When it comes to gift giving, we’ve got our parents and BFFs pretty much figured out. But when it comes to the brave among us who choose to host us during the holiday seasons, we blank. This year, in lieu of offering the standard “hope-you-like-it” wine, or worse, showing up empty-handed, we’re showing our appreciation with homemade tokens of appreciation. And melt-in-your-mouth almond praline bites are a good start.
Plucked from the pages of the new confectionary cookbook, Pâtisserie at Home ($36; amazon.com), an artful collab between Parisian pastry chef Melanie Dupuis and molecular cuisine expert Anne Cazor, these dark chocolate-smothered bites might look and taste like they’re fresh out of a French bakery, but they don’t require expert technique to master by any means. Whip up a bunch before your next seasonal outing and might we suggest doubling the recipe because these will go fast.
Melt the chocolate for the center in a water bath (see below). Pour the praline in a stainless-steel bowl and pour the melted chocolate over it. Mix using a spatula.
Line a cookie sheet with baking paper. Fill a pastry bag with the rocher mixture and pipe 12 "pucks" of about 3/4 oz each. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Take them out, dust your hands with confectioners' sugar, and fashion each chocolate disc into a ball. The confectioners' sugar stops the chocolate sticking to your fingers. Set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
For the roasted almonds, preheat the oven to 320˚F. Put the water and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Allow to cool, then pour over the chopped almonds and mix together. Spread the almonds over a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-25 minutes, stirring regularly until they are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Temper the chocolate to make the rochers crisp and shiny (see below). Plunge the rochers one at a time into the chocolate, retrieve them with a chocolate dipping fork, and roll them in the roasted almonds. Allow to cool and set.
To prepare the water bath:
Take a large saucepan and a stainless-steel bowl that will rest on the edge without being in contact with the water. Put water in the saucepan and heat it (it must be simmering). Put the ingredients in the bowl and the bowl on the saucepan, double-checking it does not touch the water.
To temper the chocolate:
Melt the chocolate in a warm water bath until it reaches 122-131˚F. Pour cold water into a stainless-steel bowl larger than the one holding the chocolate, and place a tart ring in the bottom for stability.
Place the bowl containing the chocolate in the cold water bath: the water should reach the level of the chocolate. Let the temperature fall to 81-82˚F, stirring regularly with a silicone spatula. Return to the warm water bath for 10 seconds at a time, stirring constantly, until the temperature rises to 90˚F. Use as quickly as possible. To maintain the temperature, regularly return the chocolate to the warm water bath, checking the temperature frequently to ensure a good tempering regime.
From Patisserie at Home by Melanie Dupuis. Copyright 2016. Reprinted by permission of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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