The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
I’m a few days tardy to post the candies I made for this challenge, but they’re done and I’m happy to share them here. This was a tough challenge in that I don’t make candy, not even for the holidays, so I took my time choosing recipes that would have easily accessible ingredients, yet use techniques somewhat new to me.
The first part of the challenge was to make something chocolate. I chose Chocolate Merlot Tarragon Truffles. I used tarragon from the garden and a cabernet/merlot blend wine, and decided to roll them in cocoa as a finish. The bitter cocoa balances the richness of the chocolate, and the tarragon adds just a hint of licorice sweet. In other words, they’re delicious! I read that these were made for Prince William and his new bride when they visited the U.S. in July.
I’ve made ganache before, but never truffles, and I always hesitate to have to use the double boiler. These were easy to make, yet they’re a rich and decadent treat.
The second part of the challenge could be anything and it took me a long time to decide on Spicy Cashew Brittle. I’ve never made any kind of brittle before, and frankly, avoid having to use a candy thermometer at all costs. This recipe intrigued me because it uses jalapeno peppers as the “spicy” component, and I have tons of them in my garden.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of hard, crunchy candy – I prefer soft, chewy, melty chocolate – but this brittle is so good! You can’t really taste the jalapeno, there’s just a “warmth” left on your palate when you finish a piece, and that takes the place of the sweetness that usually lingers. I cannot say there will be piles of truffles and brittle around here now, but having successfully completed this challenge was pretty sweet!
Chocolate Merlot Tarragon Truffles (recipe from Giada DeLaurentis)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli 1/3 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 3 tablespoons Merlot wine
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place the cream and chocolate in a medium bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, which takes about six minutes.
Stir in the tarragon, wine and salt until smooth.
Refrigerate for two hours until firm. Let the mixture stand at room temperature until moldable, which takes about 45 minutes.
Using a melon scoop, scoop level amounts of the truffle mixture on to the prepared baking sheet. Roll into 1/2-inch balls.
Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Roll the truffles in the cocoa powder until coated.
Arrange on a platter and serve or refrigerate in an airtight container.
Spicy Cashew Brittle (recipe from Today’s Nest)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 cups cashews (halves and pieces will do)
- 3 medium jalapeno peppers
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Butter a large baking sheet.
- Assemble all ingredients.
- Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove pith and seeds.
- Place sugar, corn syrup, water, and pepper halves in a large pot over medium heat.
- Attach the thermometer to the side.
- When mixture comes to a boil (about 5 minutes), add in butter. Stir occasionally.
- When mixture reaches 230 (about 15 minutes) degrees remove peppers and begin stirring frequently.
- Turn heat down slightly to medium low.
- When mixture reaches 275 degrees (about 20 minutes) add cashews and stir constantly.
- Turn heat back up to medium.
- When mixture reaches 300 degrees (about 10 minutes) remove from heat and stir in baking soda.
- Pour onto baking sheet and spread out with two forks while candy is still hot.
- Place sheet on wire cooling rack and do not touch until it is cool.
- Invert baking sheet and snap brittle into pieces.
- Store in an airtight container.