Christmas Cookies

You could say cookies are having a moment right now, thanks to the holidays. For many, this means churring out batches of thumb-prints, linzers, snickerdoodles, insert unpronounceable Russian cookie here, gingerbread, and other Christmas cookies. For me, it means recoiling is disgust.

Let me be honest with you, I hate cookies. Like, I really hate them. I hate them with the unmitigated passion of 10,000 undying suns. Sound harsh? I feel as though all I need to say is this: I once managed a cookie store that was open until 3am on a college campus.

But, like the rest of the world I, too, feel compelled to bake cookies on the holidays. It’s just so damn festive.

Christmas Cookies
Christmas Cookies
Christmas Cookies

This year, I kept things manageable with just a few cookies. But, since I can’t stand basic cookies (wow, that sounded bougie), I worked with things I do love like tea and citrus.

First up were these lavender shortbread cookies featured in Bon Appetite. The lavender, fruits, and herb covered cookies were a tad much for me, so I blitzed a few tablespoons of this green, black, and rose petal tea I had on hand and mixed that in with a few drops of rose water. Still floral, not intense.

Hilariously, a friend gave one to our taxi driver on the way home, and he insisted I contact his “baby mama” (his words not mine) in South Carolina so I could go into business with her. Hugely tempting offer, but I had to decline. Compliment still appreciated.

Christmas Cookies
Christmas Cookies

While I don’t like cookies, I do like truffles, especially these black tea and dark chocolate ones. Truffles require few ingredients but can be difficult to get right. Good ones are silky-smooth but bad ones are grainy or too soft. For great truffles there are three things you need to know.

First, your ingredients. When a recipe has few ingredients it is important that each one is the best. No, this is not an Ian Garten “good mayonnaise” situation. I mean it. Use the best chocolate and cream you can find. It will make a difference. I prefer Valrhona because it is easy to work with and tastes great. Also use a high-quality loose tea since the bagged stuff is typically more tea dust than tea leaves.

Second, your ganache. Truffles are made from ganache and ganache is an emulsion of chocolate and cream. The final texture will depend on the amount of cocoa solids in the chocolate and the amount of cream. I use a 2:1 ratio of chocolate with 60% cocoa solids to cream. The final texture is firm but not too hard.

Third, your emulsion. When melting chocolate be careful not to overheat the chocolate or the cocoa butter will separate from the solids. In fact, the best way to ensure even melting is to finely chop the chocolate in a food processor and slowly pour the hot cream over it. Let things sit for 3-5 minutes and then gently stir. Over-mixing can cause a coarse texture. Less is more here. If you want to flavor your truffles infuse the cream while it’s heating. Tea, bourbon, zest, extracts all work well. Note, you’ll want the final flavor of the cream to be slightly more prominent than final product because it won’t be as strong once you add the chocolate.

But, if you take your time you will be rewarded with incredibly smooth and creamy truffles.

Christmas Cookies
Christmas Cookies
Know this: There isn’t much you can do for a split ganache. But, if you do run into problems try to re-emulsify the ganache using a hand-held mixture. If that fails and a teaspoon of of corn syrup and try to re-emulsify the ganache again.
Black Tea & Dark Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from Bon Appetite
Yields about 30 truffles

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
  • 1 tablespoons of loose black tea leaves
  • 12 oz of the best-quality dark chocolate (not unsweetened) you can find, chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Steps

Bring cream and butter to just under a boil in a small saucepan and stir in tea. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.

While the tea steeps, finely grind the chocolate in a food processor. It should look like ground coffee. Transfer the chocolate to a metal bowl and pour warm cream through a sieve onto chocolate. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes and then gently stir using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until smooth. Set aside for 1 hour and let ganache come come to room temperature. America’s test kitchen says this will help prevent grainy truffles by gradually lowering the temperate before chilling. I trust them. Chill ganache until firm for about 2 hours.

Fill a bowl with cocoa powder. Spoon teaspoons of the ganache onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Dust your hands with some cocoa powder and roll each piece into a ball. Finish by rolling each truffle in cocoa powder to coat. Transfer an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

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