Treats Week: MacGyver Balls

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I would like to officially take credit for turning “MacGyver” into a verb.  It was about ten years ago, I think.  Since then, I’ve used it pretty much all the time.  And now it seems to be entering the general lexicon.  So that’s a win for me I think.  Or for whoever actually coined the term.  MacGyver, if you’re not aware, was a fantastic show from the late eighties about a dude who could save the world by solving science and physics problems with what he had at hand.  The joke is that he can defuse a nuclear bomb using only a paperclip.  And he probably did.  Macgyver was one of my heroes when I was a child.  I tend to “macgyver” a lot of things around our house, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.  It’s another form of “half-assed halfassery,” which is also a coinage of mine.  Anyway, I’ve heard it being used as a verb on TV now so I would like to take the credit while I can.  Although if you also invented the word then good on you too!

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Well, today I’m taking the term into the kitchen.  There’s a certain round chocolate confection of which I’m sure we’re all aware.  It comes wrapped in gold paper and commercials for it usually involve swanky parties of well-dressed demigods surrounding a pyramid made of the little shiny balls.  While what I’ve made below isn’t quite the version you can buy in the store, I think it’s a pretty decently-macgyvered version of the same.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Take 2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (filberts) and spread them on a baking sheet.

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Toast in your oven, shaking a couple times, for about 10 minutes, or until the skins start to blacken and bubble. Remove the nuts from the oven and plop in the centre of a clean tea towel.  Wrap the towel around the nuts and allow them to steam for a few minutes.

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Then rub the towel briskly over the nuts to remove the skins and allow the nuts to cool completely. If you don’t get all the skins off, don’t worry about it.

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When they are completely cool, pour them into a food processor to crush them into small pieces.

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Take about 3 cups Nutella (or store-brand alternative).  I am using the name brand because other versions are hard to get here in St. John’s and, well, it’s made by the company who makes the bon-bons I’m sort-of copying so I figure I’m on the right track, right?  Anyway, the jar contains approximately 3 cups of the stuff, so I’m going with that.  Scoop all that out into a bowl.

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Pour in 4 cups crisped rice cereal (AKA Rice Crispies) and mix those into the Nutella, making sure to get it all evenly combined without breaking too many of the rice bits.  In the real thing, there’s a ball of soft chocolate in the middle with a crunchy shell around it, but this is my version.

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If you wanted to be authentic you could make little spheres of frozen Nutella and roll them in the cereal. But that sounds hard.

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Take a spoon and start scooping balls of chocolate rice onto a sheet of waxed paper.  When you’ve got them all scooped, pop them in the freezer for an hour or two.  Mine I froze overnight.

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In the meantime, chop up 20 ounces dark chocolate and melt it in a double boiler or heat safe bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water.

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Allow the melted chocolate to cool to almost room temperature.  You want it cool enough it won’t melt the frozen Nutella balls, but not too cool that you can’t work with it.

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Spear a frozen Nutella ball with a skewer and dip it into the cooled chocolate.

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Roll the ball in the crushed hazelnuts until completely covered and lay on a sheet of waxed paper to cool completely and harden.

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The recipe above makes exactly 48 golf ball sized MacGuyver balls, so I’m sure you can use any fraction of this to make a smaller amount.

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Oh, Gum Drops!

Gum Drops!

I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella.  I think it’s awesome.  Challenge accepted.

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Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint.  She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being.  I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry.  I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”.  I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.

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You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.

So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.

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Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.

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Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.

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Some are downright lurid.

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Now we’re ready to go.  Five flavours here.

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And my “fruit salad” here.

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The recipe below will give you two flavours.  I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.

Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops.  I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.

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So.  Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.

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In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water.  Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.

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Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.

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Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat.  You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over.  And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight.  No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone.  I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all.  They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though.  I had to do that three times.

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Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other.  Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.

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Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.

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Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days).  See how nice and firm that is?

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Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.

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This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.

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Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation.  It looks like a lung or something …

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Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.

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Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.

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I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates.  You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned.  Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.

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Cut the strips into the sugar.

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Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.

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A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:

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Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.

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Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself!  It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!

You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.

Gum Drops!
Clockwise from top left: Fruit Salad, Raspberry, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry