Friday, December 14, 2012

Complimentary Holiday Treats

I recently needed some meringues in order to make Nigella Lawson's Eton Mess recipe, so I called my mother in France and got her to dictate her recipe to me over the phone. Meringues use egg whites, so I wanted a second recipe that would allow me to use up the leftover yolks. She gave me her recipe for chocolate truffles. I had to experiment a little to get the oven temperature for the meringues right and of course I had to convert the measurements from grams to cups, etc., but these recipes are pretty close to my mother's originals. I also tweaked the truffles just a little by adding orange zest (you can remove it if you are not a fan), which I think my mother would approve of. So here are two recipes just in time for your holiday parties. Note that the meringues in my photo are slightly golden; if you set the oven to 175 (or at least no higher than 200) I think you'll avoid the browning. They also are just amorphous blobs because I was planning to crush them for Nigella's recipe--you can use a bag and frosting nib to make then into pretty shapes if you're serving them up as cookies.

For the Meringues, you will need:

4 egg whites (carefully separated so NO YOLK is present)
1 pinch salt
1 1/3 cups of powdered (AKA confectioner's) sugar
optional: 1 tsp grated lemon zest, or 1 tsp vanilla, or 1 tsp coconut extract, whichever you prefer (I would not combine these, however)

a metal or glass mixing bowl (NOT PLASTIC)
hand mixer
bag and nib with wide opening for shaping
parchment paper
nonstick cooking spray
cookie sheets

No cream of tartar necessary.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until they make stiff peaks. Near the end, add the sugar a little at a time. The consistency should be thick. Add any flavoring at the end as well. Lay a piece of parchment paper over a cookie sheet, using nonstick cooking spray to seal it to the cookie sheet. Using the bag and nib, shape your meringues as you desire. Smaller is better for nice, dry meringues.

Put sheets of meringues into the oven and leave them in as long as possible (at least two hours). To give you an idea, French bakers turn off their ovens after they make their bread and let the meringues sit in them overnight to cook them. Check their color every 30 minutes or so--if they start to brown, turn the oven down.

Makes approximately 18 small meringues.


For the Truffles, you will need:

3 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 egg yolks
about 11oz of butter (2/3 of a lb), softened
4 tbsps sour cream
1/2 cup of powdered (AKA confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1/2 cup to 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

measuring cups and spoons
a large saucepot and a large pan OR a double boiler
a shallow bowl or soup dish
a normal dessert spoon
a plate

Melt the chocolate chips in the pot sitting in the pan with at least an inch and a half of water (or use the double boiler--I don't have one, and have always gone the MacGuyver route of pot-in-pan, but I imagine like most proper tools a double boiler makes this easier). Keep the heat on medium to medium low, as long as the chocolate is melting, as you don't want to overcook it. As soon as the chips are all melted, add the eggs, butter, sour cream, sugar, and zest. Mix thoroughly. A few little lumps are preferable to overcooking the chocolate, however, so remove from heat ASAP. Let cool and then refrigerate minimum 3 hours, up to overnight.

Put the cocoa in the shallow bowl, and using the dessert spoon, scoop out some chocolate. These will be extremely rich, so smaller amounts are better. Roll the chocolate between your palms. Warning: your hands will quickly get covered in gooey chocolate loveliness and you will be sorely tempted to lick your fingers--refrain, for hygenic reasons of course. (However, every so often I like to wash my hands again, and right before I do, I have a taste or two.) Once the chocolate is in the shape of a ball, drop into the cocoa powder and roll around until it is completely covered, and transfer to the plate.

Refrigerate again so the truffles will firm up. Makes about 60 truffles. Enjoy!

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