As you might imagine, the Curiously, Creatively team has been busy embracing the crafty possibilities of the festive season. We’re going to give you a quick run through over the next few posts of some of our activities, to give an idea of what we’ve been up to lately. I hope that if you are stuck for ideas for gifts and treats we might be able to give you a little inspiration.
I think that we really have to begin with food since Christmas is just not Christmas without a few traditional edibles on hand. Our first very more-ish eatables are chocolate truffles based on a recipe culled from the Sunday Independent ‘Life’ magazine in 2005. It is a very simple and straightforward recipe and is well worth having a go at making (and tweaking a little should you so desire).
The ingredients are as follows:
150ml cream (I usually use whipping cream though double would be richer)
225g chopped dark chocolate (variety unspecified, but I go for about 70% cocoa solids)
(Opt) One TBS whiskey, Cointreau or rum (I’ve also used vanilla essence or coffee)
The method is simple:
Put the cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then add the chocolate and whatever flavour you are using. The recipe does not tell you to remove the pan from the heat at this stage, but I always do, as it is easy to burn chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Then pour it into a tin lined with cling film or greaseproof paper and leave to set. We often leave it in the fridge overnight until it is very firm and chilled to make it easier to handle. It is also handy to do this if you are dividing Christmas prep into a busy routine. You can really just leave the chocolate mix in a block until you are ready to use it.
When you start to cut up the chilled mixture, it is much easier if you have a jug of hot water on hand to dip your knife into as you go along for a clean cut. You can then either simply leave the truffle mix in squares or roll into balls. You have to handle the mixture as little as possible as it will quickly become sticky. The instructions say to use wet hands to mould, but I would suggest that damp (and cool) rather than wet hands would be better. Then work as quickly as possible to shape the truffles as you wish.
Much as I love round truffles, I think that square ones look rather elegant. The recipe is supposed to make around forty truffles but we usually end up with about thirty-six, which is near enough I suppose (and no, we didn’t eat the other four!). We usually roll the truffles in cocoa or a blend of cocoa and icing sugar, although the recipe does give instructions to make a praline coating to roll the truffles (with castor sugar and almonds) if you prefer. We have also tried dipping them in melted chocolate on previous occasions (it was a good excuse to try out my swanky new dipping fork). You could even leave them uncoated…it’s up to you.
In short, there are endless variations that you can try out, including playing around with the chocolate used. We often blend milk and plain chocolate and we will probably try white chocolate at some point. You could add chopped nuts, grated orange rind or almost anything you fancy as an experiment. Once you’ve made (and sampled) your truffles then why not package a few up as a Christmas gift? We will be working on a couple of different variations for giving away as presents this year, as well as keeping a batch to accompany post-Christmas lunch coffee.
What will you be making?