5-Ingredient Caramel Truffles

As a childless aunt of seven and last of five daughters, my sisters are giving me a great crash course in what it means to be a mom.

Last weekend, I headed to Sioux Falls for a much-anticipated, pre-Christmas shopping weekend. I sent my older sister, a mom of a busy 16-month-old, a message detailing my proposed itinerary to hit up our favorite spots.

“Let’s start at Bagel Boy for an early morning breakfast of coffee and bagels,” I wrote excitedly. “Then we’ll start at the Unglued: Christmas Market, followed by the shops at Eighth and Railroad, then Zing, Lamps & Shades, and Forget Me Not. We can have a nice relaxing lunch at Camille’s, run through Starbucks and hit the mall to start the serious shopping.”

She responded with a dubious but enthusiastic, “Well… We can sure try!”

Though I’m no stranger to little ones, I sometimes forget that shopping can be quite different when you’ve got a toddler who wants to grab everything in sight. As I carefully hemmed and hawed over a pair of holiday pajamas, my sister expertly juggled her bags and toddler and waited for me, joking that shopping had drastically changed for her now that she’s a mom. “Does it kind of fit and not look hideous? Perfect- I’ll take 10.”

The weekend’s experiences reminded me that like shopping, busy moms can also have different expectations when it comes to spending time in the kitchen. Between naps, diaper changes, feedings and playtime, there’s not always much time left over for cooking experiments. For the holidays last year, I whipped up some truly fabulous yet slightly time-consuming and expensive chocolate-covered bourbon caramels with Himalayan sea salt. But this year, I decided to look for a recipe that my sisters would love to make too- one with a short, common ingredient list that had limited hands-on time. After all, who wants to spend unnecessary time in the kitchen when you’ve got tea parties to attend and snuggles to enjoy?

In that spirit, I’ve found a new favorite with these tried-and-true 5 Ingredient Caramel Truffles. These truffles turned out beautifully and would be a perfect bite-sized dessert for any holiday spread. Hands-on time is fairly minimal, with the most time-consuming task being dipping the caramels into melted chocolate. While the total time, start to finish, is a bit long, most of that time is spent waiting for the chocolate-caramel mixture to harden in the refrigerator. If you’re looking to incorporate the kids into your holiday cooking, have them help roll the chocolate-caramel mixture into small balls – it’s easy and fun to do.

Although chocolate can be unpredictable to work with – I’ve been the sad victim of seized chocolate more than once – I’ve found that the most foolproof method of melting chocolate is to heat it slowly using a glass bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling!) water. Make sure your utensils are perfectly dry and no water comes into contact with the chocolate, as a drop of moisture can cause the chocolate to seize and ruin the perfectly silky look you want in a truffle’s coating. Adding a healthy dollop of shortening to your chocolate will help create that glossy shine that elevates your truffles from fine to fabulous. I poured the leftover chocolate into a cheap squeeze bottle and drizzled it over the hardened truffles for a sophisticated look. I also sprinkled some red and green coarse sanding sugar over the tops for a fun holiday presentation. You could also top truffles with chopped nuts, cocoa powder, sea salt, white chocolate or sprinkles.

For anyone looking for an easy, impressive dessert this holiday season, I highly recommend these 5 Ingredient Caramel Truffles. As for me, I plan to make and freeze my treats far in advance – I want plenty of time to spend playing with the kids I love most.

5-Ingredient Caramel Truffles

Ingredients
26 Kraft caramels, unwrapped
1 cup milk chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy whipping cream (no substitutions)
1-1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon shortening

Directions
Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray and line an 8-inch square dish; set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine caramels, milk chocolate chips and cream. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 minute; stir well. Microwave 1 minute longer, stirring very well every 15 seconds or until caramels are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into prepared dish; refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

Lift candy out of dish using edges of plastic wrap. Pick out and remove any hardened caramel bits. Cut into approximately 30 pieces; using clean hands, roll each piece into a 1-inch ball. Place caramel balls onto waxed paper, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

Place a heat-proof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water. Add semisweet chocolate chips and shortening and stir until chocolate is nearly melted. Turn off heat and stir until completely smooth.

