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
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
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/.