Tis the season to be baking. Fa La La La La… This past week both my wife and I got off our butts and did some holiday baking and candy making. One of the items that I made are these tasty little Pistachio Bonbons. I love these things, but you really have to like pistachios to enjoy these candies. The filling is an intense pistachio “marzipan” that seems to concentrate the pure essence of pistachio making these things little flavor bombs.

This recipe is a little more “advanced” and time consuming than many of my recipes, but then again serious candy making is often a multi step process and can often require attention to detail. The filling itself (the pistachio marzipan) is very simple, but to do the chocolate right can be a little tricky as we will be tempering it. If this is too much for then by all means you can do it the easy way. Once the filling is made just roll it into small balls and dip them into melted chocolate. Shake off any excess as you remove the enrobed marzipan and allow to cool on a tray covered in wax paper. The downside to doing it this way is that you will never get a truly hard, shiny coating like you would using tempered chocolate and it is best to store these in the fridge to keep them from getting soft. Tempering is not difficult, but you do need to pay attention to the details for it to come out right. It is not absolutely necessary though if you are just planning on dipping your candies. But, if you want to mold them then you must temper your chocolate or you will have difficulties in removing the candies from the molds. Give it a try, the worse that can happen is that your candies will develop white streaks as it dries. It doesn’t affect the taste at all and if you’re too embarrassed to give them away then you have a tasty treat, for yourself, for the next few days!!!

I guess I should mention what tempering is, in case there are some people out there unfamiliar with the term. You know when you buy a Hershey’s bar, how it is nice and shiny and has that satisfying snap when you break it, well that is tempered chocolate. Untempered chocolate usually has a dull look to it and always seems somewhat soft when you bite into it. Untempered chocolate can also develop a white “bloom” to it. While the chocolate is still fine to eat it may not look nearly as appetizing. Just so you know, once you melt “bloomed” chocolate that whiteness goes away. This is because chocolate contains a number of different fats that melt and solidify at different temperatures. Tempering gets those fats in line, so to speak, getting them all to to their thing at the same time. That’s a simplified explanation but pretty much sums it up.

Pistachio Bonbons
makes about 50-60 candies

2 cups Pistachios, shelled
1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
Green Food Coloring (optional)
1 pound Dark Chocolate, cut into small pieces is not using chips or disks

In a medium sized pot bring to a boil 5 cups of water. Add the pistachios and boil for 8 minutes. Drain and lay out on a towel to dry. This step does 2 things it helps to remove some of the salt on the pistachios since in most parts of this country it is hard to find pistachios that are not salted and roasted, and it serves to loosen the skins. Once the pistachios are mostly dry gather up the edges of the towel and give the pistachios a good hard rub. This will loosen the skins even further. Remove as much skin, from the nuts, that you can. Don’t worry, they don’t need to be perfect. You just want to remove the majority of the skins. Place nuts in a food processor and process until finely ground, scraping down the sides of the processor occasionally. Add the powdered sugar and continue to process for a total time of approximately 8-10 minutes. The mixture should look dry at first glance but if you squeeze a bit together it should compact into a nice dense ball. If not add just a bit of water. It shouldn’t take more than a few drops to 1 tsp. max. At this point the mixture will probably be more brown than green. If you like the natural color then the “marzipan” is done, but people often assume that pistachio accented foods should be green so go ahead and add some green food coloring until you get the color you like. I added about 10-12 drops to the recipe myself. Roll into balls about the size of a garbanzo bean (about 2/3’s the size of a marble) and set aside.

Now to melt and temper our chocolate. Place a medium sized pan, filled with no more than 1-2″ of water, over medium heat and bring to a simmer (not a full boil). Wipe out the inside of a metal bowl ensuring that there is no moisture in it whatsoever. Place 2/3’s of the chocolate in the bowl and place the bowl over the simmering water. Stir continually to make sure the chocolate, along the sides doesn’t burn and try not to allow the chocolate to get hotter than 115°F. Once fully melted you need to cool the chocolate down to the low 80’s (between 81°-84°). Do this by adding the remaining chocolate to the melted stuff. As you stir the remaining chocolate will should melt completely. Once you reach this lower temperature you need to bring the chocolate back up to a temperature where it is easy to work with again. Bring it up to 90°F but do not let it get past 91°-92°F or it will go out of temper and you will need to bring back down to the lower 80’s again and back up. Once you have achieved temper, take a clean brush (I use paint brushes that I use only for pastry and/or candy work) and paint a thick layer of chocolate on the inside of your candy molds. Place in the fridge and all to cool for 10 minutes. While this is happening you will want to keep your tempered chocolate warm, at the right temperature. You can do this by placing the bowl on a heating pad set to the lowest temperature and stirring the chocolate often. Just watch that temperature. Keep it between 90°-91°F. Once chilled remove the molds from the fridge. Add the pistachio marzipan, gently pressing it into the molds. There should be a gap of about 1/8″ between the top of the filling and the top of the mold. Cover with a layer of chocolate, making sure it fills all the empty spaces in the mold and scrape it flush with the top of the mold ensuring a level bottom. Return to the fridge for another 10-12 minutes to set. If you have tempered the chocolate correctly at this time you should see some air space between the molds and the chocolate as properly tempered chocolate should shrink slightly, pulling away from the molds. A couple of light taps on the molds, as they are upside down should release the candies. They are ready to serve immediately or to box up as gifts. If molded properly and there are no air holes then the candy should easily last a few weeks, stored at room temperature.