Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chocolate-covered almond pralines

It's so much fun to make simple candies and confections during the holidays. They take us out of the norm of mixing cookie dough and hovering over our stand mixer, and we find ourselves at the stove-top, stirring and mixing a different kind of edible gift for our friends and family.
Last Christmas season, I whipped up a batch of candied almonds.  It was simple, tasty, and made great little gifts (at least I think so).  This year, I was tempted to step it up a bit and make praline (or candied) almonds coated with dark chocolate and then dusted with cocoa powder.  I think everything's better with chocolate!  And what better time to go the extra mile and dress things up a bit than right now at Christmastime.
These are easy to make and one of those crunchy snacks you keep nibbling and nibbling on.  I love that you don't need to refrigerate these pralines once they're done.  I always find it a little tricky gifting things that need to be refrigerated to friends and neighbors.

I made a batch of these chocolate covered almond pralines, packed most of it up as little gifts to go with our Christmas card, and kept a small handful for ourselves to munch on.  I kept them in a tight tin at room temperature and they should stay in good condition (i.e., the way they were when they were first made) for a couple of weeks. That dusting of cocoa makes them a bit more fuss-free and rustic somehow, which I really like.
I'm whipping up a second batch of these later this week for more gifts.  They're fun to make and to share for the holidays!


To make these almond pralines, start with 2 1/2 cups of toasted almonds. Given it's the busy holiday season, I took a shortcut and bought toasted, unsalted almonds for this recipe.  If you have a little more time, you could take the additional step of buying raw almonds and toasting them yourself.
The good thing about making these types of pralines is you don't have to worry about crystallization. You're actually after that crusty sugar coating on the nuts.  I think the trickiest part is heating the sugar and testing the temperature to get it right - in this case, 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.  I found that on medium-heat, it took something like 6-8 minutes, longer than the recipe indicated.  Since you're working with a small amount of liquid in the pan in cases like this, I find I have to tilt the pan to get a temperature reading.  

Once the sugar mixture hits the right temperature, just drop your almonds in and stir around to coat until it looks like the picture above.
You know my favorite part of this project was adding the chocolate!  Toss the cooled almonds in 6 ounces of melted semisweet chocolate.  Then lay them out on a lined baking sheet and use 2 forks to separate the almonds.  Chill the nuts for about 30 minutes.
Lastly, toss the nuts in some unsweetened cocoa powder.
Unless it's hot where you are, or your house is super warm, just store the pralines in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  
I think this will become one of my go-to things to make when it comes to edible holiday gifts.  

Enjoy!


Recipe:

Chocolate-Covered Almond Pralines
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- Makes over 2 1/2 cups - 

2 1/2 cups (13 ounces) whole almonds, toasted*
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

* To save a little time during the holidays, I buy toasted (unsalted) almonds for this recipe.  To toast the almonds yourself, place in an even layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven.  Toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 10-15 minutes.

Place sugar and water into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (roughly 6-8 minutes in my case).  

Add nuts, stir thoroughly together until sugar begins to crystallize and coat the almonds, about 1 minute.  Add salt and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes until almonds are completely coated with a thin layer of sand-like sugar.  Transfer the almonds to a parchment lined baking pan and let cool for about 30 minutes.  

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (or carefully using the microwave).

Use a large slotted spoon to lift up the almonds, shake off excess sugar, and transfer to a large bowl (you could also sift the almond in a colander or sieve to remove the excess sugar).  Add melted chocolate and stir together until almonds are fully coated.  Pour nuts onto another parchment lined baking sheet.  Using 2 forks, separate clusters into individual nuts.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Lastly, toss pralines with cocoa powder in a large bowl.  Transfer to an airtight container or to gift bags/boxes, tapping out excess cocoa powder.  These pralines can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  Refrigerate the pralines if your house is super warm (above 75 degrees).








40 comments:

  1. What a chocolatey and healthy snack!

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    1. Thanks - I'll have to remember to bill them as healthy! ; )

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  2. Chocolate covered nuts are always a winner to me. Nice job on these!

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    1. Agree - I'm hooked on chocolate coated nuts (and well..anything, actually).

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  3. Yes! I'm loving this foodie gift idea!! Looks delicious Monica!

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    1. Thanks - it's fun to make and share.

