Friday, January 08, 2021

CARAMEL SPECULAAS TRUFFLES

Every season has its own charm and brings its own signature flavours, and nothing says winter like the aroma of sugar slowly cooking, becoming caramel. Whether to be lovingly melded with milk, tea, or even brandy, the fragrant caramel is a magnificent flavour base for many desserts and snacks alike.
To me, making caramel is one of life's simple pleasures. The delight of watching all of the little sugar crystals gently melt and turn amber and sticky truly is what making desserts is all about. Comfort and joy in one.
There are a couple of methods of making caramel; however, my preferred one is the dry method. One pan, a bit of sugar, and patience.
Once the caramel is done, the preparation goes rather quickly. Cooking the custard, adding all of the lovely flavourings, chocolate, and Speculaas cookies, and finally, rolling into perfect little truffles.
Speculaas are wonderful little cookies, ever so slightly browned, and abundantly flavoured by cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Such a marvellous little winter cookie that perfectly complements rich caramel custard.
I like truffles soft and tender, and these are just like that; they stay soft at room temperature, but they keep their shape nicely. If you like, you can place them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so, just before serving, and they will be fantastic that way, too.


Ingredients
For the truffles
120 grams granulated sugar
100 millilitres cold water
200 millilitres whole milk
40 grams cornflour
25 grams dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
small pinch of salt
60 grams unsalted butter
450 grams Speculaas cookie crumbs
For the decoration
50 grams dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids)
edible glitter


Preparation
Start by making the caramel. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the sugar, and gently shake the pan to distribute it evenly. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and the cornflour, and set it aside. Place the saucepan on medium high heat, and let the sugar melt slowly. Once it starts to brown around the edges, slowly and gently move the melted parts towards the centre. Keep cooking until it starts to turn darker in colour and become very fragrant. Once it becomes a deep amber colour, remove it from the heat, and very carefully, in a slow stream, pour in the cold water, and let it come to a boil. At that point, the caramel will harden, but it will completely melt by the time it starts to boil. As soon as it starts boiling, carefully pour in the cornflour mixture. Mix well, and cook for a minute or two, until it starts resembling a thick custard.
Remove it from the heat and let it cool down for about 30 seconds, and then add in the dark chocolate, vanilla, and the salt. Mix vigorously, and add in the butter. Stir until it completely melds into the custard, and then start adding in the cookie crumbs. Switch to a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, and turn and fold the mixture until the cookies absorb the liquid, and a thick batter forms. Cover the top with cling film and let the batter cool down to room temperature, and then place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Take out the chilled batter and, using a small cookie scoop, form neat little truffles. Return them to the refrigerator for at least 4 more hours, and then decorate with melted dark chocolate and edible glitter flakes. They are equally delicious served both chilled and at room temperature. Yields 30 truffles.
Author's note: Depending on how much the caramel is cooked, you might need a bit more or a bit less of cookie crumbs to make the batter keep its shape, yet not be sticky, so do adjust accordingly, please.

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