Holiday Bon Bons and Changing Times

There was a time when shipping was a reasonable part of the Christmas gifting equation.  I would create schedules for preparing, baking, wrapping, and shipping elaborate holiday gift baskets for friends and family. Often there was a theme; once everything was smoked: from cheeses, to sausages, salsas, jerky, and nuts.

As shipping rates escalated, packages got smaller. Now, I’ve pretty much abandoned the whole shipping idea. Instead I turn to Amazon Prime and send something obscure and generic—no doubt these gifts are appreciated just as much as previous crumbled cookies or the occasional exploding jar.

truffle-postThis year I really wanted to share my latest discovery of high flavored sweet treats made with raw (paleo approved) all natural ingredients featuring dried fruits, nuts, flavorings, and no additional sugar.

Of the two I made, I can’t decide whether I like the chocolate or the apricot more, but it doesn’t matter because they complement each other beautifully. The Raw Truffle Bites have high quality unsweetened cocoa powder, pulverized roasted hazelnuts and Deglet Noor dates, and rolled in cocoa powder. They are a bit like an adult Nutella nugget.

Their companion Apricot Almond Balls, are made with dried apricots flavored with grated lemon zest, pulverized almonds plus a few dates for sweetness, and then rolled in desiccated coconut for contrast. Use the best dried apricots you can find, the lemon zest really brings them to life and the almonds are the perfect counterpoint. You’ll find more on the apricots in my next post coming up.

Much like fine bon bons, I reasoned less is more here and the smaller quantities would certainly suffice. Thus, I settled on US Postal Service small flat rate boxes which meant in round numbers, 8.5”x5.5”x1.5” box/postage at $7.00 each; about as reasonable as it gets.

Marginally reminiscent of a candy box, it also meant that the box would likely hold only one layer deep.  After the complicated packaging of previous baskets this would be pretty straightforward; I was more concerned with the strength of the box to do its job.

The raw balls came together in a hurry and in no time I was filling individual candy cups. Next I strategically packed them in colorful beribboned cellophane bags along with gift ingredient labels. The packages were then snuggly bound in bubble wrap and slipped into their waiting boxes—no rattling or shifting here. According to all accounts they arrived safely and fairly unscathed.

Raw Truffle Bites

Inspired by Raw Brownie Bites at paleogrubs.com

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups roasted hazelnuts (walnuts or pecans) light chop
pinch of salt
1 cup pitted Deglet Noor dates (or other excellent quality), chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Add roasted hazelnuts and salt to food processor and process until nuts are finely ground.
  2. Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder and process until mixture begins to come together. If necessary, add a couple drops of water at a time.
  3. Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using a slightly rounded teaspoonful, roll with hands into small round balls and chill well. Roll in cocoa powder if desired. Yield: 17 – 20 truffles.

Note:  These are best eaten cold. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for about 1 week.

 

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Mad about Madeleines

madeleines and coffee resizeLike everyone else in the country, my life is finally getting back to normal after early December’s subzero weather.  Although the holiday season is certainly not ‘normal’, at least the major forces in my world are getting back on track.    

Onemadeleine pan of the first items on my agenda was to jump into the holiday baking.  As a prelude to that, I pulled out my old madeleine pan (for new nonstick version check out the Fox Run Madeleine Pan) and baked off a batch of these sweet treats.  

 I’m with Proust and his effusive recollections of the delights of  a madeleine shell over a cup of tea:  

madeleine shells

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.
―Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Yes, these are the things of which memories are made.  Happy holidays.   

Madeleines

Often made with ground nuts, I prefer this simple version.  

 Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, or 1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated

 Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs well and slowly add the sugar until mixture is thick and fluffy.  Add the flour.
  2.  Gently stir in the butter and grated lemon or ginger until completely blended.  Chill if time permits, about 2 hours.
  3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter the shells well or spray them well with oil.  
  4.  Scoop about 1-1/2 tsp. batter into each mold.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.   Remove from oven and let cool on rack about 5 minutes then remove from pans.  Wipe out pan and continue.  Yield:  about 30.
  5.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar.  Best eaten the same day. 

 Chocolate variation:  Add 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa with flour; instead of lemon peel use 2 oz. grated semi-sweet chocolate.