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  4. I would really have a hard time not eating the whole batch of these! The chocolate coating is perfect.

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    1. ...definitely need to pack 'em up quick!

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  5. Aren't they the most addictive treats?, love it. Perfect recipe.

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    1. Crunchy, sweet, salty things are ridiculously addicting - that's for sure! Thanks, Asha!

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  6. Oh my gosh, these sound like the perfect snack! I love that there is chocolate involved! When I make sugared nuts of any kind I always eat wayyyy too many. I have a feeling that would be worse with these because of the chocolate! haha

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    1. Great to gift, to snack, and to put out as a nibble for those holiday parties and gatherings. I feel the same way with nuts - I have to portion it out or I'd eat 4x what a portion is supposed to be!

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  7. Lovely recipe. Making it! Thanks :) ela

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  8. I love making candies during the holidays, too!! These look great!!!

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    1. Same here - feel like a little candy-maker and love these simple recipes.

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  9. These chocolate praline almonds sound incredible Monica! What a yummy and wonderful treat to send along with your Christmas cards:) I love that you coated these with cocoa powder at the end, that's a fantastic idea - love these!!

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. The recipe is so simple to follow - the credit goes to Martha and her smart peeps! : )

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  10. Adding chocolate to something that's already delicious can only be a good thing! :D

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  11. What a fabulous gift idea! Lucky friends you have! These things are truly addictive and loved by one and all. Praline, chocolate and almonds...I can go to Heaven right now. You made them look so gorgeous too!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sonali! The best part is I really do have a lot of fun making things like this. I'm amazed by how relatively simple it is...I never thought I could make things like this at home.

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  12. You are right, these do make awesome holiday gifts! I would LOVE to get a bag of these babies. And yes, chocolate makes everything so much better! Sure is a nice change-up from cookies, bars, breads and muffins. Which lucky friend of yours is getting the giant tin from you? :) Have a lovely week Monica!

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    1. Goes really well with a cup of coffee, Anne! ; )

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  13. Great snacking almonds! They look delicious and such awesome gifts. You have some lucky friends :)

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    1. Thanks - I personally love snacking on almonds...and chocolate!

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  14. mmmmm these look amazing! what an incredible gift monica; your friends are very lucky people!
    the hobbit kitchen x

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    1. Thanks - it's fun. I'm off to make another batch today.

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  15. This year I totally made 1/2 candy and 1/2 cookies. It's exhausting to scoop out all those cookies and candy is a nice change! Although I have to say that the kind of candy that involves boiling sugar to a certain temperature isn't my fave...i end up standing over the stove for like 40 min. I must be doing something wrong- it always takes me way longer than any recipe says. But aaaaanyway, these almonds look seriously amazing. What perfect little gifts these make :)

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    1. Cookies are great but I find it so tricky to gift because of how most of them are way better fresh. I totally understand what you're saying about the time it takes - like I mentioned, it took me longer to get the sugar to temp than the 3 mins. noted in the original recipe. I actually made the second batch today and it is more like 8 mins. for me (but that's not too bad). I have a more extreme issue with custard for ice cream - now *that* takes me forever to get right and always want to hike up the heat. And how about caramelizing onions! ha - I could go on too long...

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  16. Thanks for the recipe, Monica! I'll start making Christmas gifts for my family and friends on Friday (when I'm done with my exams), and these would make the perfect one! I can't wait to try them. They look so simple yet super super delish. You're right, the chocolate is the best part! ;)

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    1. Yes, gift-making and extreme baking really kicks into high gear this week. Have fun!

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  17. I would love to get a big bag of these for Christmas. They look and sound amazing! You can't go wrong with almonds and chocolate.

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    1. Almonds & chocolate are always right in my book, too!

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  18. Wow! this seems too wonderful for edible gifts. I always have chocolate and almonds on hand but never thought to put them together.

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    1. haha - thanks! I love chocolate-covered almonds since I was a kid...this is an easy home version.

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  19. completely wonderful gift idea! Who doesn't love a chocolate-covered almond? EVERYONE loves them. I know here in this house, they go FAST, so i would definitely be giving most of mine away as gifts. :) emphasis on MOST of them. :)

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    1. Same here - emphasis on *most* on my end, too. It's hard not to reserve a teeny bit for taste-testing and my own little gatherings...just need to make more! : )

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