Category Archives: Candies, chocolates, truffles

Easy Festive Sweet Treats and Desserts

Unbaked Chocolate Cake

If most of your Christmas dishes are time-consuming or difficult, the last thing you need to complicate your life with is an elaborate dessert. Leafing through my old hand-written copy book and browsing through my blog, I realised most sweets I prepare got easier and quicker throughout the years. Thanks to this, the dessert is the part of the meal I am least nervous about because I got used to effortless recipes, which – surprisingly – please my guests as much as the difficult ones used to. The best illustration of what I’m talking about is the above Unbaked Chocolate Cake I have discovered thanks to Katerina, my dear Greek friend and extraordinary inspiring cook from Culinary Flavors. It takes a while to prepare, always yields perfect results and is a huge hit every time I serve it.

Apart from the above cake, I have chosen for you baked desserts, creams, truffles and other sweet treats I consider particularly easy and sometimes also very quick to make. You will notice most of them are light; it’s not intentional but simply illustrates the majority of the sweets I have been preparing in recent years. All are seasonal (I mean from the European point of view), so no need to chase down tasteless and expensive strawberries or peaches in the middle of winter. I hope you will find at least one useful easy idea here. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all of my dear visitors!

TARTS AND CAKES

French Lemon Tart or Tartlets

French Lemon Tart or Tartlets

Super Thin Apple and Applesauce Tart

Super Thin Apple and Applesauce Tart

Pear and Fresh Cheese Tart

Pear and Fresh Cheese Tart

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Guinness Chocolate Cake

CREAMS AND CREAMY INDIVIDUAL DESSERTS

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Light Crème Brûlée (Light Burnt Cream)

Light Crème Brûlée (Light Burnt Cream)

Light Unbaked Cheesecake with Passion Fruit

Light Unbaked Cheesecake with Passion Fruit

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

TRUFFLES AND SWEET FINGER FOOD

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Prunes in Chocolate

Prunes in Chocolate

Chocolate Truffles with Prunes and Chocolate

Chocolate Truffles with Prunes and Chocolate

Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)

3-Ingredient Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)

 

 

 

Chocolate Truffles with Prunes and Walnuts

prunwaltrufpBefore you start yawning, seeing a second truffle recipe in a row, I must assure you I have a very good reason for that. These truffles are perhaps not very spectacular, perhaps they will not please crowds, but for me they count among the most successful culinary experiments of recent years. Slightly tangy, slightly bitter, chunky, chewy, boozy, they combine three different textures and sharp adult flavours. All this makes them an addictive, fantastic treat for all the prune lovers.

The idea was simple: starting with my beloved Prunes in Chocolate as a basis, I decided to throw in some walnuts and splash some rum I often add to Prunes in Chocolate too. The barely cooled mixture in the pan was already so fabulous, it was difficult not to eat all of it with a spoon. Compared to other truffles, these were quick and easy to prepare, though, due to the chunks of nuts and prunes, they will never be as smooth as most truffles I make. On the other hand, at least they resemble real truffles! If you don’t like walnuts, you can choose any nut you prefer (or no nuts at all), but in my opinion prunes are the crucial element.

If you don’t have time and/or patience, but the idea of prunes combined with chocolate tempts you, you might try these super quick, effortless and absolutely delicious Prunes in Chocolate:

Prunes in Chocolate

Prunes in Chocolate

As a reminder, here are some other truffles I have written about:

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

 

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and Oat Truffles

 

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

Hazelnut Truffles

Hazelnut Truffles

TIPS: Whether you prefer bitter or milk (or even white) chocolate, choose always good quality product to prepare truffles. For me good quality chocolate starts at the level where cocoa butter is the only fat on the ingredients list. (This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive chocolate!).

Do not attempt “slimming down” these truffles, i.e. making them without butter or cream. These are necessary to soften the chocolate.

During the chocolate melting process, keep very low heat, stir constantly and do not let it boil.

While forming the truffles, make sure your hands are not too warm, running cold water on them from time to time and rolling the truffles between your fingers and not on the palm of your hand (which is warmer).

