and before I knew it, I had two recipes on my hand. 

Herewith, before I fall asleep on my keyboard, Nearly Raw Chocolate, Hazelnut and Fig Truffles and Raw Apricot, Orange and Pistachio Truffles.  The chocolatey ones are kind of amazing – I didn’t think they tasted very chocolatey, but the chocolate sort of creeps up on you – you taste it for several minutes after you have one.  The apricot truffles are a lot like those little apricot delight squares they used to sell at the canteen at my primary school, but with pistachios and orange-flower water giving them a lovely, perfumed flavour.   And they are so healthy!  Ish…

Your Shopping List for Hazelnut, Chocolate and Fig Truffles

150 g raw hazelnuts
2 tbsp (40 ml) raw cacao, or good cocoa powder
200 g soft dried figs
50 ml maple syrup
50 g goooood dark chocolate, chopped

Your Shopping List for Apricot and Pistachio Truffles

300 g dried apricots (the soft kind work better)
zest of 1 orange
50 g pistachios
1/2 teaspoon of orange flower water

Optional Extras

You could roll the hazelnut and chocolate truffles in cocoa powder, if you liked.  And, while it seems a pity to spoil the middle-eastern nature of the apricot ones, by doing this, you could roll them in coconut.  Or dip them in white chocolate and the others in dark chocolate, which point you’ve pretty much admitted that you aren’t trying to be health-foody any more.

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Recipe: Rocky Road for Timon

I’m in mad cooking mode for Shakespeare tomorrow. At this very moment, something that I hope will turn into Turkish Delight is glooping away, jellyfish-like, in a saucepan, so imagine, if you will, that this post is punctuated by mad dashes out to the kitchen to see if the mixture has achieved ‘very thick and golden’ yet.  Since we’re doing Timon of Athens, it would actually be appropriate to just serve hot water and rocks, but that would be mean, and I can’t bring myself to be quite that evil.  Besides, I have much, much nicer friends than Timon does, so they certainly don’t deserve Timon’s feast.

So we’re having a lot of Greek food, and also rock cakes, and, as you have possibly guessed by now, Rocky Road.

The trouble with commercial Rocky Road is that people always put pointless stuff in it, like peanuts, or really bad jelly lollies, or marshmallows that don’t  even taste like marshmallows.  And they don’t use proper chocolate, either.  This is where it becomes really pleasing to make your own Rocky Road, because you can put whatever you like in it!  Also, it takes about ten minutes to make, and most of that time is waiting for the chocolate to melt.

This is, in my view, the best ever Rocky Road.  Of course it is.  I made it precisely to my taste – inasmuch as the shops would let me.   I was hoping for a lot more freeze-dried fruit, preferably raspberries and apricots.  But you know what?  That just means I can make this even more perfect next time…

Your Shopping List

500 g really good dark cooking chocolate.  This is all about the chocolate, so you might as well go Lindt 75%
150 g marshmallows.  The ones which actually have a bit of flavour to them.
85 g roasted unsalted almonds.  Need I say more?
50 g glacé cherries.  But if you can get glacé pineapple instead, I say go for it!
50 g freeze-dried fruit.  The snappy, crunchy kind.  Trust me, this is an absolute winner, especially if you can get something good and tangy, like strawberries or raspberries.
50 g good quality turkish delight, or better still, pectin jellies! Did I mention I still have some mis-shapen ones left over from Christmas?  Well, now I have 50 g fewer…
 

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Recipe: Decidedly Un-Roman Cherry, Date and Cacao Balls

Ugly, certainly, but that just means you won’t have to share…

I have a friend who is allergic to quite a few things, with nuts and eggs being at the top of the list.  She’s always terribly apologetic about this and tells me not to cook for her (fat chance), which drives me nuts (tee hee!), because she’s also extremely awesome – intelligent, creative and kind, and clearly deserving of delicious food.  And, actually, I don’t find nuts and eggs  all that difficult to work around most of the time

Of course, it does become a trifle more challenging when I’m experimenting with raw foods, because raw food recipes have nuts in everything, replacing flour, biscuits, and even dairy.  Which, actually, is fascinating, and it’s entirely possible that I just accidentally went online and ordered a whole book of raw food desserts, but that’s beside the point.  Anyway, I’m not the world’s greatest nut fan (though there are those who would say I am more than a little bit nutty), but I am most definitely fond of things chocolatey, which brings me to a favourite new discovery of mine: cacao beans!

Cacao beans are basically proto-chocolate. They are the primeval fluid from which chocolate, bubbling, evolves.  OK, this may not be entirely true.  I’ve been cooking non-stop for the last 8 hours, and am possibly a little silly.  But they certainly are the things which, after a certain amount of processing which I knew once but have temporarily forgotten, get turned into things like cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and of course CHOCOLATE. 

Cacao beans also behave pretty much exactly like nuts for culinary purposes, with the useful exception being that they don’t give people like my friend anaphylaxis (which was never my favourite nutty property anyway). 

You do see where I’m going with this, don’t you?  The lovely Hannah over at Wayfaring Chocolate keeps creating all these lovely raw truffle / cookie recipes which are really irresistible in this weather.  I looked at the ones made of dates and dried cherries and cashews and thought, I wonder what would happen if I used cacao beans instead of the cashews?

It turns out that what happens is I get very, very tired of shelling cacao beans, and then wish I’d shelled a lot more, because these little sweetmeats are amazing – dark and chocolatey and neither too sweet nor too bitter, with a definite cherry kick to them.  You can’t taste the dates – they are basically acting as sweetener and glue – and you don’t really taste the Stealth Oats, hanging out in there, making you healthy when you aren’t looking.  I can’t express how delicious these are, and I’d never had known this if my friend wasn’t allergic to nuts...

(And before I get on to the recipe, I feel I should reiterate that this really is Hannah’s recipe – I changed one ingredient, and increased the quantities slightly, but that really was all I did.)

Your Shopping List

75 g cacao beans, or 70g cacao nibs if you don’t want to spend fifteen minutes shelling beans
50 g rolled oats
100 g mejdool dates
100 g dried sour cherries

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