This Dessert is a Ball: Pistachio Marzipan Truffles

I'm happy to report that the menu Tom and I came up with for our holiday party last weekend worked out wonderfully! I took the easy route with baked goods, limiting the baking mostly to familiar recipes that I have made many times before -- snickerdoodles, salted chocolate chip cookies, salted caramel brownies, ginger chip cookies, and faux-reos. (I did make one new cake recipe, but I'll post about that later!) Keeping the baking responsibilities simple gave me enough time to try out a bunch of new recipes for the party, including some hot hors d'oeuvres (bacon bites and sausage and feta phyllo triangles for the meat eaters; Dorie Greenspan's easy mustard batons for the vegetarians), a selection of frozen sweets (frozen chocolate mousse truffles, frozen pumpkin mousse with walnut-toffee crunch, and frozen mocha rum parfaits), and a recipe I picked out from Nick Maglieri's Chocolate cookbook: pistachio marzipan truffles.

I chose this recipe not only because the truffles can be made up to a week in advance and stored at room temperature (refrigerator and freezer space are valuable commodities in the days leading up to and during the party), but also because the headnote describes the truffles as a "pared-down version of a rich Viennese confection called a Mozartkugel." I love Mozartkugel. Eleven years ago when I first started working as a lawyer in D.C., my co-workers introduced me to Cafe Mozart, located just a block away from our office. The deli associated with the restaurant stocks an excellent selection of German chocolate, including Mozartkugel ("Mozart ball") by Reber.

The Reber Mozartkugel I am accustomed to (there are other companies that manufacture Mozartkugel, with varying recipes) is described on the company's website as a confection "filled with pistachio marzipan made out of fresh green pistachios, almonds and hazelnut nougat enrobed with delicious milk chocolate and plain chocolate." The Nick Maglieri stripped-down version is a chocolate ganache center, surrounded by pistachio marzipan, coated in chocolate, rolled in chopped pistachios.

The chocolate ganache center is made by bringing whipping cream to a boil, whisking it into chopped chocolate, and then adding almond extract, butter, and corn syrup. You cool the mixture to 80 degrees, or until thickened. For the pistachio marzipan, you grind pistachios in the food processor until reduced to a paste, and then add in almond paste, powdered sugar, and corn syrup; you knead the resulting dough until smooth. You divide the marzipan into several pieces, form each piece into a long rope that you flatten to about 2 inches wide, pipe a strip of chocolate ganache along the length of the marzipan, and then bring the edges of the marzipan up around the chocolate and pinch it closed so that you end up with a long tube of marzipan with ganache in the center. You cut the tube into pieces, roll each piece into a ball, and then dip the truffle centers into chocolate and roll them in chopped pistachios.

I had significant difficulty working with the marzipan -- it was dry and quite crumbly, so it required a lot of brute force to enclose the ganache in the middle. The centers of these truffles ended up being more of a mottled mixture of ganache and marzipan, instead of a chocolate center neatly surrounded by marzipan. But no matter, once I dipped the truffles in chocolate and coated them in pistachios, all imperfections were hidden from view. These truffles kept beautifully at room temperature.

I loved these. If you're a fan of pistachios and almonds and chocolate, there's nothing not to like. The truffles are rich, flavorful, and have a wonderful mix of textures - smooth ganache, chewy marzipan, firm chocolate coating, and crunchy pistachios. They did end up being much more work than I had anticipated, due to the difficulty of working with the marzipan. But it was worth it!

Recipe: "Pistachio Marzipan Truffles," from Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers, by Nick Maglieri.

Previous Post: "The Best Things Come in Small Packages: Chocolate-Pistachio Marzipan Spirals," November 1, 2010.