Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brownie Truffles

Julia is here in Pontlevoy visiting for her 2-week spring vacation. Early on I showed her the next five recipes planned for the blog and asked her which one(s) she wanted me to make while she was here. "The Brownie Truffles. Definitely."
There's some more good stuff coming up for sure, but she was so right about this recipe. It's rich but not too sweet and combines fruit and nuts and chocolate very nicely. It left me wondering why I hadn't made these before.

The recipe begins with a brownie, but not just any brownie. This is a brownie stuffed with booze-soaked dried apricots. What's not to like?
Alicia and I grew up with dried apricots--our maternal grandparents had a large backyard with many fruit trees, most of them apricots. The Blenheims--the good kind. So every summer we would trek out to my grandparent's house about once a week and "cut cots." We would sit in what my grandmother called "the outie," a kind of glorified tool shed/gazebo, all around a big table, and we would cut buckets and buckets of apricots in half and put them on trays for my grandfather to set up for drying. Of course there was a lot of snacking, and the less-than-perfect apricots would go into the "jam cots" or the "pie cots" bowls, but my grandparents still made a whole lot of dried apricots for us to take home and keep in the freezer. My mother would always make "Golden Nuggets," a Betty Crocker recipe for cookies with coconut and dried apricots, at Christmas. Yum. All of this to say that dried apricots are a taste of childhood for me.

If you look carefully, you'll see that there used to be brownie batter in this bowl. My helper got a bit carried away in the cleaning department. I don't blame her.

OK, here we are ready to dip the brownies. You see that we have many shapes and sizes. Maida says to cut the brownies into 16 squares, but we were a bit more dainty. Also Julia thought that truffles should be round, so she rolled some into balls.

The dipping process. We didn't have nearly enough walnuts, so we switched to sliced almonds. The walnuts were better, though the almonds were OK.

Mmmm...truffles. And my hand, coated in chocolate nutty goodness. That was a delightful clean-up task.
We loved these a lot. So much so that we forced ourselves to give them away to anyone who would take them. These would make a great holiday goodie, but why wait?

Here's the recipe.

Brownie Truffles

4 oz. dried apricots (get the Blenheim kind from Trader Joe's if you can)
3 T. Grand Marnier or Cointreau (I used Calvados because it's all I had; it was fine)
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. (1 stick) butter
Pinch salt
1 scant cup (6.5 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. (1.25 oz.) unsifted flour

Soak the apricots the night before: Use scissors to cut them into thin strips. Put them in a jar with a lid and pour on the booze. Let them sit, stirring and shaking when you think of it, overnight.
Now make the brownies. Heat the oven to 325. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil or parchment and butter that. Melt the chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about a minute to a minute and a half, stirring after every 30 seconds. Stir in the salt, sugar, and the eggs, one at a time. Then stir in the vanilla and the flour. Finally, pour in every drop of the apricots and booze. Stir that and scrape into the prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes (Maida says 40-45, but really, check after 20), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature, then chill/freeze until firm.
When the brownies are nice and cold, get the coating ready:

1 lb. walnuts, chopped fine but not ground (really, you'll probably need most if not all of this)
1 lb. milk chocolate (I used a combination of milk and dark and probably somewhat shy of a pound. You don't need the full pound and a half Maida calls for, in my humble opinion.)
6 T. (3 oz.) Crisco or butter (I didn't use this. I imagine it makes the chocolate coating a bit thinner and easier to use. But we had no problems with pure chocolate.)

Get the brownies out and cut into 16 small or 32 tiny squares. Put them on a long sheet of waxed or parchment paper.
Put the walnuts in a pie plate or other wide, shallow bowl. Melt together the chocolate and Crisco in 30-second intervals in the microwave. Be careful because milk chocolate burns very easily.
Now find a helper, if possible, and make an assembly line: dip the brownies first in the chocolate, and then roll them in the nuts. We used a fork for dipping and hands for rolling. When all the brownies have been dipped/rolled and you've done your share of quality control, you'll probably want to put them in the freezer for a bit to firm up. This doesn't take more than half an hour. Then let them come to room temperature and serve. And then chase random people down in the street to offer them truffles because They Must Go.

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