The truffles should be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part of the fridge), so make sure you say it while offering a box. Take them out about 30 minutes before serving.

The cocoa coating will become slightly moist in the fridge, so either coat them just before serving or coat them twice: once before putting them into the fridge and once again before serving. Of course the dry coating changes only the look, not the taste.

Preparation: about 1 hour (including the cooling time)

Ingredients (yields about 12 walnut-sized truffles):

100 g (about 3.5 oz) dark good quality chocolate, broken into small pieces

30 g (about 1 oz) butter

30 ml (about 1 oz) liquid cream (no thickeners; at least 20% fat)

10 chopped prunes

12 walnut kernels, chopped

2 tablespoons rum

2-3 tablespoons bitter cocoa to coat the truffles

Pour the cream into a small pan. Add the butter and the chocolate.

Melt the chocolate and the butter at low heat, constantly stirring.

When you see that about 80% of the chocolate has melted, take the pan off the heat and stir vigorously until it dissolves completely. (If you wait too long, you might overcook the chocolate).

Add the chopped prunes, walnuts, rum and combine well.

Put aside in a cool place for about 20 minutes until it sets to a point where truffles can be formed.

If the mixture sets too much and is too hard to form, wait a bit. It will soften at room temperature.

Quickly form truffles (try using only the fingers  because the palm of your hand is always much warmer).

Repeat the same with each truffle.

Put the truffles into a bowl filled with cocoa and, moving the bowl, coat the truffles thoroughly or put them into the fridge and wait with cocoa coating just before serving (see the TIPS above).

Place the truffles on a plate or in paper cases and refrigerate a couple of hours before serving or before offering them.

The truffles should always be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part, but the fridge is obligatory).

Chocolate Truffles with Hazelnuts and Coffee

hazeltrufflespLast days have been particularly cold and all I crave are soups and chocolate treats. Truffles are among the easiest chocolate snacks I know. The possibilities are endless, the process is very easy, so it’s not difficult to invent at least one new version every year. My usual basis is ganache (a mixture of chocolate and cream, though some people add also butter) which, cooled, is already enough to form truffles, but I often also add nuts, puffed grains or dried fruits as the binding agents for a more filling, richer, more homely result.

These were particularly simple. Coffee was actually a very pleasant addition to hazelnuts and if I had coffee or hazelnut liqueur, I am sure it would make these truffles even better and more complex. I have made two batches: one with dark chocolate and one with milk chocolate. For the first time on this blog (and I think in my whole life) I must admit that milk chocolate was a better choice. Actually, it pairs better with hazelnuts (in fact it paired so well, I ate these truffles too quickly to take photographs… what you see above is obviously the dark chocolate batch).

These truffles are more filling and I would say rustic compared to the 100% ganache truffles (such as these Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles). They are however a bit easier to form and, like all the truffles, apart from being an excellent tea snack, they are also might be a good idea for a small present. Their taste improves with time (especially if you use alcohol), so it’s good to prepare them one day ahead.

In case you don’t like hazelnuts, but feel like playing with truffles, here are some other suggestions:

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

 

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and Oat Truffles

 

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

TIPS:

During the chocolate melting process, keep a very low heat, stir constantly and do not let it boil.

While forming the truffles, make sure your hands are not too warm, running cold water on them from time to time and rolling the truffles between your fingers and not on the palm of your hand (which is warmer).

The truffles should be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part of the fridge), so make sure you say it while offering a box.

Preparation: about 30 min + 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (yields about 16 walnut-sized truffles):

100 g/about 3,5 oz good quality chocolate (dark or milk chocolate)

100 ml/about 3/4 cup liquid cream (I have used 25% fat cream)

1 tablespoon instant coffee (or a small – 50 ml espresso; if using espresso, add 50 ml less cream)

100 g/about 1 cup chopped hazelnuts + several heaped tablespoons ground hazelnuts for coating

(coffee liqueur)

Bring the cream to a boil.

Put aside.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and add to the hot cream together with the coffee and liqueur, if using.

Stir constantly until you obtain a smooth texture.

Add the chopped hazelnuts and stir well.

