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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Peanut Butter, Nutella, Cashews, Oh My! (aka My Quest for Viable Wedding Favors)

My wedding is December 6, 2009, but I am a notorious early planner, and right now I am trying to work out wedding favor details. My fiance and I are making a charitable donation to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in the names of our guests, which is technically in lieu of favors -- but I still want people to take home a little something. My friend Lauren did something similar at her wedding (donation to a youth reading program) and she made peanut butter balls for her guests. I didn't want to do the same thing, so I have been wracking my brain to come up with a small homemade edible favor that 1) can be made relatively easily and cheaply; 2) can be made in bulk; 3) can survive the freezer for 3 weeks to a month; and 4) can survive being left at room temp uncovered (favor boxes aren't exactly airtight) for about 3-4 days.

The first thing I thought of were traditional chocolate truffles -- ganache dipped in chocolate. But I was iffy about leaving them at room temp for 4 days. Even though, as a microbiologist, I know that there is probably enough sugar in the truffles to make them inhospitable to microbes, I have always been iffy about dairy products at room temp, so I decided to leave this well enough alone.

I thought maybe chocolate-covered brownies would be the thing, and they stood up well to being frozen, but even though they were enrobed in chocolate, the edges got slightly stale when I was testing them at room temp.

I finally came back to nut butter balls, but because my friend did peanut butter, I decided to try it with Nutella instead. I found a slightly different peanut butter ball recipe courtesy of the internet and I have made it with Nutella and peanut butter so far. Both were great (especially the Nutella -- better than Roche's in my opinion), and I bought a jar of cashew butter to try as well -- I am pretty sure it will work with any nut butter, and I'd like to try some others like macadamia nut butter, which is available online. Although, for favor purposes, I think Nutella and peanut butter are the only two nut butters that would be cost effective. The recipe breaks down like this:

2 C nut butter of your choice
2 C crushed graham crackers
2 C confectioner's sugar
2 C butter
chocolate of your choice for dipping -- I actually used the Wilton dark chocolate candy melts because they set up nicely and melt easily -- I don't want to mess around if I need to have a high-output production of nut butter balls
Then you just combine everything but the chocolate, scoop it into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, and chill for an hour. Then melt the chocolate and dip.

Admittedly, dipping is where I need the greatest amount of practice, because some of the balls looked great, but some looked like they had been dipped by chimpanzees. So I have decided that I will make a large batch for this Christmas, for cookie exchanges and other holiday get-togethers, so I can practice.

I've also started thinking about packaging. I'd like to have a small box of the balls at each place setting for each person, but since my guest list is going to be 180-200 ppl, I have decided to put 2 balls in a box per person. They are pretty big, that should be plenty. So the boxes I need are more rectangular than square (I have been keeping some balls in my fridge for size estimates while I check out suitable boxes), but I envision the packaging as looking something like this picture to the right. My colors are dark blue, white and silver, so I envision a white rectangle box with a dark blue ribbon like this. I am thinking an oval label would be a nice contrast, I just want to make sure that the label is big enough for a short message -- I want to tell people about the donation on the label.

I have determined that a 3"X 2 1/4" X 1 3/4" box worked great for the 2 truffles, but now I am having a problem finding those boxes :-( Good thing I am starting early...

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