Monday, November 2, 2009

Not just on the last day of October

Halloween is over. My nephews -- one a ninja, one a wizard -- have multiple cavities. I've hung up my Sue Sylvester costume, tucking the whistle and stopwatch into a drawer. I've consumed every tiny Snickers in a tri-county area. (Aside: Why do they call the tiny Snickers "fun size"? It is less fun to have a small Snickers. From now on, I shall refer to them as "penalty size.") The battery-operated purple skull lights are now 75% off at Target. Tricks, treats: your time has gone.

Except. I made some candies on Sunday, the day after Halloween. I wanted to make them for Halloween, but didn't quite get around to it. Then I decided: candy is good each day of the year, not just on the last day of October. So I made them anyway and would like to share them with you today, even though you're probably now plotting and planning for Thanksgiving dinner as thoughts of jack o'lanterns and ghosts recede like the waning hours of sunlight.

These candies are sophisticated and grown-up; a peanut butter cup for the big kids. They look a little strange, and sound a little bit like they wouldn't be any good. But they are amazing.

The dark filling is comprised of toasted black sesame seeds, regular sesame seeds, caraway, rosemary, honey and powdered sugar. I experimented with the recipe a bit -- which originally called for dark chocolate to enrobe the filling -- discovering that milk chocolate complements the complex flavors of the subtle, vaguely Middle Eastern filling much better. The dark chocolate fights it too much; milk chocolate covers the filling with a sweetness that recedes on the tongue, allowing the eater to focus on the surprising flavors inside. And if there's anything I need from a candy, it's focus.

I was expecting to have these candies on hand for awhile, as the recipe makes 24 and they keep for several weeks. But then yesterday Sister and Nephews and Mom stopped by. More than half the dish was empty by the time they were done with them, my four-year-old nephew embracing the more sophisticated flavors like a little gourmand. "I like it, Aunt Dianne. I want another one." My seven-year-old nephew wasn't quite as into it: "No offense, but I don't like it. It's my taste buds." Never let it be said those boys can't honestly articulate their thoughts.

Even though they're incredibly rich, I'm finding myself reaching for these professional-looking candies more often than I'm reaching for the leftover penalty-size Snickers. I like that they're a little strange and dark, a little like a hallowed eve. But as I've already stated, I'd be just as happy to get one of these sweets in my Christmas stocking. Or in my Easter basket. Or on Tu B'Shevat.

Homemade candy knows no season.


Adapted from Karen Solomon, The San Francisco Chronicle

I found that the best way to get a really smooth and professional look for these candies was to use a squeeze bottle to dispense the chocolate.

About the black sesame seeds: If you can't find them, you can substitute regular sesame seeds. But the resulting candies won't be as dark and cool-looking. You can also use any mix of black and regular sesame seeds, as long as it adds up to the full 1 1/3 cup measure. There's a specialty spice shop in my town that carries the black sesame seeds and I was able to buy about a cup's worth for a little less than $5.

1 c. black sesame seeds
1/3 c. sesame seeds
4 t. honey
2 T. canola oil
3 T. powdered sugar
1 t. dried rosemary (or 1 1/2 t. fresh rosemary, finely chopped)
1/2 t. caraway seeds
1/2 t. kosher salt
26 1/2 oz. milk chocolate (I used 6 of Hershey's 4.4-oz. milk chocolate bars)

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat when the seeds start to pop; take care not to burn the sesame seeds. Allow the seeds to cool to room temperature.

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the toasted sesame seeds, honey, canola oil, powdered sugar, rosemary, caraway seeds and salt. Blend until extremely smooth, 5-8 minutes, frequently stopping to scrape down the inside of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The filling will come together into a black paste.

Place mini cupcake liners into the wells of a muffin tin.

Take about 1 teaspoon of the sesame filling and roll it into a ball between your palms, then flatten it into a disc that will fit into the bottoms of the paper liners without touching the sides. Set the discs on a cookie sheet while you roll and shape the rest of the filling.

Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a simmering pot of water. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally, until it is smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before transferring into a squeeze bottle.

Squeeze enough chocolate to coat the bottoms of the paper liners, tapping the pan gently to smooth out the chocolate. Then squeeze a "border" of chocolate around the perimeter of the bottom of the liners.

Nestle one piece of filling into each liner.

Pipe chocolate around the sides and top of the filling. Lightly tap the pan to smooth out the chocolate; pipe in a little more chocolate to level out the candies, if necessary.

Allow to set at room temperature until the chocolate is completely firm, 12-16 hours. Do not refrigerate or freeze. Your patience will be rewarded.

Makes 24 candies that can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. If they last that long!


Unknown said...

These sound sophisticated and delicious, I'm making them for Christmas - when u say room temp do u mean an Oz summer temp or cooler?

Dianne said...

Lorna, room temperature in my kitchen was around 70F (about 21C) when I made these. I know Oz summer temp will be much warmer than that! I suppose you could try to harden them in the fridge, but there might be some condensation issues. Maybe set them near a fan, somewhere where the air is moving?

I hope they work for you -- let me know how it goes!

Mrs Erg├╝l said...

Now! That is real professionally done!