Put the mixture to the fridge for about 3 hours until the mixture is dense enough to be handled.

Quickly form truffles (I have made walnut sized balls) with cold hands.

Put the ground hazelnuts into a deep bowl.

Dust the inside of your hands with some ground hazelnuts, quickly form a truffle (try using only the fingers  because the palm of your hand is always much warmer), put it into a bowl with ground hazelnuts  and, moving the bowl, coat the truffle thoroughly.

Repeat the same with each truffle.

Place the truffles on a plate or in paper cases and refrigerate a couple of hours before serving or before offering them.

The truffles should always be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part, but the fridge is obligatory).

Easter Party Ideas

wontoncupspj

Wonton Cups, or Edible Snack Containers

Zsuzsa, my blogging friend from Zsuzsa is in the Kitchen, has recently invited me to join her and other bloggers (Eva from Takarékos Konyha, Elisabeth from Food and Thrift and Eva from Kitchen Inspirations) and, just like them, post my Easter menu suggestions. I was honoured, but at first I panicked because apart from a Chicken Terrine (see below) I don’t really have traditional Easter dishes on my blog. Both Zsuzsa and Elisabeth have convinced me to present whatever I might serve for such an occasion, even if it is not traditional in any country or region of the world. Thank you, ladies, for your advice! Thus, I have chosen some festive dishes I love, regardless their origins or relation to Easter celebrations. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa, for your kind invitation. I hope my eclectic choice, far from Easter traditions will not disappoint you.

Here is a list of dishes I would take into consideration if I had guests for Easter (of course I wouldn’t serve all of them!). All of them can be served at a buffet-style party, my recent favourite way to entertain. Such a concept usually means more work beforehand because, contrary to traditional meals, one cannot serve just three dishes, but this way I offer a bigger choice to the guests, who are not forced to eat all they are served, but most of all such a party has a more relaxed atmosphere. Apart from one exception, I have chosen easy recipes, which either can be prepared very quickly or made in advance. They have both Western and Asian origins, so I hope you will find here some useful ideas, not necessarily for Easter.

First of all, I would never skip the obligatory Wonton Cups, or Edible Snack Containers (see the photo above). Versatile, cute and easy, these edible containers are nowadays a staple not only when I have guests (thank you, Juliana!).

lastmcrackersp

Last-minute Crackers can be prepared really just before the guests arrive as long as you have some puff pastry in the fridge. These star-shaped crackers were prepared for Christmas, but you can give them any shape you wish, such as bunnies…

olives2pp

These olives are so easy to prepare you will never consider buying them seasoned by someone else again.

mackerspreadp

This Smoked Mackerel and Egg Spread can be prepared with any smoked fish of your choice, of course.

taramosalatapj

Recently discovered Taramosalata (Fish Roe Spread) is one more thing I will never ever even think of buying. Home-made version is incomparably better.

patepp

Light Chicken Terrine with Nutmeg is actually the only dish I used to have as a child for Easter and other festive occasions.

goatcakepp

Savoury Cake with Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes (aka Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes Bread) is a wonderful alternative to canapés.

cakejamp

Cake with Ham and Olives, another canapés substitution, is a real crowd-pleaser.

makishrimpp

If you feel like serving Japanese food (why not?), try preparing Maki Sushi with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber. They will not necessarily look as perfect as in your sushi shop, but they are really easy to prepare.

roastrollspp

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast and Carrots, an Asian sandwich alternative, can also be prepared with the remains of your roast, after the Easter holidays.

chickensesamep

Sesame-Coated Chicken Nuggets (Tori no goma age) can be made in advance and will please all the sesame fans.

chickenleekp

Japanese Chicken and Leek Skewers (Negima) are brushed with teriyaki glaze and usually please every guest.

asparagusporkpp

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls are incredibly easy to prepare and are one of my favourite ways to serve asparagus.

chterrinespeculoospj

Unbaked chocolate Cake with Biscuits (Chocolate Terrine with Speculoos) is a rich creamy dessert which doesn’t require baking and is incredibly simple to prepare.

bountytrufflespj

Coconut, Chocolate and Rum Truffles (Bounty Truffles). Who doesn’t like chocolate truffles?

matchatruffles3p

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles are the only ones which might be tricky to prepare, but they are green, fresh, festive and have this amazing slightly bitter matcha flavour…

prunechdp

Chocolate and prunes are all you need to prepare these luscious Prunes in Chocolate, a quicker and easier alternative to chocolate truffles.

kiwic4p

This Kiwi and Rum Cocktail seemed perfect for a spring party.

