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Day 12: Unfinished

Christmas is a week away and I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot left to do.  Thankfully, I have a pretty clear week in which to get them done.  Unfortunately, I sort of ran out of time this weekend and there are still too many balls in the air to have a finished topic today.  However, I can show you a few things that I am hoping to get done in the next few days.

The first one is to finish up this batch of candied orange peel.  There’s lots of recipes out there for making candied orange peel.  Here’s a good one.  Orange peel is a pretty essential ingredient in a lot of my Christmas baking, but it’s also fabulous to eat on its own.  It’s also good dipped in dark chocolate!

Next on the agenda is to work on making another batch of panettone.  I made a batch last week using a new recipe, but it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked.  It was a recipe I had in my files that I definitely got off the internet, but now I can’t find it.  Funny.

Anyway, it was good, but not quite the texture we’re used to, so I want to make a few adjustments and try it again.  I may be able to talk about it later this week if it works out!

In the meantime, this brings us to the end of my 12 Days of Christmas Blog series.  It’s only one week until Christmas!  For one more entry into the Christmas treat box giveaway, leave a comment here before noon eastern standard time tomorrow (December 19).  I’ll announce the winner in the early afternoon and hope to get that box shipped out soon after.  Thank you so much for joining me these past 12 days!  See you tomorrow!

 

 

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Day 10: Truffles

Today’s treat is not baked, but very tasty and easy to make.  It amazes me sometimes how much we are willing to pay for chocolate truffles when it’s not terribly hard to make them at home.

The thing that makes these so easy is that they are rolled in a coating and not dipped in tempered chocolate.  Tempering chocolate is a tricky business that involves quite a bit of precise temperature regulating.  If you eliminate that step, though, you get a treat that even kids can make.

In fact, that’s just what my kids did yesterday and today.  They each chose a flavor for their truffles.  One chose peppermint and the other mexican chocolate.

I was busy shuttling back and forth between the two of them so there are no pictures of the chocolate mixing process.  The recipe I used can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking Chez Moi.  However, there’s lots of similar recipes out there if you want to try them.

Rolling the ganache into balls was messy, but it doesn’t really matter if they are done evenly because it all looks good in the end after they are rolled in their coatings.  The peppermint ones got rolled in ground up white chocolate, while the Mexican ones got a cocoa powder/cinnamon/chili powder coating.

Because these are not coated with tempered chocolate, they have to be stored in the fridge.  They taste better if you leave them out for a while to warm up, though.  The boys are planning to give some of their truffles away as gifts to their friends.  That’s only if we don’t eat them all first!

I’ll be sure to include a few in the Christmas Treat box that I am giving away in just a few days.   Be sure to leave a comment to be included in the drawing.  (If you need the rules, here they are.  Tell me about your favorite chocolate.  My favorite chocolates to eat are from Chuao.  They have a passionfruit truffle that is really yummy!

 

Merry Christmas

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It’s time to announce the winner of my box of Christmas goodies! The random number generator picked post # 74 by Heather S:

Submitted on 2014/12/14 at 10:12 am

Love candy canes. Although chocolate with peppermint is always good.

Congratulations, Heather! I hope you enjoy the treats!

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Thank you to all of you who followed along my 12 Days of Christmas candy craziness. Now I can bake some Christmas cookies! From our family to yours, I hope you have a wonderfully sweet Christmas.

Day 12: Torrone

When I started this 12 days of candy, I knew that Torrone was going to be the last one on the list. It’s one of the husband’s favorite candy and it is also one of the most challenging candies to make. Fortunately, I had two really precise recipes that I was hopeful would lead me to success. Unfortunately for me, I had to try both of them.

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Torrone is an Italian candy made with whipped egg whites and sugar syrup, studded with whole nuts and sandwiched between layers of edible paper. Does this sound complicated yet? Yes, it is. The first recipe I tried, from the d.i.y. Cookbook, was a simplified version. It has you boil all the honey and sugar together to a very high temperature; 320 degrees!

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It’s really hard to boil honey to that temperature without scorching it and, sadly, that is what happened. The color was too dark and the resulting mixture actually tasted a little bitter. Plus, it deflated quite a bit. Not wanting to waste my expensive nuts and dried fruit in this batch, I decided to call that one a loss and turned to my second, more complicated recipe.

The next recipe was from The Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller. It had a lot more ingredients and more components to keep track of, so I enlisted the help of my support crew. They are not looking at the camera because they are watching their respective thermometers.

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They kept track of hot boiling syrup temperatures on the stove, while I made sure the egg whites were done just right. Then, it was a matter of adding the syrups carefully.

