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archive for confections

there’s a surprise

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Recipe: pistachio surprise truffles

Someday, I will catch up on sleep. Jeremy and I have both had several nights in a row of staying up late to work and getting up early to work (or ski). Of course, we both recognize the importance of getting enough sleep, so one night we made a concerted effort to get to bed before midnight in the hopes we’d be able to sleep in until 7 am. Except we have been experimenting with Neva’s sleeping arrangements where we leave her crate door open overnight and have a regular doggy bed in another corner of the bedroom. Neva had other ideas, as Neva usually does. She decided to leap up onto the bed at 2 am – scaring the hell out of both of us since she doesn’t really worry about where she’s landing. After gradually pushing us to our respective edges of the bed, Jeremy put her back in jail (her crate) and shut the door. By 5:30 am she was rattling the door, clamoring to be let out. Puppy training has morphed into a quasi roommate training.

inner peace… inner peace… inner peace…

Back in December, I discovered some frozen homemade pistachio paste while counting my bags of huckleberries in the chest freezer (I do this periodically – it makes me feel better). Pistachio paste is like almond paste, but made with… pistachios. And it’s green. I kinda love the stuff. Since it was the holidays, I took the pistachio paste out to make some truffles to give to friends. I’m not much of a truffle person because of all that chocolate, but I’ll make an exception for these.

pistachios, cream, chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, corn syrup, almond extract, water

Pistachio paste can be hard to find, although Love’n Bake makes a nice one if you can get your hands on some. I’ve resigned myself to making my own pistachio paste as it is pretty straightforward with the exception of peeling the pistachios. If you can find unsalted, raw, shelled, and peeled pistachios, or you don’t care about peeling your pistachios, then the paste is as simple as placing four ingredients in a food processor and pushing the ON button. If you are compelled to peel your pistachios, this is the method that has worked best for me: boil the pistachios, dunk them in ice cold water, pat them dry, peel the skins off. The skinning is the tedious part that takes an hour or more depending on how meticulous you are about the peeling. Play your favorite podcast, radio show, music, whatever. It helps to take your mind off of the crazy.

boil the nuts for a minute or two

submerge the nuts in ice water

pat them dry on a dish towel

the skins should peel off easily

**Jump for more butter**

cookie season is upon you

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Recipe: cookie butter truffles

My refrigerator is packed to the hilt with cookie doughs, candy fillings, and other ingredients for assorted baked goodies. We are coming down to the wire in the next couple of days and it’s always a miracle when I can send the packages of homemade treats out the door. I’ve cruised through five pounds of butter and it looks like I’m going to have to get some more to finish this year’s deliveries and shipments. Part of the reason for my cookie frenzy is because we got a nice dump of snow (finally!) Saturday, so Jeremy and I got out early to catch some first tracks on the mountain. The other part of the reason for the perceived time pressure is because I had to wait until this non-cold finally passed before I could start making cookies to give to other people… and dogs.

the beautiful view from corona chair at eldora

neva inspects the pumpkin peanut butter treats before they go in the oven

Are you the type to walk into the grocery store and browse before you decide what to buy or do you go in with a grocery list? After a couple of decades of data, I know for a fact that I need to walk in with a grocery list. It saves me both time and money. This is particularly true if I go shopping when I’m hungry. But sometimes, even with a list in hand, not having eaten anything by 3 pm means the likelihood of unauthorized items appearing in my basket will increase. So it happened last week as I wheeled through Trader Joe’s looking for a handful of things jotted on my notepad. And then I saw the cookie butter. Plunk – into the basket it went. Then the speculoos cookies. Plunk. I wasn’t sure what would become of them, but I figured I would hash that out later. And I did come up with something eventually – cookie butter truffles. I just wanted to see if they would be good.

speculoos cookies and speculoos cookie butter

let’s make truffles: cookie butter, salt, chocolate, butter, cookies, confectioner’s sugar

**Jump for more butter**

three for a pear

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Recipe: chocolate-dipped key lime pears

Oh weekend, I hardly knew ya. We are always up for a ski, provided there is decent snow. But we haven’t had much snow lately, so we took Neva for a hike to scope out part of the high country. It was rocks and dirt, then ice, then snow, then snirt and more rocks. Patchy conditions annoy me more than anything because it’s a pain to get your skis on and off every twenty feet, but it also sucks to have to get microspikes on and off your shoes. I suppose we could snowshoe, except we swore off snowshoing the day we learned to ski in the backcountry. The mere thought of going back to snowshoes is a major snoozefest (sorry snowshoers, but I speak the truth). Eventually we reached consistent snow cover, then really decent snow for skiing (which meant not so great for hiking). Snow began to fall from the sky and Jeremy squeezed my hand through our gloves.

which way to go? jeremy looks left and neva looks right

The snow didn’t last long and then the winds arrived to make the snowpack sucky. I battled kitchen disasters then went to bed early to ward off a potential cold. Instead of trying to make a ski day the next morning, we opted for a round of fetch at the elementary school soccer field and then spent several hours cleaning out the basement. Neva thought the fetch part was great, but had a lesser opinion of the house cleaning.

catching the ball in mid air

floating back to earth

I always forget how much I enjoy pears until they are practically screaming at me from the produce aisle in November. For a while when we were without a dog, Jeremy and I adhered to a strict rule of not sharing a pear between two people. It’s a superstition that Grandma and a lot of Chinese people follow – because the Chinese word for pear sounds the same as the Chinese word for “split up”. Now with Neva, we can all three share a pear safely (Neva is loving little nibbles of pear).

A few years ago, I was in San Francisco visiting Recchiuti Confections when I spied their key lime pears – wafer thin slices of pear soaked in key lime juice and dipped in dark chocolate. I purchased a box to bring home for Jeremy, because he likes pears and he loves chocolate. They were spendy, so each slice was precious. Each slice really was precious. I became obsessed. When I returned to San Francisco later, I decided to purchase Michael Recchiuti’s cookbook for the sole purpose of getting the recipe for the key lime pears. My pal, Lisa (whose blog is Lisa is Bossy, but my mom has since named her “Lisa is the Boss”), asked if I was going to blog it. I said yes, of course. That was more than a couple of years ago. So it’s time to make good on my word.

water, sugar, bartlett pears, key limes, and chocolate

A word on ingredients. The recipe instructs you to use bartlett pears that are green and hard. Please do this. I have made this recipe twice. The first time was with bartlett pears that were green and rock hard. They turned out beautifully (as you will see). The second batch that I attempted this past weekend was a lot harder to deal with because I couldn’t find bartletts (I only went to one store), so I used the hardest variety I could find – red D’anjou pears. Those didn’t work well at all. The flesh is too soft and they nearly disintegrate during the soaking process. So absolutely follow the recipe on the pear variety and hardness unless you like to make yourself miserable. For chocolate, please use a good quality dark chocolate. There aren’t many ingredients in the recipe, but the quality makes all the difference. And finally, if you can’t find key limes, you can use regular limes. You won’t need as many because they’re much larger.

make a sugar syrup with water and sugar

juice the key limes

add the lime juice to the syrup

**Jump for more butter**