holidays from afar


Chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa powder and smoked sea salt, and coconut and cardamom

There are two aspects of living overseas that I find the toughest.  The first is being far away from friends and family.  That distance is even more evident during the holidays, when we would otherwise be hunkering down to celebrate with our loved ones.  The other (besides my complete inability to find a decent deli sandwich) is the transient nature of the friendships we make while overseas.  It seems like we’re always either getting to know new people, which is great, or having to say goodbye to friends who are moving on to somewhere else, which is obviously not so great.


Spritz cookies shaped by a cookie gun

This holiday season, we’re extra excited not to have to experience the lonely reach of America from afar.  Instead, the celebration is coming our way.  My in-laws, sisters, brother-in-law and cousins will be here in a few weeks to help us celebrate a very humid, tropical Christmas and New Year’s.  I’m really excited to see everyone, and being that it’s the Gravy Baby’s first Christmas, the hubby and I are planning on going all out and buying a tree, unlike the sad little palm tree I decorated with a lone Elmo ornament last year (how we ended up with an Elmo ornament, of all things, I’ll never be quite sure).

For a few years now, my sisters and I have made chocolate truffles to give away as gifts.  Naturally, we pack away a good dozen just trying to make them, and last year I lovingly squirreled away a pound and a half of Belgian chocolate in hopes that I’d have time to make them myself.  Well, due to unforeseen travel, my Christmas plans were a little scattered, and so the chocolate sat in our freezer.

This past week, my cooking explorer girlfriends came over to my house, and finally I had an occasion to break out the chocolate.  Well, any time ladies come over to gab is an occasion to break out the chocolate, but on this particularly merry day, we gathered together to roll a few dozen of these and to test my friend Rachael’s new cookie gun.  Any time the words cookie and gun are used in a sentence, you can bet I’m intrigued, and so when she showed us how she could squirt out little delicate Christmas trees and poinsettias, we were naturally impressed.

As for the truffles, I’ve made these enough now that I like to vary things a bit.  We doubled this recipe so that we’d have enough to share, and we made a few additional tweaks that we were very pleased with. We added smoked sea salt to the cocoa powder coating, which made for a delightful sweet-savory-slightly-bitter bite.  We also didn’t have ancho or chipotle powder on hand, so we used 1 teaspoon of cayenne to 2 teaspoons of chili powder to give the truffles rolled in that spice combination a lovely warm, sweet kick.  Lastly, I separated out about a third of the ganache and added 2 ounces of Amaretto liqueur.  The Amaretto, as it turns out, adds a wonderfully cooling, slightly tart flavor to the ganache that is highly addictive (besides, you know, the whole alcohol content thing).  I’d highly recommend it.

The end of our little cooking jam made me a little sad, because, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I feel like living the life of an expat means you’re always having to say goodbye to someone, too.  An activity I’d normally have done with my family became an activity I did with my makeshift family here in Kuala Lumpur, and one of my cooking  buddies is leaving us to move on to her next adventure.  I’m happy for her and her husband, but sad at the same time.

I mean, who else will I be able to cure pork with in a Muslim country?

For the recipe we used to make our chocolate truffles, click here.  

For a spritz cookie recipe, click here.

To buy your own cookie gun, click here.  





  1. Drew says

    I remember you made those truffles the first time you came over to our place for a party. They were a big hit then, and I’m sure they’re still fantastic!

  2. says

    Perhaps I can soften the blow by donating my leftover salt pork to Casa Gravy? It’s the least I can do to repay the amount of chocolate I took (and consumed) from your house last week! Without a doubt one of the things I’ll miss most about KL is our cooking experiments. I hope I have the time to continue these little lessons on my own — or with anyone else who sees logic in curing salt pork and baking macarons on the same day.

    We’ll have to email new challenges to one another and photos of the outcome so we can keep it up. At least that will entice me to keep going, and I’m pretty sure that’s a Turduken I see in our virtual future! Who will pop the neck cord for me though? (do they have those in the USA store bought birds?) Will miss y’all, too.

  3. says

    Thanks, Drew!

    Courtney — sure, I’ll take your salt pork! It’s more salt pork than one family should ever have, but maybe I’ll pass it on after we’re done with it to the next cooking experimenter who joins our group?

    I definitely think e-mailing challenges is in order! We’ll miss you! And I’ll pop the neck cord in your turkey any day. Did that sound weird?


  4. Amy says

    Made truffles last night. I’m a lot faster now than the first time we made them together. The only problem I’m having is that my truffles seem a little softer than I’d like them to be. I guess I can always cut down the butter/cream.

  5. says

    Did you add alcohol to the ganache? If so, the liquid of the alcohol, plus the higher chilling temperature required to firm the ganache makes it runnier, I think. Cutting down on the butter might not help, because I think the fats in the butter actually thicken the ganache. Just my two cents.

  6. Jessica says

    I am really looking forward to sharing cooking with you! I too made a large number of treats (and consumed them) over the holidays, including using my own “gun!” I too have made chocolates to give out the past few years and was disappointed to not have a repeat of that this year…oh the changes we must adapt to. We did still enjoy peppermint bark though, and as always it was fabulous!!