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At first, everything seemed to be going well. But, after a few minutes of beating, I noticed that this mixture also deflated. Also, it stayed hot a very long time. We ended up getting a fan to help cool the bowl and the mixer as it whipped for over 20 minutes. Once I added the nuts and fruit though, everything seized up and things became more difficult. It was almost impossible to get the mixture out of the bowl, and flattened. There was no way it was going to be coaxed into a rectangular shape, so I had to content myself with just getting it an even thickness. Also, I had quite a patchwork of edible rice paper in the end because the sheets were not big enough and they kept tearing.

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I knew this was going to be a tough one to cut, so I got the husband’s assistance with this part. It was indeed very hard to cut.

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The final result, though, was just right. This may not be the softest torrone out there. In fact, torrones can vary greatly in hardness. Some are very soft and others quite hard. This version turned out to be a hard version. In retrospect, I should not have tried to cool the mixture down as much as I did because that made it harder to roll out in the end.

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The color is great, a nice bright white. There are almonds and the dried cherries and cranberries give it a festive look. The flavor is spot on with lots of honey notes and crunchy almonds. The nougat becomes nice and soft and chewy in your mouth after a few minutes and you can chew it like gum, only it is tastier. It looks just like the photos in the book, too, which make me very happy. Even the little odd shaped bits look pretty good.

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Well, that’s the end of my twelve days of Christmas candy treats. Today is your last chance to leave a comment and be entered in the drawing to win a box of goodies. I have all the items set aside and ready to be shipped on Monday. Mail service in our area has been slow, so it is very likely the winner will not receive the prize in time for Christmas, but maybe that means they can keep it for themselves! I will be back tomorrow afternoon to announce the winner.

Day 11: Turkish Delight

My first knowledge of Turkish Delight came from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when it is used by a wicked witch to tempt one of the main characters. Having never heard of the candy before, I naturally wondered what it was. It must be really good to tempt a child to go with someone so clearly wicked. Sadly, Turkish Delight is almost impossible to find int his country. The husband and I were finally able to try it when we visited London five years ago. Here, we have only been able to find it at Russ and Daughters in New York.

If you have never had the candy, it is really hard to describe. It’s super sweet, made even sweeter by a coating of powdered sugar and cornstarch. The texture is like one of those citrus jelly candies, but softer, and it often has nuts suspended in it. Most are scented with rose water and tinted different pastel colors.

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I almost did not make this candy because every recipe I looked at involved constant stirring for at least 30 minutes and some up to an hour. Now, I like to cook and all, but I am not much for standing over a stove for an hour. However, I kept thinking about Narnia and how it was always winter there and never Christmas and I knew I would wonder about it until I made it. When I found this recipe, which has all metric weights for the ingredients, I knew I had found the right recipe to try.

There are two stages to making this candy. First, you have to boil a honey and sugar syrup to a certain temperature

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while simultaneously boiling a cornstarch mixture.

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After the sugar syrup is ready, you combine the two together. This was the hardest part, especially since the boys were out and I had no extra hands to help me. I’m afraid I wasn’t wholly successful in combining the two well enough because the mixture looked grainy to me.

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Then, I stirred the mixture. And stirred. And stirred some more.

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Basically, I stirred until my spatula head kept getting stuck in the candy and coming off. And then I stirred a few minutes more until I literally could not move the mixture around in the pot any more. Then, I had to stir in the nuts and orange flower water.

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I did the best I could to spread it into the pan in an even layer, which was no small feat as it was very sticky and thick. A greased spatula helped with this job and then I covered it and let it sit for a day to set. Once it was cut up, it got rolled around in powdered sugar and cornstarch so they would not stick together.

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Well, how was it, you ask? It was pretty good. We all liked the candy base and stood around the pot right after it was made, scraping up the bits left and eating them. The honey flavor really shines through and the texture seemed right. However, I did make one mistake with the recipe. I used salted pistachios instead of unsalted because that is what I had on hand. The final candy is a bit weird with the sweet gel and the salty nuts. It’s not bad, just not quite right if you have had the real stuff.

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Also, the texture is not as smooth as it should be, but for a first try, I am actually pretty happy with it. This was the most difficult candy to make so far and the fact that it is edible makes me pretty happy. I’m not sure if it would tempt any kids into following the White Witch, but that’s just as well since Christmas is well on its way in this house!

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Now, I want to read the Narnia books again. We’ve been listening to Charles Dickens’ story, A Cricket on the Hearth. What is your favorite Christmas story?