Archive for April 1st, 2011

April 1, 2011

Christmas Confections meet Key Lime Creativity

My dad’s favorite dessert has always been key lime pie.  Every year on his birthday, I, being the baker in the family, have prepared for him his special birthday dessert.  Now, it’s not that I don’t like key lime pie… it’s delicious.  But, needless to say, after years of the same thing, it’s gotten a little old.  Sorry, Papa Lew.

Year after year, I’ve found ways to revamp this traditional pie into something a little different, but just as special and just as satisfying to my dear ol’ Dad.  I’ve done a key lime semifreddo pie, a chocolate key lime pie, key lime cupcakes, key lime bars and key lime cookies.  This year, yet again, Dad’s birthday brought about the same challenge as always.  How can I find a new way to deconstruct the delicious flavors of his favorite key lime pie, and transform them into something exciting, different and delectable?

This past Christmas, I abandoned my customary cookie-baking extravaganza, and tried my hand at some simple (I thought) candy-making.  To make a long story short, it was, to put it lightly, a chocolate-covered disaster.  One good thing that came out of the Candy Catastrophe of 2010, however, was the truffles.  Mixtures of dark, white and semi-sweet chocolate paired with a crunch of hazelnut or peppermint provided an indulgent triumph in this, otherwise, disastrous tragedy.  Among the many truffle-fans, was my dad, who seemed to be particularly fond of the chocolate treats.

Upon remembering this, I knew that I needed to revisit the truffles and see if I couldn’t put a whole new, key lime-spin on things.  I came up with a wonderful concoction that balances the rich sweetness of white chocolate with the refreshing tang of key limes and cool cream cheese.  They are my ‘Key Lime Pie Truffles,’…a rich, bite-sized version of key lime pie and a great way to honor the best dad in the entire world.

Key Lime Pie Truffles

Inspired by: Key Lime Pie

2/3 cup key lime juice*

18-20 ounces cream-filled vanilla sandwich cookies**

3 sheets of graham crackers, plus more for garnish if desired***

24 ounces white chocolate chips, separated

8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened

juice and zest of 2 limes

1 teaspoon of honey

optional: yellow food coloring

The first step here is to concentrate the key lime juice. Concentrating the juice helps to intensify the lime flavor and reduce the water in the juice to keep the truffle consistency from becoming watery.  To do this, pour the 2/3 cup of key lime juice into a small saucepan over low-medium heat and bring to a boil.  This shouldn’t take but a couple minutes.  Reduce heat to low and allow liquid to simmer.  While liquid simmers and reduces, occasionally stir it and scrape down with a spatula any pulpy residue that gathers along the sides of the saucepan so that it doesn’t burn. Let the liquid simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until it has reduced by more than half.  Then, remove from heat and transfer to small bowl and set aside to cool.****

Remove the sandwich cookies from package(s) and break up graham cracker sheets along perforations to fit into food processor.  Pulse the cookies and grahams in a food processor until everything is completely crushed and mixture forms a consistency like that of dampened sand.  Set aside.

Measure out 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips to be melted.  As chocolate burns easily and must be melted very gently, I like to use a double boiler.  To do this, place chocolate in a glass bowl that fits over a small saucepan.  Pour a couple inches or so of water into the saucepan, making sure that when the glass bowl is set on the saucepan, the water is not touching it.  Bring water to a boil and allow the steam from the boiling water to gently melt the chocolate.  Stir the chocolate frequently to keep any from settling at the bottom of the bowl and burning.  Once all the chips have been melted, turn off heat, remove bowl from atop the saucepan and set aside to allow chocolate to cool.

Place the softened cream cheese into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cheese until completely softened and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Add the cooled, concentrated lime juice along with the zest and juice from the two limes and beat until well-incorporated.  Add crushed cookie mixture one third a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition.  While continuing to beat the mixture, slowly add in the cooled, melted chocolate.  Drizzle in the honey and continue to mix until mixture is homogeneous and has a somewhat slimy, greasy texture (gross, I know, but the final product will be delicious AND beautiful!).  Scrape down sides of bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Once the mixture has chilled, it’s time to shape the truffles.  Using a melon-baller or a small cookie dough scoop makes this job a breeze, otherwise, I suggest using a round tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop the mixture, and then shaping it into a ball with your hands.  Once all the balls are formed, they will need to be chilled again.  I even suggest placing them in between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container and freezing them.  The colder the truffles are, the less likely that they’ll fall apart when coating them in the melted chocolate, which is quite the disaster (I know from experience!).

After the shaped truffles have chilled for about an hour or so, you can start to coat them with the white chocolate.  I like to do this in batches so that there’s no time for the truffles to become too warm to work with, or for the chocolate to become too cool to coat them.  Melt about a cup of chocolate chips at a time using another double-boiler over the stove.  Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and place it on countertop. Bring out the cold truffles and set them next to the bowl.  I’ve found that the easiest way to coat the truffles is to place the truffles, one at a time, on a small fork, and lower it into the chocolate.  Then, using a small spoon, scoop the chocolate onto the truffle until the truffle is completely covered, and then lift the truffle (still sitting on the fork) out of the chocolate. Let any excess chocolate drain down through the fork, and then set the truffle on a strip of parchment paper.  It’s important to work fairly quickly, as the cold truffle will bring down the temperature of the chocolate.  When the melted white chocolate runs out, or when it or the uncoated truffles start to come to room temperature and are difficult to work with, pop the uncoated truffles back in the fridge or freezer, and melt up another cup of white chocolate.  Repeat the process until all the truffles are coated.  Always have an extra package of white chocolate handy, in case chocolate seizes while melting and can no longer be used.

To decorate the truffles with graham crackers, you should have a bowl of graham crumbs ready to go while you’re coating the truffles.  After every two or three truffles are coated, sprinkle desired amount of crumbs onto each one.  If you wait too long after coating them, the cold truffles will have hardened the chocolate and the crumbs won’t attach.  Another option is to drizzle some colored chocolate onto the coated truffles.  Mix in a drop of yellow food coloring (as key limes are yellow) with a small amount of leftover chocolate, and reheat until chocolate is thin enough to drizzle.  Some people use a fork to drizzle, some insist that a knife or spoon is best.  I find drizzling to be nearly impossible and use a pastry bag.  Experiment and see what works best for you.

*I cheated a bit and used bottled key lime juice here and regular, Persian limes for the juice and zest needed later, just to save myself the trouble of hunting down the key limes (and juicing them all!).

**I chose to make this dessert gluten free in order to share with a friend who is allergic.  I used two packages of Glutino brand Vanilla Creme cookies (about 21 ounces), but one 18 ounce package of Golden Oreos, or any other close substitute will work perfectly fine.
***Again, I used a gluten-free version here, but regular grahams are obviously great!

****Do not be turned off by the syrup’s funny, brownish color.  The sugars in the juice have simply caramelized, and any dark bits are the result of the pulp’s sugar developing.  I promise that this color will not be, in any way, visible in the truffle filling!