Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Buttercream Almond Bonbons: A new family favorite

Sweet and a little salty. Creamy and a little crunchy.
These melt-in-your-mouth bonbons are unbelievably tasty treats.

I come from a family of frosting lovers. You know those people who scrape the frosting off their cake and leave it on the plate? Well, that wasn’t anyone in my family.

I love frosting, too. But I like frosting that’s not overly sweet and has a little flavor. So I was always trying new frosting recipes, in search of a perfectly balanced frosting.

I finally found that frosting: French buttercream. Well, my version of French buttercream, anyways.

I don’t have a stand mixer and I don’t want to mess around with hot sugar syrup, so I use a different method of preparing this egg yolk-based buttercream. And then I add a little powdered sugar – a sin in the eyes of true buttercream fans, maybe, but it greatly improves the texture. The resulting buttercream always gets fabulous reviews.

Paired with basic yellow cake, the kids think it is so good that Dan told me I should enter it in a baking contest.

I had a different idea for the frosting: making buttercream candies for the holidays. The idea evolved a little more after I dipped an almond in some leftover frosting. I chopped up some almonds, added them to the leftover frosting, and created a candy filling fit for a frosting-lover’s dream.

I made the filling into centers, dipped them in chocolate, and had my family test the result. Everyone loved them. What’s not to love about a bite-sized dollop of buttercream frosting enrobed in chocolate?

And they love that they’re served on a frilled toothpick like a treat at a fancy party.

Dan and Monika have already asked me to make these for their birthday parties. All Daphne said after trying one was, “More, please.” I think I’m raising a new generation of frosting lovers.

Buttercream Almond Bonbons

time: 1 hour (prep time, divided); 2 ½ hours (chill time, divided)
yield: 3 dozen bonbons


2 tablespoons milk (I use whole milk)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
60 grams powdered sugar (½ to ¾ cup, depending upon how you measure)
¾ cup whole, lightly salted, oven roasted almonds (100 grams), finely chopped

6 ounces white chocolate baking squares
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon shortening


medium (3-quart) stainless steel bowl
medium (3-quart) pot
food thermometer
rubber spatula
small shallow bowl, large enough to hold 3-quart bowl
electric mixer
baking sheets
waxed paper
small cookie scoop (#100)
36 toothpicks (frilled, if desired)
small (2-quart) stainless steel bowl
small (2-quart) pot
long handled spoon


To make filling:
In medium (3-quart) stainless steel bowl, thoroughly whisk together milk, sugar, and salt. Then whisk in egg yolks. Add 1 inch water to medium (3-quart) pot and heat on low setting. When water starts to barely steam, set bowl of egg yolk mixture on pot. Using rubber spatula, stir constantly, but slowly – sweeping bottom and sides of bowl – until egg yolk mixture reaches a temperature of 160°F. This will take about 8 minutes.

Immediately remove bowl from pot. Fill a shallow bowl with ice and set bowl of egg yolk mixture on top of ice. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolk mixture until lightened in color and cooled to room temperature, about 1 minute. (You can also beat mixture without ice bath; without ice bath, this will take about 5 minutes.)

Once mixture is cool, add vanilla and two tablespoons of butter. Beat until butter is completely incorporated. Continue, adding two tablespoons of butter at a time and mixing completely, until all butter is added. Add powdered sugar, in two parts, mixing well after each addition. Fold in finely chopped almonds. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes (or refrigerate overnight).

Once filling is chilled, scoop onto waxed paper lined baking sheets using small (#100) cookie scoop, dividing the centers between two baking sheets. Place one frilled toothpick in each scoop of filling. Freeze scoops of filling for several hours (or overnight).

To dip bonbons:
Break white chocolate into squares. Place chocolate and shortening in small (2-quart) stainless steel bowl. Add 1 inch of water to small (2-quart) pot and bring to a boil. Remove pot from heat, set bowl of chocolate on pot, and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir to finish melting chocolate. Place pot of water and bowl of chocolate back on burner set at lowest possible heat.

Working with half of the bonbon centers at a time (leaving the other half in freezer), dip bonbon centers in chocolate. Holding a bonbon center by the toothpick, use a spoon to pour melted chocolate over center. Make sure chocolate covers center all the way to the toothpick. Dip the bottom in chocolate, if necessary. Once covered, tap the toothpick against the handle of the spoon to shake off excess chocolate. The goal is to cover the centers with the thinnest coating of chocolate possible – too much chocolate will overpower the flavor of the centers. Place covered center on baking sheet lined with waxed paper.