I strongly encourage you to check the wonderful Easter menu suggestions proposed by my blogging friends and would like to wish you all a very happy Easter and wonderful holidays to those who don’t celebrate it!

Coconut, Chocolate and Rum Truffles (Bounty Truffles)

bountytrufflespj

As soon as I think about the approaching Christmas, I feel like making truffles. I am always planning to offer them as edible presents and… finally end up eating most of them on my own (although I did manage to offer some Prunes in Chocolate last year!). Last week I was looking for something new and browsing through cooking blogs I finally found on this wonderful blog the inspiration I was looking for: Bounty truffles. Unable to stick to almost any sweet recipe, I have modified this one too, mainly replacing butter and sugar with white chocolate, switching to dark chocolate and using real rum.

After all these changes I found the result surprisingly successful (even though my truffles are far from looking as neat and perfect as the original). If you share my passion for coconut and dark chocolate, you will certainly love them. The rum adds a certain lightness, freshness and elegance you shouldn’t refuse these otherwise homely, rich sweet treats. Therefore I want to emphasize that unless you hate rum or cannot consume alcohol (I don’t talk about those who get drunk easily because 2 tablespoons alcohol in 20 truffles wouldn’t affect even the weakest head), do not skip it!

If you are not fond of the above mixture of flavours, you might like some of these:

Matcha, White Chocolate and Oat Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Prunes in Chocolate

thriftyp

Thrifty Truffles

TIPS: Melting dark chocolate here might prove difficult for those who have never made it. There are several methods: microwaving, melting in a hot water bath and simple melting in a pan over very low heat. My favourite is the latter. I break the chocolate into pieces, in a small pan, on very low heat, constantly stirring. The important thing is not to let the chocolate boil. Take the pan off the heat before the chocolate melts completely (I usually wait until 90% of chocolate melts) and keep on stirring. It will melt in the already warm melted remaining chocolate and this way you will avoid bringing chocolate to a boiling point, which makes it impossible to use. I usually melt butter this way together with chocolate.

The above method doesn’t work for everyone though (it’s easy to boil the chocolate and spoil it), so you might want to try the safer method  recently mentioned here by A_Boleyn: put the broken chocolate into a metal bowl. Place it over a pan of boiling water. Turn off the heat and stir the chocolate vigorously until it melts.

Melting in a microwave consists of doing it in several short stages, but the details depend on the chocolate amount and the microwave you use (Eva does it in several 15-second stages).

(White chocolate is melted here together with cream, see below).

If you want to sprinkle the truffles with coconut, moist them slightly with water and the sprinkled coconut will stick.

Preparation: 20 minutes + 2-3 hours

Ingredients (yields about 20 truffles):

100 ml/about 3,5 oz cream (at least 18 % fat)

100 g/about 3,5 oz white chocolate

2 cups/500 ml desiccated coconut

100 g/about 3,5 oz dark or milk chocolate (whichever you use, choose a good quality product; it will make a huge difference)

2 tablespoons rum

Pour the cream to a small pan.

Break the white chocolate into pieces and throw into the cream.

Heat the mixture of cream and chocolate on very low heat, constantly stirring until the chocolate is dissolved. (Do not overcook!)

Put aside.

Add the rum, the coconut and mix well.

Put into the fridge for 30 minutes until the mixture becomes very cold and easier to handle.

Form truffles, rolling them delicately on the inside of your palms.

Put them back into the fridge, placing them on baking paper (so that they don’t stick).

After 1 hour take the truffles out of the fridge.

Melt the dark or milk chocolate (see TIPS above).

Dip each coconut truffle in a bowl with melted chocolate and put back on the baking paper.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.