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Make Your Own Candy

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With Valentine's Day right around the corner a lot of us start thinking about  shopping for some kind of sweet treats for our sweethearts.  So if a box of candy says something, imagine what a box of homemade sweets would say. Chef Jerry Pellegrino will tell you, this can be a very rewarding project to take on.

To start with, you'll want to get a hold of a product known as pure chocolate, which comes in bars, small bean shaped pieces or flatter chips.  It is available in unsweetened, bittersweet, milk or white flavors.  This chocolate melts easily, which is usually the first step in making candy.

Tempering chocolate is nothing more than melting it, then letting it cool.  This in a sense "activates" the chocolate and makes it smoother for further uses.

There are many video tutorials available, including this one.

Recipes from Chef Jerry Pellegrino

Rum Balls   

Ingredients

Vegetable oil, cooking spray

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

3 large eggs

½ cup packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dark rum

Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until top is shiny and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Break up brownie into small pieces; transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With machine on low speed, pour in rum, and mix until crumbs start to come together to form a ball.

Shape into 1-inch balls, and roll in sanding sugar to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet; refrigerate, uncovered, until cold, about 2 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Chocolate Bourbon Truffles

Ingredients

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ cup Bourbon
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until smooth and set aside.
Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate into balls and roll quickly between the palms of your hands. Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and drop the truffles into one of these. Roll around to coat place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Allow to warm to room temperature before serving.

Butterscotch & Dark Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

6 ounces butterscotch chocolate chips

1 tablespoon orange zest, plus a little for sprinkling on top

¼ cup shelled pistachios in halves or roughly chopped

¼ cup raisins roughly chopped

In a dry pan, lightly toast the nuts then set aside to cool.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.