Once first half of centers are dipped, place sheet of bonbons in refrigerator to cool. Repeat with second half of centers.

Store bonbons in airtight container in freezer or refrigerator.

Serve frozen, chilled, or allow to sit at room temperature for several minutes before serving. Leave the toothpicks in the centers; once these bonbons warm to room temperature, they will be very soft, but they can still be moved by grasping by the toothpick.

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P.S. Please join me and the Land O'Lakes Kitchen Conversations bloggers – Becky from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen, Ree from The Pioneer Woman, Sommer from A Spicy Perspective, Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod, Brenda from A Farmgirl's Dabbles, Julie from The Little Kitchen, Bridget from Bake at 350, Jessica from The Novice Chef, Joanne from Fifteen Spatulas, and Jenny from Picky Palate – for the Land O' Lakes #CookieChatter Twitter Party on Thursday, December 4 from  7 - 8 PM CST.

Follow the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen (@LandOLakesKtchn) and Ree (@ThePioneerWoman) on Twitter, search for the #CookieChatter hashtag to follow along, and be sure to use the #CookieChatter hashtag in your tweets, and you'll be entered to win a holiday baking prize package from Land O'Lakes.

Here's a peek at the holiday recipes the Kitchen Conversations bloggers will be sharing during the Twitter party:

2014 Holiday Collection (12 recipes) from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen
Christmas Cashew Crackle from The Pioneer Woman
Pomegranate Coconut Thumbprint Cookies from A Spicy Perspective
Almond Roca Bark from The Novice Chef
Cinnamon Sugar Cut Out Cookies from Bake at 350
Cream Wafer Sandwich Cookies with Winter Spiced Buttercream from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Gooey Chocolate Peppermint Bread Pudding from Picky Palate
Salted Caramel Brownie Trifles from The Little Kitchen
Candied Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod
Florentine Cookie Bars from Fifteen Spatulas

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Grace, the Thanksgiving kitten

There's been a kitten living in our bathroom right since the night before Thanksgiving. The kids named her Grace.

Here is the story of Grace, the Thanksgiving kitten:

Boxcar Kitty
Grace's mama – Boxcar Kitty

Grace and her brother are late-season kittens born to Boxcar Kitty. Boxcar Kitty had kept her kittens well hidden until two weeks ago, when I spotted Grace by the cats' food dish. I knew Boxcar Kitty was a good hunter who was capable of providing for her kittens, but I started putting out extra cat food and milk for the cats in the machine shed.

Since the arrival of our early winter, the rest of our farm cats have been hanging out in the barn, where it's warmer. I caught Grace's brother a week or so ago and moved him into the barn, but I couldn't catch Grace.

Last Wednesday, Glen found Grace meowing nonstop in the machine shed and brought her into the barn warm up. But she didn't know her way around the barn and ended up falling in the gutter. We moved her into our milk house to warm up. But that wasn't enough to warm up her cold, wet little body. When I checked on her during chores, I could tell that hypothermia was overcoming her.

So, I cradled her in a small pail of warm water until she started shivering again. That was a good sign, but I knew she had a long way to go, and I had a lot of chores yet to finish. So I carried her (in the pail of water) to the house and turned her care over to the kids. I helped them towel her off, set her in a box, and gave the kids the blow dryer with instructions to keep drying her until she was completely dry and fluffy. I crossed my fingers and went back outside.

kids with kitten

When I came back in later, there was a black-and-white ball of fluff looking up at me from inside the box. I told the kids they did a good job and that she might make it. They responded by asking if she could be our new house cat.

The next morning the little kitten felt considerably warmer, so I offered her some food, which she promptly ate. I told the kids that was another good sign. Monika decided then that her name should be Grace.

Grace's appetite has continued to improve since Thursday. But she has a lot of weight to gain. I'm guessing that she just couldn't eat enough to both grow and maintain her body temperature in this brutally cold weather we've had.

Monika with Grace, the kitten

Up until last Wednesday, Grace was an un-catchable, spit-fire. Now she starts purring non-stop whenever someone walks into the bathroom. The kids adore Grace and have volunteered to feed her and clean her litter box.

I'm warming up to the idea of a new house cat, but I'm not 100% sure. Even if Grace doesn't become a permanent house cat, she's going to stay inside at least until she's strong enough to go back outside.