Thursday, 20 December 2012

Chocolate truffles

Don't they look deliciously precious?

This Christmas, as I had a few people who I owed a present and like but don't know intimately well, I decided to make my own chocolate truffles.  They're just personal enough, being home-made, not to offend if people get the same thing as each other in public; and just impersonal enough to work for almost anybody. 

Having said that, I chose the flavours carefully so that there would be a variety in every little package, and people wouldn't feel unable to eat any of their packet.

The wrappings were made from some cellophane I stole from work, and tied with the ribbons on some ordinary gift tags.  The truffles were shaped by pouring the liquid ganaches into silicone ice-cube trays.  These are becoming more common, and do make the job infinitely easier, but if you don't have one, no worries.  Allow the ganache to set in the fridge until firm, then scoop out teaspoonfuls and roll them into balls in your hands.  This is messy but fun.

Truffles in the mould

ProTip: Keep two saucepans out, one for heating cream, the other with hot water.  If your hot cream isn't enough to melt the chocolate by iteslf, place the mixing bowl over the pan of hot water and stir the ganache rapidly until it begins to loosen and melt at the bottom.  Take the pan off the heat and continue stirring vigorously until the ganache is smooth.  DO NOT overheat, or the choc will split and become a bitter, oily mess.

Chocolate Truffles (makes 10-20)
You Will Need for every flavour: Moulding trays (ideally), chopping board and knife, several small bowls, many teaspoons, small saucepans, measuring jug (minimum mark 50ml), spatula or wooden spoon.  To wrap: nice paper, ribbon or tags, scissors.

Cherry Brandy Truffles
100g dark chocolate
50ml double cream
25ml cherry brandy
glacé cherries, dark, halved
cocoa powder

1) Chop the chocolate as finely as you can - this will make mixing it easier.  Place in a small bowl.
2) Heat the cream until not quite boiling; add the liqueur.  Pour the hot liquid over the chocolate.
3) Stir the cream and chocolate together until completely melted and blended.
4) Chop the cherries until you have as many halves as you want truffles.
5) Half-fill your moulds*, add a cherry-half flat-side up, and top off with more chocolate.
6) Chill for at least half an hour in the freezer, 2 hours in the fridge.  Scatter a little cocoa in another bowl.  Turn the chocs out of the moulds into the bowl of cocoa, and shuffle about until lightly coated.

*this recipe is difficult without moulds, but you could give it a go - forming balls in your hands around half-cherries.  They will end up bigger and rougher.

Twinkly White Vanilla Truffles
100g white chocolate
30ml double cream
1tsp vanilla essence
decorative sugar balls/sprinkles

1) Repeat steps 1-3 from the first recipe, substituting the tsp of vanilla for liqueur.
2) Freeze the ganache for half an hour, until just firm.  Scoop into balls with teaspoons and mould in your hands.  You washed your hands, right?
3) Scatter sugar balls into a bowl.  Turn out truffles into the bowl and roll in the decoration. 

N.B. White chocolate gets its distinctive colour from containing almost no cocoa solids.  This means that it melts more easily and needs less cream to make a satisfying ganache.

Trebor Extra Strong Snowballs
You Will Need: Pestle and mortar
100g dark chocolate
50ml double cream
3-4 Trebor Extra Strong Mints

1) Make the ganache as for Cherry Truffles, witholding the liqueur.
2) Pour into moulds and freeze for half an hour to set.
3) Crush 3-4 mints to fine dust in a pestle and mortar; roll the truffles in the dust until coated.

Coffee Truffles
You Will Need: sieve
100g dark chocolate
70ml double cream
1 tablespoon fine ground coffee

1) Chop 100g of the chocolate finely.  Put in a small bowl to mix.
2) Heat the cream with the coffee granules gently, stirring, for a while to allow the coffee to infuse.
3) When the cream is hot and coloured, pour it onto the chocolate through the sieve.  You don't want grit in your chocs.  Stir until the choc and cream are well blended.  Not all of the cream will come through the sieve.
4) Pour the ganache into moulds and chill until firm, or chill and roll into balls.

To Present
A square of cellophane or paper 8ins on each side will just envelop eight truffles comfortably.  

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Aran Cardigan finished article

It's finished!  Here I am modelling my big fluffy item on my Dad's incredibly expensive Italian sofa, posing pretentiously.  I'm particularly pleased with the sleeves, as I'd got my cable-eights really sorted by then. 

Sadly the acrylic yarn I used is not bobble-resistant at all, but it doesn't seem to shed; its moth-resistance will have to be tested later in the year when it gets put away for the summer.

My next knitting commission will take me a good long time; a friend of mine wants a 'sexy cable-knit' which is 'yuppie-y, but not too much' and the pattern I have gives the required gague in cable-stitches, so I will have to swatch like mad.  If I have any crafting-budget left over after the holiday season, I can feel more needle-felting coming on.  It's high time I combined it with beads to make easy, Simple birthday presents to last the rest of 2013.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Simple Christmas

It's really getting festive round here.  At the house where I live, (where Christmas is very savoury-food-centric), the fridge is beginning to fill with ham, sausagemeat, red cabbage and turkey liver for patĂ©.  I'm sure that at my father's flat the big red wooden reindeer full of drawers is doing his Advent duty.  Only yesterday I spent a very happy morning decorating the window of the shop where I work.  The air is nippy; the frost is on the ground; Oxford Street is heaving.

It's really high time we all started getting sorted, so to help out, I'm posting a list of all the festive advice and recipes I've given on this blog in one place.  You'll notice that there are some conspicuous absences from this list - nativity scenes, Christmas pudding, turkey or goose recipes, mince pies, and so on.  At some point I will post my recipe mincemeat mince pies made with real minced meat - not mincemeat, minced meat - or meatmince, if you will.  But I have to get them perfectly squidgy and flavoursome first.  As for the rest - I can only blog so much a year!

Needle felted

Christmas (fruit) cakes:
Figgy Upside-Down
Marzipan Painted Fruitcake
Orange Upside-Down Layer Cake

European Christmas Biscuits:
Pepparkakor recipe
Gingerbread house template
Gingerbread stave church
Basler Brunsli 

Die Hard and Biscuits

Flower arranging:
Christmas Greenery

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Joining Ends Of Yarn With A Felting Needle

A very Simple quickie today - ever had this annoying situation?  You get to the end of a ball of wool, but you're still in the middle of working a piece?  There are lots of ways of joining the ends of a new ball into your work; my favoured method used to be the 'leave the dud end on the wrongside and pick up the new thread like nothing happened' method.  Then you knot the loose ends together and skim them in at the end.

This is inferior!  Now that I have my felting needle and mat, I can do this - all without getting up from my armchair:

Just stab until melded.  You'll have one or two fatso stitches on your rightside, but who likes skimming in ends?  Nobody.  Who likes stabbing fluffy things?   Ok, rhetorical....

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Needle Felted Bunnies (Twee and Rock)

Since I discovered needle felting, the most Simple and adorably fluffy craft ever, I've been compulsively making stuff until I ran out of wool.  This included a pair of bunnies, one of whom has a little guinea-pig friend, as presents for the adorable twee- and rock- bunny-loving people in my life this festive season.  Follow the pics for a simple-as step-by step!