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My Go-To

[More gifting, December 2010.]

Every year at this time I promise myself I will take it easy (i.e. less holiday packages, perhaps a bit less cooking, get extra sleep rather than staying up past midnight baking cookies) and vow to absolutely not get burned out — no-how, no-way. But then I get to thinking about all the people I love and miss; how can’t I, after all, send baked goods to New Jersey (and to Napa) along with a few little carefully-chosen gifts? Or not make a lemon cream pie for the office festivities? Or not make from scratch and mail something like over 60 holiday cards?

And in the end, of course, it’s all worth it. A bit of rush now to provide such sweetness is not so bad; anyway, it’s been raining a lot (whinge!) so my running has been slightly curtailed, gifting me with more hours to spend in the kitchen (or, ahem, to nap on an early Sunday afternoon and read the NY Times).

But maybe you’re feeling like me, too — a little weary, a little pressed, a little bit so darn ready for a few days off to drink tea and see old friends and unwrap presents. But maybe also you might still have a few on your list to whom you want to give gifts — and there’s just a few days left ’til Christmas.

Enter, again (and are you surprised?), something homemade, something chocolatey, something decadent and rich yet also incredibly easy to create. What I mean to say is: make truffles, which require only three ingredients (though you may fancy them up as much as you like) and are the perfect last-dash treat. Tuck them into a pretty tin or a gift box and top with a bow; if you’re lucky, the recipients will share a few. I’ve made these for parties, for work functions, once even sent a carefully-packed box of truffles across the country … They are my go-to, my fail-safe, my standard, my — well, you get the idea. Perhaps they’ll become yours, too.

Meanwhile, here it is about to rain and is forecast to do so for days and days, all through the weekend (though hopefully, pretty please, not beyond). I am sleepy and chilly and there are just four days to go but I am ready now. Tonight I will make a pure comfort-food dinner of roasted cauliflower and pasta with spinach-cream sauce, with sauteed mushrooms folded in. It’s necessary. For dessert I may nibble on a truffle; they’re so rich for me that I can eat only one or two at a time, and quite slowly. I like this. I’m forced to slow down and savor — something essential all the time, but particularly now in the last few days of the year.

Happy happy.

Chocolate Truffles
, via epicurious

Truffle base
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
9 ounces high–quality bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped, divided

Unsweetened cocoa powder for rolling

Bring cream to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm, 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir 7 ounces chocolate in metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Remove from heat. Add 2 ounces chocolate; stir until smooth. Stir in cream. Chill truffle base until firm enough to roll, about 3 hours.

Line rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Roll 2 teaspoons truffle base between fingertips into ball. Transfer to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffle base. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

When firm, roll gently in the cocoa powder. Try: roll in toasted, chopped nuts (or add a handful to the base) or dip in melted chocolate.

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