Traditions: They Just Sort of Happen!
It’s funny how traditions get started. When I was a kid my Mom always made a special cookie (Cherry Winks) only at Christmas time. In my 46 years she has NEVER made them at any other time of the year. Even when my brother was sick with pneumonia and they were his favorite cookies she didn't make them. But, come December she makes 3 or 4 batches and we all go crazy over them. That was a tradition she started for our family. I’m sure if I asked her she could tell me stories of traditions her Mother started when she was a kid. Honestly, I’ve never really thought about starting traditions but I really think they just happen.
A few years ago when my brother’s and I started having kids we decided to exchange gifts just for the kids. While that was not something I advocated for, it just made sense since we were all raising our families on limited budgets and we lived away and shipping large boxes got to be pretty expensive.
To “get” around that new “rule” one year I made 10 batches of nut brittle and gave everyone in my family and all my close friends a fancy tin I decorated and filled with the brittle. It was a HUGE hit, and the next year I made brittle AND walnut syrup to put on ice cream. The year after that it was brittle, syrup and some chocolates.
Well you know how that goes – before I knew it I was in full candy making mode every December. It really makes me happy to spend my time making custom confections for my family. My brother especially appreciates the candy as he has everything he could ever want and the time that I spend making exactly what he loves means more to him than a store bought gift that he probably already has.
Fast forward 10 or so years and I’ve roped a friend into "Catherine + Kelley's Annual December Candy Frenzy” where we meet and make 5 or 6 different types of candy in ONE day. (You can see the recipes we pinned to choose from last year on my Pinterest board here: Candy Love.
This year, I thought it would be fun to share one of my truffle recipes with you – they are super easy to make and taste delicious and get you on the road to starting a new tradition!
1 pkg. Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
½ cup Whipping or Whole Cream
1 tablespoons Butter
1 Package Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee – about 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream (substitute Vanilla if you prefer not to use alcohol)
- Combine the first 4 ingredients in a double boiler and let melt together. When melted, stir to combine and remove from the heat.
- Mix in the Bailey’s Irish Cream (or vanilla) and pour in a glass pan to cool. It’s usually cold here in Maine so I put the pan outside on the porch. I don’t like to cover it with foil or plastic because that retains heat and causes condensation so I open the cover to the grill and put it inside with the cover down for a couple of hours. You can also use the freezer but I have a tendency to forget it there and it’s too hard when I need it.
- When the chocolate mixture is cool, form the mixture into small 1” or so balls. It’s a good idea to use plastic gloves so your hands don’t get covered in chocolate. The smaller the balls the more you get, but if they are too small it's a pain to dip them in melted chocolate. I recommend you experiment and also this is a good opportunity to sample the goods.
- Place the balls back outside (or in the refrigerator) to cool.
- At this point, you can roll the balls in cocoa, confectionary sugar, fancy sugar, coconut, chopped nuts or anything you want to coat them with. I usually dip them in melted chocolate and add a fancy decoration to the top. I have the best luck using Wilton Candy Melts for the chocolate coating.
- When the chocolate are cool, package them in fancy metal tins and create a fancy tag and you’ve got a beautiful, hand-made gift that any chocolate lover will go crazy over.
· I usually do NOT double or triple the batch. Chocolate is finicky and can bolt pretty easy. Making individual batches give you the opportunity to have a TON of flavoring choices that look super cool when you put 2 or 3 of each flavor in the tin.
· When thinking about the flavors I use a different decoration on the top of each flavor to tell them apart. White nonpareils for mint, a candy snowflake for another flavor, a nut for peanut butter -- you get the picture. I like to have a little helper to add the decoration so I can dip all the truffles before the chocolate melt gets to cool to work with. Plus, my son feels like he has contributed to the Annual Truffle Extravaganza and earns a few licks of the dipping spoon when we're done.
· If the cooled balls are too cold when you dip them in the melted chocolate the cooled coating has a tendency to have a big crack. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as I'm sorting and rating (perfect ones go my Dad and husband, imperfect and ugly ones go to work with my husband) but something to keep in mind if you like them to look perfect.
· If using Candy Melts to coat the cooled truffles, DO NOT CONTAMINATE the melted chocolate with water. Make sure to dry the double boiler COMPLETELY before you start melting because even a few drops will ruin the batch! You will end up with a double boiler full of messed up separated chocolate that isn’t suitable for coating your fancy candies with. White and colored Candy Melts are HARD to work with. I try to stick with the milk or dark chocolate – and sometimes venture into white melts. The dyes in the colored (red, pink, green, blue etc.) melts kind of gross me out so I never ever use any of the colored Candy Melts.
Thanks for following along with my Christmas tradition – I hope that you are inspired to make candies or fancy chocolates and add them to your Holidays…the chocolate lovers in your life will be happy you did!
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