Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Two ingredients

Is it just me, or everything really complicated lately?

Maybe it is just me. Maybe it’s a by-product of still adjusting to life in a new place. That is one of the occupational hazards of international relocation: tasks that you can normally do half-asleep are suddenly a hugely challenging undertaking. But I feel like that’s leaking over into everything at the moment.

Here, I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about: this morning, I decided to tackle the pile of random stuff on the corner of my desk. I figured I’d clear it off, make some room, and feel all accomplished.

I picked up the piece of paper on top of the pile. It was a Google Map showing the way to the house where we went for dinner on Sunday night, including the full address. The address was why it was in the pile in the first place. So, I recorded the address in my address book for future reference. Then I got out a card and wrote a thank-you note to the people who hosted us (along the way dithering over whether I should take a guess at how to spell the wife’s unusual first name, or wimp out and say ‘Dear all’—guess which one I did?), put it in an envelope, addressed and stamped it, and stuck it in my bag to mail later. Then, and only then, did I recycle the paper.

One piece of paper: ten minutes. No wonder my To Do list never seems to get any shorter.

Maybe that’s why I prefer to cook simple food most of the time. I’m overcome by exhaustion when I see one of those recipes where you have to have made demi-glace 48 hours before when you want to eat the finished dish. I get enough of that in other areas of life. The following recipe is not one of those.

Chocolate-Covered Almonds
This is my first attempt at candy-making of any kind. I brought some (along with a bottle of wine) to our Sunday dinner engagement. I got the idea from A Year of Crockpotting’s Rocky Road Candy, but even that had too many ingredients, so I just used Stephanie's method for melting the chocolate in the slow cooker and then went with my own inclinations.

- some quantity of chocolate of your choice (the original recipe used a 12-ounce bag of Nestle’s morsels; I used a 375g bag of dark baking chocolate disks, which was a lot of chocolate, but since they had started to melt together in our recent extreme heat I didn’t have much choice)
- whole almonds (I didn’t really measure these, but probably 1.5 cups or more for the quantity of chocolate above)

1. Turn the slow cooker on low and throw the chocolate in. Cover and leave for 30 minutes, then check and stir. (My chocolate took the better part of an hour to melt fully, but with the slow cooker you don’t have to worry about it sticking and burning.)

2. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. When the chocolate is fully melted, turn the slow cooker off and remove the lid. (Stephanie recommends removing the insert from the heat source altogether, but I still had a few rogue lumps, so I shut it off but left the insert in the unit. No problems with almonds, but could be tricky if you were using meltable add-ins like marshmallows.)

4. Throw the almonds in and stir until everything is evenly mixed. (This is why I didn’t really measure; I started with a cup of almonds and then just kept adding more until the chocolate:almond ratio looked good to me. I don’t think you can really get this part wrong.)

5. Using two spoons, scoop out bite-sized lumps of the chocolate/almond mixture and space on the trays, attempting to shape neatly and attractively as you go. (If you’re a serious perfectionist/masochist, you could either dip the almonds individually or try to remove them from the slow cooker one at a time. The very idea of doing either made me want to weep.)

6. Put the trays in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to harden.

7. Try to keep your preschooler from eating her own body weight in these before you even get out of the house. Wonder since when she’s liked dark chocolate? And nuts?

Yield: about 45 1-inch candies


shissher said... Best Blogger Tips

Hello, dahling,

Sadly my crock pot is 1,300 miles away, and I refuse to buy another cooking item until we find a bigger place. Seriously, I can't even justify buying a real cheese grater ... my kitchen is that small! I do own a double boiler though, so I might have to try making this without the crock pot.

I thought of you this morning when I was going through my favorite cookbook, "Cooks Illustrated," which has some of the best meals I've ever made. However, the baked good recipes aren't the best, and sometimes have resulted in inedible cupcakes and sheet cakes. Rather than calling my mom every other day for her recipes, I thought that maybe that you might have suggestions for cookbooks with great baking recipes, or cookbooks that only include desserts.


Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Hey T! I feel your pain, with regard to tiny kitchens and being forcibly separated from your appliances. You should have seen the kitchen reunion here last September.

Hmmm...baking cookbook recs:
- for basic info, you can't go wrong with Fanny Farmer;
- for authority on baking generally: Maida Heatter and Rose Levy Berenbaum; and
- possibly out of print but worth tracking down: Rosie's All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg (founder of Rosie's Bakery in Boston).

Now I'm hungry.

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