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Holiday Recipes

As the holidays approach, trying to find the perfect recipes and gifts can be hectic. These two desserts are great for holiday get-togethers or anytime you feel like indulging your sweet tooth.  Chocolate mousse is wonderful for parties and is sure to impress your guests.  Buckeye balls can be simple, tasty Christmas presents.  No matter the occasion, cooking with the people you love is always fun, so grab a friend, turn on some music, roll up your sleeves, and get cooking!
 
Chocolate Mousse
 
You will need:
·         1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
·         12 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips
·         3 ounces espresso or strong coffee
·         1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
·         4 tablespoons butter
·         1 teaspoon flavorless, granulated gelatin
 

Directions:

  1. Chill 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill metal mixing bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.
  2. Combine chocolate chips, coffee, rum and butter in a pot. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside when all is melted. Let the mixture cool to about body temperature, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream into a metal measuring cup and sprinkle in the gelatin. Allow gelatin to “bloom” for 10 minutes (just let it sit in the whipping cream). Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup over a low heat or candle. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir mixture into the cooled chocolate and set aside.
  4. In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks (pictured). Fold in the whipped cream, but not all at once (think a big dollop from your mixing spoon). For a tutorial on folding, see: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOlC1zXOUqQ) except you will be folding the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, not the other way around as shown here. There may be streaks of whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not over work the mousse.
  5. Spoon into bowls, containers, or wine/martini glasses and chill for at least 1 hour.
  6. You can opt to serve fruit with the mousse as well.
  7. If the mousse has to be refrigerated overnight, cover each container, bowl, or glass with plastic wrap or sandwich bags.

 
Tips: I have found that dark chocolate makes a richer mousse.  Also, if you are not a fan of coffee, don’t be afraid. Its purpose is to bring out the flavor of the chocolate and there is such a small amount that you can’t taste the coffee flavor. The folding technique is essential to the mousse.  If you simply stir the whipped cream and chocolate together, it will condense and be very flat.  Make sure you master the fold so that you get light, airy mousse. Get creative with this dessert.  Feel free to sprinkle it with chocolate shavings, whipped cream, fruit, or anything else you feel would taste great.
 
 
Buckeye Balls
 
You will need:
·         2  (16oz) jars of peanut butter
·         16oz confectioner’s sugar
·         1/2 cup butter
·         18oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
·         1tbsp shortening
·         1tsp vanilla extract
 
Directions:

  1. Mix together the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla
  2. Pour in powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix it in. You may need more or less than the amount on the ingredients list.  It will get harder to mix in the sugar the more you add, so I recommend mixing it with your hands (it’s much harder to do with a spoon and getting your hands dirty is fun anyway).  The amount of peanut butter and sugar do not need to be exact and chances are they won’t be.  Just keep mixing in sugar until you can roll marble sized chunks of the mixture into a ball without any peanut butter sticking to your hands.  At first your hands will be covered in peanut butter, but it will get more solid as sugar is added and then it should all come off easily.
  3. Roll pieces of the mixture into balls.  It’s up to you how big to make them, but I recommend a bit smaller than one inch across.  The smaller they are, the more chocolate will be on them, which is tastier, in my opinion. If you make them too big, they will fall apart and it will be very difficult to dip them in the chocolate. This is a great activity to do with friends or family, since this recipe makes a lot of buckeye balls.  It’s best to have a few cookie sheets or platters available to hold all the peanut butter balls, since they will be going in the refrigerator and should not touch each other. You can choose to either dip the balls in chocolate first before putting them in the fridge (the freezer works just as well), or you can chill them first.  Chilling them first makes the dipping process easier.
  4. Over low heat, melt the chocolate and shortening. Stir until smooth.
  5. With a toothpick inserted in the balls, dip them into the chocolate so they look like buckeyes. Place on waxed paper and put them in the refrigerator.
  6. Once the chocolate has solidified, you can transfer the balls into containers or whatever you like, but keep them in the fridge so they don’t melt together.

 
Tips:
Since the recipe makes so many buckeye balls, I like to have a rotation system where I have one person dipping the balls in chocolate and another rolling the mixture into balls.  Switching jobs makes the process less monotonous, so get some friends to help you and have fun with it. If you get tired of making the balls, then you can flatten out the mixture on wax paper with a rolling pin and cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  You can then drizzle or pour chocolate over the shapes and refrigerate them. Tasting as you go is also perfectly acceptable.
 
Sources:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/good-eats/chocolate-mousse-recipe/index.html (recipe)
http://www.thasneen.com/cooking/gluten-free-strawberry-cake-and-pineapple-cake/ (picture)
http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chocolate_mousse/ (picture)
http://phillipoliver.blogspot.com/2009/12/buckeye-balls.html (picture)

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