There are only a few days left until Christmas and the malls are packed. Apparently there is even a Macy’s out in Tyson’s Corner that is open 24/7 up until Christmas Eve. If shopping for sweaters and coffee table books at 3a.m. doesn’t strike your fancy than perhaps you can follow my lead and give your friends, family, and co-workers a homemade gift.
Last year I spent the better part of a weekend making my friends and co-workers cookie boxes. This year I decided on homemade candy. The three recipes below are so much fun to make and are decadent and delicious. Even better a bunch of the recipes can be made days in advance, so you can make them tonight, sit down with a glass of eggnog, and then package them up right in time for St. Nick to arrive. Your loved ones will appreciate the personal touch—-and all the chocolate!
16 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate (or a combination), finely chopped
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder and assorted crushed nuts, for rolling
1. Place chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan heat cream until it begins to simmer; pour over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes. Uncover and whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Mix in vanilla and salt. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate and let cool 15 minutes. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until completely set, about 3 hours.
2. With a melon baller or a teaspoon scoop out chocolate mixture and place on parchment paper. Coat hands with cocoa and roll truffles into balls; place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. (To store, cover with plastic and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks). Roll in finely chopped nuts or more cocoa powder before serving or packing.
Makes 70 truffles
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
Peanut Butter Cups
1. Combine sugar, peanut butter, and butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or electric mixer). Beat on medium-low speed until combined. Set aside.
2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Keep melted chocolate over hot water near work area. Use a small spoon or small paintbrush to coat insides of the paper candy cups with the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the bottom and sides well. Transfer cups to a rimmed baking sheet or muffin tins (which will keep the cups from sliding around). Transfer to freezer until set, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove cold chocolate cups from the freezer. Either using a pastry bag or a small spoon, pipe/spoon peanut butter filling into each cup until three-quarters full. Spoon melted chocolate into each cup to cover. Return to the freezer until set, 15 to 25 minutes. Peanut butter cups may be served right away or kept tightly sealed in the freezer for 2 to 3 days. To serve remove from freezer and serve, slightly cold.
Makes 36 cups
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Double Chocolate Bark
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
7 ounces salted cocktail peanuts (about 1 ½ cups)
1. Place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate melts. Remove from heat.
2. Melt bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Stir in peanuts. Spread on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, spreading peanuts in a single layer. Drop spoonfuls of white chocolate on top, and swirl chocolates with a skewer or chopstick. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Break bark into large pieces. Bark will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 1 ¼ pounds of bark
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living