Working in small batches, drop truffles, one by one, into chocolate. Keep undipped truffles in refrigerator until ready to use. Spoon chocolate on top and quickly retrieve truffle with a fork once completely coated. Gently tap the fork on the rim of the bowl, allow excess chocolate to drip off and transfer to a sheet of waxed paper, using a toothpick to gently slide truffle off fork. Once the truffle is on waxed paper, use a toothpick to score the extra chocolate around the bottom of the truffle. If any filling shows through, use a toothpick to fix.

Sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar or coarse sea salt, if desired, or drizzle additional chocolate on top. Let stand until set, then refrigerate until firm. If excess chocolate clings to bottom of truffle, use a sharp knife to remove, then place truffle in candy cup liner, if desired.

Yield: 2 ½ dozen

Source: Adapted slightly from http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/caramel-truffles and http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/10/chocolate-truffles-with-sea-salt/.

New Perspective

Just when I think I’ve got the hang of country living, reality hits.

I’m reminded of how much I still don’t know every time my husband Dan attempts to give me directions to a field or spot on the farm. He has tried repeatedly, to little avail, to teach me where our fields are located – but between my already-poor sense of direction and the confusing naming conventions, his efforts have largely been in vain.

“Could you meet me by Victor’s 80?”

“Wait, where?”

“Victor’s 80. You know, the land once owned by my great-grandpa Victor. Go behind the shelterbelt and stay on that dirt road. It’s right by Hayland.”

“Wait, are you talking about a road or a path? And where the heck is Hayland again?” (Hayland, for the record, is a completely made-up name. Literally, it is land with hay. As if there wasn’t hay everywhere already!)

Or, “Could you bring me lunch? I’m planting Italy right now.”

“You’re WHAT? Where are you?”

“Planting Italy. You know, the six-acre parcel that is shaped like Italy. It’s part of Victor’s 80.”

And around and around we go.

Last month, I exposed my town kid tendencies again during our annual cattle chase, when we bring our cow-calf pairs home from the pasture where they have been grazing all summer. Located just three miles north of the farm, it is a straight shot from the bottom of the ranch to the pastures by our house. We walk the cattle home using a feed wagon, lots of helpers to block unfenced fields and Dan as the ringleader on his four-wheeler. This is the seventh year I’ve helped take the cows home, and yet once again, I found myself frantically peppering Dan with questions right before he takes off, like an ill-prepared student cramming before her final.

“Where is the creek you want me to stand by? Should I stay in that spot or move when the cows move? How long do you think this might take?” (The answer: Until it’s done!)

Eventually, he drew me a map with my designated spots on a napkin, which I studied repeatedly throughout the morning, breathing a sigh of relief when my dad (also a farm kid) told me he understood Dan’s directions. Crisis averted.

Though I do like to poke fun at town kids like myself for struggling with tasks that farm kids seemingly take for granted, I was also reminded during the cattle chase that those of us unaccustomed to farm life can sometimes see things that those entrenched in the day-to-day business might overlook. My brother-in-law Joel was on hand to help bring the cows home that day, and as he watched Dan stay behind the herd and patiently help one struggling calf make it up a hill, he saw beyond what others might have seen – wasted time, perhaps, or an expensive veterinarian bill. For him, watching Dan tend to the weakest of his herd painted a beautiful picture of how God cares for His people. He relayed this story to his church congregation on Sunday morning, saying, “If a farmer will do that for the lowliest of his herd, imagine what God will do for us in our times of trouble.”

If a farmer will do that for the lowliest of his herd, imagine what God will do for us in our times of trouble.

When I heard this, it struck me that while town kids may lack some farm savvy, we can provide fresh eyes and new perspective. There is value in having the uninitiated experience the farm life along with the veterans. If you didn’t grow up on a farm – something that’s happening to more and more of us as the number of farms dwindles– it can be difficult to understand what it’s all about. That’s why I’m always happy to see fresh faces on the farm that are getting a taste of what farm life entails – from the thankless hard work and never-ending stress that comes with crop and livestock, to the joys of a successful harvest and a healthy herd of cattle.

I’m sure in 20 years I will look back and laugh that I didn’t know how to find Victor’s 80. By then, hopefully we’ll be raising the next generation of farm kids, ones born with Dad’s farm savvy, but instilled with a sense of wonder that comes from their mother, a town kid by birth, a farm girl at heart.