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[Eds: Eva’s Mom, Claire, makes a special appearance from Alberta!]
I have been making chocolates for over 20 years now. A friend of mine showed me how to make cooked fondant, somewhat in the same method that you make fudge (i.e. mix all the ingredients together, cook until soft ball stage, let cool, and beat. When it’s good and cold roll into balls, then dip into chocolate). My family loved them [Eva: Oh, yes we did! Now you know why I'm "curvy"]. I tried experimenting with flavours, and they were not impressed [Eva: we like the plain cream ones the best].
Then I discovered how easy it is to make chocolates with a lovely ganache (I guess technically they’re truffles, but oh, so delicious!) [Eva: the ganache chocolates are delicious. But I have to admit, cream fondant is still my favourite. Mom is not impressed with me for admitting this].
So, how does this relate to Peanut Clusters? When I dipped my chocolates, there was always some leftover dipping chocolate. Now, after hours spent dipping my fondant into dipping chocolate, and having run out of fondant, what on earth do I do with the leftover chocolate that can be done fairly quickly, because I’m really tired of dipping chocolates by now?
I could throw it away (NEVER THROW AWAY CHOCOLATE, OH MY GOD!) I could pour it in thin layers on waxed paper to break into chunks for cookies (if I ever remember to haul it out of the cupboard someday down the road) or I could make it into something. I thought I was being very creative and invented peanut clusters. [Eva: it is very creative. And delicious!] It seems I wasn’t that inventive; after all, there is a National Peanut Cluster Day. [Eva: Whatever. They just heard your clusters were so good, Mom, they made a day for you!] I guess good ideas just float around in the air waiting for the next person to tune in to them…
I did look for Peanut Cluster Day on-line and found a couple of recipes; one was basically a recipe for Turtles using peanuts instead of pecans, the other sort of an uncooked cookie recipe. I’m here to tell you it really doesn’t need to be that complicated. Here’s what you do:
- Melt dipping chocolate pastilles or chopped chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over hot water OR cheat like I do, and melt them in the microwave on very low power (i.e. defrost). They will still retain their shape when they are ready to use, just stir until they liquefy. Caution: do NOT let the chocolate get too hot or it will burn. If melting it over hot water be careful not to drip any water into the chocolate or it will seize.
- Add room temperature peanuts to the chocolate and stir (cold peanuts will make the chocolate set up too fast). Add as many peanuts as the chocolate will hold.
- Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool, and put into a storage container. I often freeze them, but only if I plan on keeping them for a couple of months or more.
A certain member of our extended family [Eva: that would be Jim] actually prefers these to the labour-intensive chocolates!!! Go figure.
[Eva: Thanks, Mom!]
[If you wanted to get really fancy, you could use dark chocolate and then sprinkle on a little fleur de sel].