This is an idea I’ve been sitting on for quite some time now. As in, well over a year some time now. I’d got components for it) here and there but kept putting it off. I’m procrastinating my procrastibaking. Now there’s a new level of avoidance for me. So yesterday I finally decided that enough was enough and I was going to get this idea out of my head: piranha plant pops!
These iconic little beasties from Mario have been recreated into so many different mediums. From paintings to sculptures to earrings, so many skilled people from all genres of art have paid tribute to these little guys. I wanted to join in and recreate them in a way that makes them almost entirely edible.
Half the fun with these guys was making them all different. Some with their mouths open, some shut. Some short and some taller than others. Some facing up and others facing forwards. In part it was to mimic the various stages you find them in during the game as they emerge, snapping, from their pipes. But it’s also fun to give them lots of different expressions anyway.
I really really dislike truffle recipes. Truffles are the kind of thing I tend to make up from leftovers. It’s all by eye and never by quantity. If I have a cake I need to carve, or if I have leftover cupcakes, or any excess cake at any time, I blend up the leftover cake into cake crumbs and freeze it until a day for making truffles arises. The type of cake you use will then influence how much icing you need to add. I prefer a resultant mixture that is set at room temperature: it’s nicer to eat and also means it won’t go sliding off the stick one it hits room temperature. There’s nothing worse than trying to roll truffles that are either two soft and need partial refrigeration to work, or are so hard they are impossible to roll. When I follow recipes, that’s what tends to happen. So there’s not a formal recipe for these guys, but I’m going to show you how I made them.
For the piranha heads, I used these Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes. I had half a batch leftover, so I crumbled them up and mixed in just enough dark chocolate ganache to make one large, smooth ball. At this stage you can add in any number of things. Some truffles recipes add icing sugar, almond meal, cream, nuts, biscuits, chopped glace cherries — it’s totally up to you and what you want to taste when you bite into it. But I try to avoid making more ‘complex’ truffles like this chunky cause it can ruin the final shape. You can also use any icing you like. I use the ganache because I think the buttercream varieties are just far too sweet, especially after you coat them with white chocolate.
I made enough for 6 piranha heads. For four of them, I used a sharp knife to cut a little ‘V’ shape out of them for the mouths. I popped them in the freezer and, once frozen, stuck a lollipop stick into them. I made three of these with the mouth facing upwards, and for one I positioned the stick with the mouth facing forwards. Be careful not to poke the stick all of the way through here.
Leave them in the fridge while you get the chocolate ready. Having them cold serves the purpose of making the chocolate set quickly when you dip them.
Melt enough white chocolate to cover the amount of truffles you’ve made, then use powdered food colouring to dye it red. You can try other types of dye, but your chocolate will probably seize and it’s not worth it. Some stores will sell coloured chocolate melts so you can use this to shortcut the step if you prefer.
Dip the truffles into the chocolate so it’s completely covered right up to the stick. Leave no patch uncovered. Then hold the truffle by the stick over the bowl with one hand, then firmly tap that hand with your other hand to rid the truffle of excess chocolate. This is the gentlest way to do this I’ve found: tapping the stick against the side of the bowl can be too forceful and you sometimes end up dislodging the truffle from the stick.
Place them upright to let them cool completely. A foam block is ideal.
Meanwhile, you can get started on the base. Now, there’s a lot of ways you can make the base, but I wanted to go with a brownie truffles. I felt the density for them would make for much more secure pipes than anything else. You could opt for something like raw cookie dough, or stick with cake crumb truffles. You could even make mini cupcakes, but I avoided that route because I felt they might not hold the weight enough.
For these I went with yesterday’s One-Pot Chocolate Brownies. I blended about half the batch until they were nicely crumbed up.
You’ll notice with these that they almost bind to themselves. If you press the crumbs against the sides of the bowl it will stick together.
They’re still light enough to potentially crumble, so I added just enough chocolate ganache to make sure it would set firm.
To make the pipes, I used a silicone tray I have that has straight sides. If you don’t have, can’t get or don’t want to get one, you can use a mini cupcake tray. You could also just form the shapes with your hands. You’ll need to partially do that anyway. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls, then press it into the tray. this gets them a little warm and make them easier to mould without any gaps.
Make as many as you’ve made for the piranha heads and level them off at the top.
With the remaining mixture, roll it out between two sheets of baking paper until it’s about half a centimetre thick. This is for the thicker top of the pipe: you don’t need it to be excessivly thick as it will gain volume once dipped in chocolate.
Cut out circles slightly larger than the holes of the tray and press them down on top. Pop them in the freezer for about half an hour.
Pop them out of the tray, then place the truffles on sticks down into the centres of them. Make sure you only apply force to the stick when you do this. If you push them from the top you may dislodge the truffle on the stick.
Now we have to melt down some white chocolate and make it green. I used 2 parts green to 1 part yellow food colouring to produce that vibrant mario green we’re familiar with. This may depend on the brand of colouring you get, but my green was a tad saturated-looking without the yellow.
You’ll need a lot of chocolate for this just because of the height of the brownie truffles. I used about 300g for the 6 pipes. I used a deep bowl and tilted it on one side to help get all sides properly covered. You want to be able to mostly submerge the truffle so that when you lift it the finish is smooth.
Dip it into the chocolate and rotate to cover all sides of the brownie truffle. Use the same tapping method we did for the cake truffles to rid them of excess chocolate. Before it has completely dried, set it down onto a paper lined tray or other work surface (I use a marble tile) and gently push down to create a flat base at the bottom of your truffle. This will make sure they can stand up straight.
The final stage comes down to your own comfort level and time. I used fondant to shape the leaves, dots and teeth. If you’re more comfortable piping, you can use royal icing or melted white chocolate and pipe the features. If you’re confident with neither medium, you can hit up the confectionery isle and look for lollies that fit the bill, or can be cut to shape.
I used melted red chocolate to ‘glue’ the pieces to the truffle. Making the spots was definitely the most time consuming part of the job. Royal icing would be a much quicker way to get the effect.
I used some excess green chocolate to pipe some quick leaves for the base. Nothing fancy: i just put the chocolate in a ziplock bag, snipped off a corner and piped the shapes onto greaseproof paper. When they set, I used more melted green chocolate to hold them in place.
All that’s left is to have fun making the little beasties! I made less of the closed-mouthed piranha plants thinking they would be less exciting, but I ended up actually liking them better. They looked kind of cheeky with the little smirk they ended up having.
These are pretty basic in shape as they’re modeled after the original Super Mario Brothers version. Of course, you can easily shape them to have the more pointed snout of the more recent versions. Whatever shape you create for the truffles underneath is what will remain once the chocolate has run off.
Here’s the piranha heads with the dark chocolate and raspberry truffles.
And the denser bases with the brownie truffle inside.