The last couple of years I usually make some kind of chocolate candy around the holidays to give as hostess gifts or to have for after dinner treats if friends stop by the house. This recipe is a total winner, and so easy to prepare it’s scary! Together, we have gone through a metamorphosis of sorts; I have used regular almonds as opposed to Marcona almonds, fleur de sel rather that grey sea salt, and Ghirardelli in lieu of my new personal favorite American chocolate, Guittard. Even though the ingredients sound fancy-schmancy, between our local “ghetto” Von’s (well, the Montecito version of ghetto!) and Trader Joe’s you can find everything! I used to have some technical difficulties with tempering the chocolate, but after listening to Jacques Torres on Martha Stewart Radio, I worked out all the kinks and ta-da… perfect, glossy chocolates with no white spots.
Marcona Almond Clusters
Makes 18 -24 chocolates
6 oz. bag Marcona almonds
1 12 oz. bag of Guittard real semisweet chocolate chips
Grey sea salt (regular sea salt will work too)
Line two cookie sheets with either parchment paper or a silpat. Pour the whole bag of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Here’s the Jacques Torres tip : microwave in increments of 20 seconds each. Stirring the bowl of chocolates each time. I usually do this a total of four times. The last time you zap the chocolates there will still be some little chunks and just stir it until it all dissolves. Scrape the chocolate into a clean bowl and put aside. Next, put the nuts into a colander and shake it… this removes the excess salt. After, pour the nuts into the melted chocolates, stir to coat.
Using a teaspoon (from your flatware) scoop up a spoonful of the nuts and drop the mixture onto the lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and let rest in a cool place until they set and are firm.
Shopping tip: I buy Marcona almonds in 6 oz.. bags at Trader Joe’s. They are a regular staple item in my pantry and great to have on hand for easy entertaining.