Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Treats for holiday parties

Besides the fellowship, hugs and presents, one of the best things about a Christmas party is trying other people's special cookies, cakes and candies.

I get some of my best holiday food column ideas from my family and friends.

For the last few years, I've jotted down new recipes I've tried and put them on the calendar for next year's Christmas season.

Last Christmas Eve, as soon as I tried Oreo Truffles made by my cousin Martha Cayton, I knew they'd end up on a food page this Christmas.

My family loved these tiny, tasty treats and managed to swipe a number of leftovers to take home last year. They made me promise to make them again. I said I would, but it took me a year!

On Friday, I left work early so I could make Oreo Truffles and another new treat, Cake Balls. I love reading blogs that include recipes, and a number of them have given recipes and tips for making cake balls this past year.

It was quite a busy (and messy) afternoon, but it was also fun. I love baking for the holidays, even if it is this early.

Oreo Truffles are very easy to make and would be a good recipe to do alongside your children. Basically, this is what you do: crumble most of a package of Oreos, using a food processor or pastry blender; then, with a mixer, add in a package of cream cheese until incorporated. Let chill for about 20 minutes while you clean up, then form into small balls. Chill the balls before dipping in melted white or semi-sweet chocolate. Then decorate. Easy, easy. The hardest part of this recipe is keeping your family from eating them up before your party!

There's nothing low calorie about this recipe, but I did use reduced-fat Oreos as well as reduced fat cream cheese, or Neufchatel. I can promise you no one noticed the drop in fat.

Cake Balls are made with three ingredients: a cake mix, cake frosting and melted chocolate. There are so many possible combinations of flavors: carrot cake or spice cake mix and cream cheese frosting; lemon cake mix with lemon frosting; or a Funfetti cake mix full of sprinkles with vanilla frosting.

For this column, I chose a red velvet cake mix and cream cheese frosting. The idea for cake balls is similar to Oreo truffles. You make the cake according to package directions. Once it's cooled, you break it into crumbs; I used a fork and my fingers to do this. Then mix in almost a whole can of cream cheese frosting. I chilled this mixture in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. I used my small cookie scoop and hands to form these balls. After the cake balls stayed in the freezer for an hour or so, I poured on the chocolate.

I'm not an expert at dipping candies and cakes in chocolate. I alternated between rolling the balls in the chocolate (which leaves crumbs in the chocolate) to just spooning the chocolate over the balls.

I made a big mess with these two recipes, but I thought the results were worth it.

I made both recipes in one afternoon and had both white and semi-sweet chocolate to work with. My family preferred the semi-sweet chocolate. The cake or cookie crumbs don't show through!

Cake Balls
  • 1 box cake mix, prepared according to package directions (I used red velvet and made in 9X13 glass dish.)
  • 1 container cake frosting (I used cream cheese frosting.)
  • 2 packages (8 squares each) semi-sweet chocolate, melted or white chocolate or one of each (I used Baker’s.)
  • Sprinkles for decoration
Make cake according to package directions; cool. Using fork and your hands, crumble cake into large bowl. With a spoon or mixer, stir in a can of frosting, reserving about 1/4 cup. If your mixture is too dry, add in remaining 1/4 cup. Chill mixture for 20-30 minutes.

Using a small cookie scoop or your hands, form into balls. Place balls onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Chill in freezer for at least 90 minutes.

Melt chocolate according to package directions. Dip chilled cake balls into melted chocolate or pour chocolate over balls. Once the chocolate has set, decorate with opposite color chocolate drizzle and seasonal sprinkles.

Oreo Truffles
  • 1 package Oreos (reserve 6-7 for topping)
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese (I used reduced fat.)
  • 2 packages semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Crumble Oreos, reserving a few to crumble for the topping. Use a food processor or pastry blender to make the crumbs. With an electric mixer, mix in cream cheese.

Chill crumb mixture in refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Using a small cookie scoop make balls. Once mixture is in scoop, use thumb to pack. This leaves a flat bottom. If you want it round, use hands to make a ball. Place balls on cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Let chill in refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate according to package directions. Dip balls in chocolate or spoon chocolate over the balls. Sprinkle cookie crumbs on balls; add colored sprinkles if desired.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes approximately 4 dozen.

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