Shake your bonbons
Attempting to make chocolate bonbons from scratch is enough to test anyone’s love.
First you have to cook up some fussy filling, and get it into — and to hold — just the right shape. Then you have to temper the chocolate, the ultimate of troublesome and tiresome culinary labors. And don’t even get me started on the mess all this makes.
But I was convinced there had to be an easier way. So I started playing. The result is this ridiculously simple — yet outrageously delicious — recipe for quince-filled marzipan bonbons.
First, the coating. The chocolate used to cover bonbons must be tempered. If not, it won’t firm up properly and will discolor. The easy way around this is to use so-called chocolate melts, or candy coating. These chocolate-like disks are sold in a variety of colors at baking supply shops and in the baking aisle of many grocers and most craft stores.
These disks melt easily, coat well and require no tempering. You won’t mistake them for an expensive dark chocolate, but they get the job done.
For the filling, I was not prepared to make a ganache or other filling. But I wanted something that would be soft, chewy and sweet. Something that could be easily shaped. Something that was almost completely effortless.
That something turned out to be marzipan, a paste made from ground almonds and sugar. It’s sold in the baking aisle of just about every grocer and has a soft, putty-like consistency and a deliciously sweet-almondy flavor. It’s easy to form into balls and is perfect for coating with chocolate.
In fact, it was so easy to work with, I decided I could take my bonbons one step further and fill the marzipan, making the finished treat that much more decadent. By forming the marzipan into a ball, then shaping it into a cup, I was able to fill the cup, then close the marzipan back up over it. If you can play with Play-Doh, you can handle this.
The filling really could be any thick jam, or even a piece of dried fruit or a salted nut. But I liked quince paste, an extremely thick jam-like paste often sold near fine cheeses. It has a pleasantly tart-sweet flavor that works well with the marzipan and chocolate.
I like the classic look of dark chocolate, so I used dark brown chocolate melts. But they are available in numerous colors. You also can get creative with this. Use one color to coat the bonbons, then melt a second color to drizzle over them for a decorative look.
For a gourmet touch, you also could sprinkle some flake sea salt over the bonbons before the chocolate coating dries. Likewise, you could sprinkle them with candy sprinkles, finely crushed nuts or coconut
Cut the tube of marzipan into 14 equal portions. One at a time, form each portion into a round, shallow cup. Fill the cup with about 1/2 teaspoon of the quince paste, then carefully fold the sides of the cup up over the filling and roll in your hands to form a tight ball. Set aside.
Place the chocolate melts in a microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave on high for 1 minute, stopping every 20 to 30 seconds to stir, or until completely melted.
One at a time, use a fork to lower the marzipan balls into the melted chocolate. Move the marzipan around to ensure it is evenly coated. Use the fork to lift it from the chocolate, tapping gently on the side of the cup to remove excess chocolate, then carefully set the bonbon on the prepared plate.
If you want to sprinkle a dry coating on the bonbons, such as salt or candy sprinkles, do so immediately. Otherwise, coat the remaining bonbons, then let them dry and harden. The drying can be sped up by placing the plate in the refrigerator for several minutes.
If desired, melt a small amount of a second color of candy melts, then drizzle this over the dried bonbons to decorate.
J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook “High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking.”