Rum & Raisin Dark Chocolate Truffles

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INGREDIENTS:

Makes about 20 truffles

  • 200g of good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) – broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup raisins – chopped
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp of strong espresso or instant coffee granules (optional)
  • 2 tbsp of cocoa powder

Coatings:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Finely chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans or almonds)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Spices like cinnamoncayenne pepper, orange zest, etc

METHOD:

  1. In a bowl, soak the raisins in rum for one hour (at room temperature).
  2. In a saucepan, over low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Then add the butter and stir with a plastic spatula until melted.
  3. Next, add the chopped chocolate, and when it begins to melt, turn the fire off and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted (be careful not to burn the chocolate).
  4. Then mix in the cocoa powder, vanilla paste, and espresso, and stir until smooth. Finally, stir in the raisin rum mixture, and transfer to a bowl.
  5. Once the chocolate ganache has cooled on the counter, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge. Chill for an hour until the ganache is firm.
  6. Lay out a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Prepare coatings in separate bowls. With your palms or a small spoon, form the chocolate into balls, then roll each one in the coating and place them on the baking paper. Transfer the truffles, along with the baking paper, to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  7. Truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or for a few months in the freezer. Before serving, let the truffles sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Tips on making truffles: 
– It’s important to keep the ganache mixture cool after it is removed from the refrigerator, so it doesn’t melt too much when you are forming the balls and coating them. Try placing the small bowl of ganache on top of a bigger bowl layered with ice. (Also, coat your hands with some cocoa powder to prevent your warm fingers from melting the chocolate)
– If the ganache gets too soft for shaping, just pop the ganache back in the freezer for five minutes. If you are making a bigger batch, divide the ganache into separate containers.

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Cinnamon Apple Macaroons with Apple Butter Buttercream & Tart Green Apples

INGREDIENTS:

Apple Butter
makes ~20 oz. apple butter, far more than you’ll need for apple butter buttercream, but delicious to have around for other uses!

  • 2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and in chunks
  • 4 cups unfiltered apple juice
  • 1/2-2/3 cup light brown sugar*
  • 1 tspn cloves
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • juice of half a lemon

METHOD:

  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the apples and apple juice and cook until the apples are completely tender, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size you chop the apples. If a foam forms, you may skim it off if desired.
  2. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool briefly. Puree the apples and apple juice in a food processor or blender until completely smooth.
  3. Return the puree to the pot and add the brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
  4. Return the pot to heat and simmer on medium/medium-low heat, trying to maintain 105 degrees C. Cook for 1-2 hours, stirring regularly, until mixture really thickens and darkens and bubbles/splatters. Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.

*Add only 1/2 cup sugar for a less-sweet apple butter. I used 2/3 cups sugar and while still really good, it was a little on the sweet side for me.

Cinnamon Apple Macarons
makes ~50 small macarons or 20-30 large macarons
INGREDIENTS:
for macaroon shells*:

  • 200 gr powdered sugar
  • 120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
  • 10 gr freeze-dried apple
  • 1 heaping Tbspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tspn green powered food coloring, if desired
  • 30 gr granulated (superfine, opt) vanilla sugar
  • 100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
  • 1/4 tspn cream of tartar

METHOD:

  1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
  2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, dried apple, cinnamon, and green food coloring, if using, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, have ready the granulated vanilla sugar.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated vanilla sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
  6. Transfer the macaroon mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
  7. Rest the macaroons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
  8. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  9. Bake the macaroons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool.

*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.

for apple butter buttercream:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup apple butter

METHOD:

  1. Whip the egg yolks until light and shows definitive streaks when you move your whisk through them.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely wet. Cook over medium high heat, without stirring, until the sugar reaches 114 degrees C. Immediately remove from heat and (carefully!) gradually pour into the egg yolks while whisking, being careful not to hit the whisk wires.
  3. Continue whipping the egg yolks on medium high until the the outside of the bowl is no longer hot or warm to the touch.
  4. Add the butter in while beating, one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Once the butter is incorporated, beat in the apple butter. Use immediately to fill the macaroons (or, if you refrigerate the buttercream, bring to room temperature and beat to restore texture before using).

for assembly:

  • 1 small tart green apple, in small, thin chunks (thick enough to still have crunch, though!)
  • lemon juice
  • ground cinnamon

METHOD:

  1. Toss the apple chunks with a light coating of lemon juice. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon.
  2. Fill the macaroons with the apple butter buttercream and apple chunks. Let the macaroons “cure” in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt Stack

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 8oz block cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup strawberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cup 0% or 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

METHOD:

  1. In a large bowl, beat together the yogurt, cream cheese, and jam until there are no clumps in the mix.
  2. Add in the milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and beat until fully mixed.
  3. Pour the base into an ice cream maker and freeze using the manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Let the frozen ice cream sit out for 5 minutes before scooping and serving to soften.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ½ cups chunky peanut butter
  • 3 T creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick of butter, softened, but cool
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (only if not tempering chocolate)
  •  1/3 cup salted peanuts, halved, for garnish(optional)

METHOD:

  1. Mix together peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and graham cracker crumbs.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  2. Melt chocolate chips and shortening in top of double boiler (or melt and temper the chocolate). Dip balls into chocolate and set on waxed paper.  (Use a toothpick to poke and dip each ball, or else use two forks.)
  3. Garnish with a ½ peanut on top.  Allow chocolate to firm up before serving.
Makes about 56 balls

Flaky Apple Turnovers

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 1/4 cups All purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (1 pound) cold butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 batch of apple filling (recipe below)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream & 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, for icing, if desired

METHOD:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and the salt. Cut cold butter into half-inch slices and add to the flour mixture. Toss until butter pieces are coated with flour and separated from each other.
  2. Stir egg and ice water together and then pour all at once into the flour/butter mixture. Using a spoon quickly mix until you see no obvious wet spots. Butter will still be in large pieces and “dough” will be in shaggy bits and there will still be lots of flour that’s not mixed in yet.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper (or a lightly floured pastry cloth if you have one). Knead the dough ten times or so by pressing and pushing dough together, using the parchment between your hands and the dough, to form a rough square shape. Using a little extra flour for the rolling pin, roll dough into a 15×10 inch rectangle. Fold 2 short sides to meet in the center. Bring the top edge down to meet the bottom edge to form 4 layers. You will now have a long rectangle about 7 1/2 by 5 inches.
  4. Repeat rolling and folding process once more. Wrap dough in the parchment paper you’re using, and then wrap that in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 20-30 minutes. Repeat rolling and folding process two more times, and then chill the dough another 20 minutes before forming turnovers.
  5. Once dough is chilled, and the filling is cooled, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Refrigerate remaining pieces while you work with one piece at a time.
  7. Roll the fourth of dough out into a 11×11 inch square. Trim the sides with a pizza cutter to “square it up” and made the edges clean.* Cut the large square into four equal squares. Moisten two adjacent sides of one of the squares and scoop about 1/3 cup of apple filling into the middle. Fold the square into a triangle and press edges slightly to create an initial seal. Then take a fork and go around the seams and press firmly to seal. Then take a sharp knife and poke 2 or 3 vents in the top of the triangle. Repeat with remaining squares.
  8. Place turnovers onto the parchment-lined, leaving about 2 inches between turnovers. Bake at 190 degrees for about 20-22 minutes, or until puffed and deep golden brown on the tops and bottoms.
  9. Remove to a wire rack to cool. When turnovers have cooled about 10-15 minutes, you can drizzle them lightly with icing, or eat them as is.

NOTE: Unbaked turnovers can be frozen on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. When frozen solid, place turnovers in a large zip-top bag for later baking. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 190 degrees , place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until puffed and deep golden brown on tops and bottoms.

Makes 16 turnovers

Apple Filling

  • 4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups water (or 1 cup water + 1 cup apple juice)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
METHOD:
  1. In a large bowl, toss diced apple with lemon juice and set aside.  Pour water (or water + apple juice) into a high-rimmed saute pan over medium heat.  Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, & nutmeg.  Add to liquid in pan, stir well, and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add apples and return to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Stir in raisins. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and cool completely before using.

Homemade Applesauce

Classic Homemade Applesauce

Classic Homemade Applesauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 Granny Smith apples
  • 1½ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • cinnamon to taste, or red hot candies
METHOD:
  1. Peel and slice the apples into small pieces. Put apples in a pot.
  2. Add water to pot and bring to a low boil over medium heat, mashing apples as they cook down. Keep the pot covered.
  3. When desired consistency, add sugar, cinnamon and/or red hot candies. Bring to a boil and then recover and remove from heat. Let cool in the pot and then refrigerate.

Brownie Fudge Trifle

Brownie Fudge Trifle

Brownie Fudge Trifle

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 4

  • 1 pkg. chocolate fudge instant pudding + 2 cups cold milk
  • brownies, cut into cubes
  • whipped cream (Reddi Whip or Cool Whip works, too)
  • chopped candy

METHOD:

  1. Make the pudding.
  2. In individual dishes or a trifle dish, layer pudding, brownies, whipped cream, candy, and repeat, ending with whipped cream and candy.