ATTENTION HOLIDAY SHOPPERS: Aisle 11, 13 and 20 are impassable, the checkout line stretches around the block and the parking lot is full. Oh, and don’t forget the weather outside is frightful. “Nuts!” you might say, and you would be right. ‘Tis definitely the season to stay home and make your Christmas gifts.

Which brings us to nuts again. When it comes to homemade holiday treats nothing beats nuts…well…nothing if the nuts are encased in melt-in-the-mouth chocolate enhanced with a nut-flavored liqueur like in the luscious Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles made by Karen Todd and sold in her popular Dragonfly Café & Bakery in Taos, New Mexico.

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles


(Recipe from the Dragonfly Café and Bakery, Taos, New Mexico)

Yield: About 6-1/2 dozen

1-1/2 pounds semisweet chocolate, divided

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup Frangelico (or other flavored liqueur)

About 4 ounces skinned, toasted hazelnuts (see note)

About 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Chop chocolate into small pieces. Put 1 pound of the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel mixing bowl (set aside remaining 1/2 pound chopped chocolate). Heat cream until it is just about to boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate in bowl and set aside for 5 minutes, then stir with a spatula until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth and well blended. (If chocolate does not melt, set bottom of bowl over hot water and stir until chocolate melts fully and mixture is smooth. Be sure no steam reaches chocolate.) Stir in liqueur. Let chocolate cool completely, then cover bowl and refrigerate until chocolate is firm, 2 hours to overnight.

Scoop about 1 teaspoon of chilled chocolate into a spoon. Put a hazelnut into the center and shape mixture around nut forming a ball. Place ball on a baking sheet or tray. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture and nuts. Place balls in a freezer until firm, about 1 hour.

Melt remaining chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Set aside until cool enough to touch. Working quickly, put a little melted chocolate in the palm of one hand. Add a frozen ball and quickly and gently rub ball in palms until ball is coated with a very thin layer of melted chocolate. Toss coated ball in cocoa powder and place on a tray. Repeat until all ingredients are used.

Place truffles in a covered container and refrigerate. Keep refrigerated until 1 hour before serving, then remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

Note: To toast and skin hazelnuts: spread shelled nuts in one layer on a baking sheet. Put in a preheated 300 degree oven and roast, shaking pan once or twice to redistribute nuts, until skins “break” and nuts turn a light golden brown, 10 to 20 minutes. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and set aside 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skin (not all skin will come off). Cool completely.