Moms

What's better than a cookie? Turning it into a cookie ball

Titans of the cookie industry should be jumping for joy. On the heels of the cake ball craze comes an even easier confection: the cookie truffle, or cookie ball, made with store-bought sandwich cookies.

It started with a simple Oreo truffle recipe that made the rounds on the Internet and at holiday parties.

Whereas cake ball centers are a blend of cake crumbs and icing; the cookie ball melds cream cheese and ground sandwich cookies. Just as cream cheese works magic in desserts like cheesecake, it's the key to this rich confection.

Cookie balls are enrobed in melted chocolate or almond bark for a faux truffle effect.

Lemon sandwich cookies, chocolate-center Oreos and peanut butter sandwich cookies are just a few of the varieties that we played with.

Although we're fond of the original recipe, we found that simple additions -- extracts, cocoa, powdered sugar, peanut butter, coffee or real chocolate coating -- make cookie balls even better.

If you've been to a luncheon, baby shower or kids party in the past year, you've probably bitten into the cakey-creamy goodness of a cake ball. Still haven't made them at home? These treats are easy as pie ... er, cake.

Consider cake and cookie balls as a blend of two trends: cupcakes and itty-bitty desserts. Cake balls are made by combining crumbled cake with frosting, rolling the mixture into balls, and covering the balls with confectionery coating to give the bite-size desserts a glossy, crisp exterior.

Variations abound; almost any cake and frosting will do. The fun is in combining flavors and colors for distinctive results.

Here are a few recipes for cookie balls and classic cake balls.

Double chocolate coffee Oreo truffles

Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen

1 1-pound, 2-ounce package Oreos with chocolate cream centers

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons espresso or dark roast coffee, ground to a very fine powder

16 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, or substitute chocolate almond bark

2 to 3 teaspoons shortening (optional)

1/3 cup white-chocolate chips, chopped almond bark or candy melt (optional)

1. In a food processor, crush and process the cookies into fine crumbs, in 2 batches. (You want crumbs, not powder.) Or place the cookies in a resealable plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin.

2. Using an electric mixer, or beating by hand in a bowl with a spoon, combine the cream cheese, cocoa powder and powdered sugar with the cookie crumbs until thoroughly mixed and a creamy dough forms; there should be no white traces of cream cheese.

3. Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-size balls, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter. Lightly roll each ball in ground espresso or coffee; roll the ball on a clean surface so that the coffee adheres to the dough. Place balls on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate or freeze the balls for at least 1 hour.

4. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute at medium (50 percent) to high power, then remove and stir. Return mixture to the microwave, heating for 10- to 15-second intervals, and stirring for 30 seconds between heating. When most of the chips are melted, a final stirring should melt the remainder. Do not overheat the chocolate or it will seize.

5. When ready to coat the cookie balls, remove them from the refrigerator or freezer. Using a fondue fork, small fork, wooden skewer or chopstick, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the coated balls on wax paper. If the chocolate begins to stiffen, reheat it briefly in the microwave. (If it is too thick, reheat with a teaspoon or two of shortening.)

6. Let the coating harden at room temperature. If desired, melt the white-chocolate chips or almond bark and drizzle over the tops of each candy. May be served chilled or at room temperature. Store covered, in the refrigerator.

Nutritional analysis per truffle, based on 3 1/2 dozen yield: 97 calories, 5 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 101 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 47 percent of calories from fat.

Peanut butter cookie truffles

Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen

1 1-pound package Nutter Butter peanut butter sandwich cookies, or another brand

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

16 ounces semisweet or milk-chocolate chips

1/3 cup Nestle Toll House Swirled Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Morsels (optional)

1. Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper. In a food processor, crush and process the cookies into fine crumbs, in 2 batches. (You want crumbs, not powder.) Or place the cookies in a resealable plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin.

2. Using an electric mixer, or beating by hand in a bowl with a spoon, combine the cream cheese, peanut butter and powdered sugar with the cookie crumbs until thoroughly mixed and a creamy dough forms; there should be no white traces of cream cheese.

3. Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-size balls, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter, and place on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate or freeze the balls for at least 1 hour.

4. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute at medium (50 percent) to high power, then remove and stir. Return mixture to the microwave, heating for 10- to 15-second intervals, and stirring for 30 seconds between heating sessions. When most of the chips are melted, a final stirring should melt the remainder. Do not overheat the chocolate or it will seize up.

5. When ready to coat the cookie balls, remove them from the refrigerator or freezer. Using a fondue fork, small fork, wooden skewer or chopstick, dip each peanut butter ball into the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the coated balls on wax paper. If the chocolate begins to stiffen, reheat it briefly in the microwave. (If it is too thick, reheat with a teaspoon or two of shortening.)

6. Let the coating harden at room temperature. If desired, melt the swirled chips in the microwave and drizzle over the tops of each candy. When set, refrigerate until firm. Store covered, in the refrigerator.

Nutritional analysis per truffle, based on 3 1/2 dozen yield: 153 calories, 9 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 76 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 54 percent of calories from fat.

Lemon cream cookie balls

Makes about 2 1/2 -3 dozen

1 12-ounce package Safeway Select brand Lemon Swirl sandwich cookies, or other brand

6 ounces cream cheese (3/4 of an 8-ounce package)

1 teaspoon lemon extract, to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

12 ounces white-chocolate chips, almond bark or candy melt

2 teaspoons shortening

Lemon drop candies, crushed (optional decoration)

1. Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper. In a food processor, crush and process the cookies into fine crumbs, in 2 batches. (You want crumbs, not powder.) Or place the cookies in a resealable plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin.

2. Using a mixer, or working by hand with a spoon, combine cream cheese, lemon extract and powdered sugar with cookie crumbs until a creamy dough forms; there should be no white traces of cream cheese.

3. Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-size balls, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter, and place on prepared baking sheet. If the mixture becomes too soft, chill it in the refrigerator. Refrigerate or freeze the balls for at least 1 hour.

4. Place the white-chocolate chips, almond bark or candy melt and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute at medium (50 percent) to high power, then remove and stir. Return mixture to the microwave, heating for 10- to 15-second intervals, and stirring for 30 seconds between heating sessions. When most of the chips or bark is melted, a final stirring should melt the remainder. Do not overheat the chocolate or it will seize up.

5. When ready to coat cookie balls, remove them from the refrigerator or freezer. Dip each lemon cream ball into the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the coated balls on wax paper. If the coating begins to stiffen, reheat it briefly in the microwave. (If it is too thick, reheat with a teaspoon or two of shortening.)

6. Immediately sprinkle the tops with crushed lemon drops, if using. Let coating harden at room temperature. Refrigerate until firm, and serve slightly chilled. Store covered, in the refrigerator.

Nutritional analysis per cookie ball, based on 2 1/2 dozen yield: 143 calories, 8 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 73 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 51 percent of calories from fat

Oreo truffle balls

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen

1 1-pound, 2-ounce package Oreo cookies (or a similar brand)

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

16 ounces chocolate chips or white chocolate chips (or substitute almond bark or candy melt)

Optional toppings: chopped Oreo cookies, or a drizzle of contrasting melted chocolate

1. Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper. In a food processor, crush and process the cookies into fine crumbs, in 2 batches. Do not over-process. Or place cookies in a plastic bag and crush with rolling pin.

2. Combine cream cheese and cookie crumbs (in a mixer or food processor) until a creamy dough forms (there should be no white traces of cream cheese).

3. Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-size balls, approximately 1 inch in diameter, and place on prepared baking sheet. If the dough becomes too soft to work with, chill it in the refrigerator. Refrigerate or freeze the balls at least 1 hour.

4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave using medium (50 percent) to high power. Microwave for 1 minute, then remove and stir. Return mixture to the microwave, heating for 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring for 30 seconds between heating sessions. When most of the chips or bark is melted, a final stirring should melt the remainder. Do not overheat the chocolate.

5. When ready to coat the truffle balls, remove them from the refrigerator or freezer. Using a fondue fork, small fork, wooden skewer, toothpick or chopstick, dip each ball into the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place balls on wax paper. If the coating begins to stiffen, reheat it in microwave.

6. Immediately sprinkle or drizzle the tops with the optional toppings, if using. Let sit at room temperature until coating dries. Refrigerate until firm, or serve at room temperature if you prefer a softer center. Store covered, in the refrigerator.

Nutritional analysis per truffle ball: 123 calories, 7 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 89 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 51 percent of calories from fat.

Basic cake balls

Makes about 30 cake balls

1 18.25-ounce boxed cake mix plus ingredients called for on box

1 16-ounce can prepared frosting

Almond bark coating or confectionery wafer coating (both recipes follow)

1. Bake the cake according to package instructions.

2. While warm, crumble the cake into a bowl with a hand mixer to a fine texture. Mix in frosting to make a paste, using 3/4 to a full can of frosting, according to taste. Chill the mixture for at least 2 hours.

3. Using a melon baller or your hands, form mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place balls on wax paper; freeze at least 6 hours.

4. Working in small batches, remove the balls from the freezer and dip into warm, melted almond bark coating or confectionery wafer coating, using toothpicks or forks to manipulate the cake balls. Remove the balls. Place them on wax paper to harden.

Almond bark coating: In a double boiler, melt one 20-ounce package vanilla- or chocolate-flavored almond bark, stirring constantly. Or, in a tall, narrow container, microwave almond bark for 45 seconds on high (100 percent power). Continue to heat in 15-second intervals, stirring between intervals, until melted; be careful not to scorch.

When almond bark is melted, stir in 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. If desired, stir in oil-based coloring drop by drop until you achieve the desired color.

Confectionery wafer coating: Melt 48 ounces confectionery wafers in double boiler or microwave per instructions for almond bark coating. Omit oil. If desired, stir in oil-based coloring until you achieve desired color.

Nutritional analysis per cake ball: 214 calories, 11 grams fat, 31 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, no cholesterol, 166 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 43 percent of calories from fat.

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