Sunday, November 15, 2009

Almond Joy

Chocolate-Covered Almonds are among my favorite confections, second only to Chocolate Almond Bark. Coating fragrant toasted almonds with smooth bittersweet chocolate is a really good idea. Tossing them in a mixture of cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar makes them that much better. I like to bundle a bunch of these crunchy sweets in a small cello bag, tie them with a bright ribbon, and give them to friends as a treat. It also makes a nice little bribe when you need something done badly.

Chocolate-Covered Almonds

Makes about 2 ¾ cups

1 2/3 cups blanched almonds
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup alkalized cocoa powder
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden, 8-10 minutes, shaking the nuts halfway through the baking time. Cool completely.
2. Take 1 ounce of the chocolate (make sure that this chocolate is shiny and does not have any streaks on its surface) and, using the finest holes on a box grater, grate it onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper. You will need 1 tablespoon of finely grated chocolate. Place the grated chocolate into a small bowl and set aside in a cool place. Chop the remaining 7 ounces of chocolate (and any solid chocolate that was left over from grating) and place it in the top of a double boiler. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment or waxed paper.
3. Place the top of the double boiler over water and turn the heat to medium-low. Heat the chocolate slowly, stirring frequently, until it is almost melted. Check the temperature—you want to heat the chocolate just to 110°F, but no higher. When it gets to be about 105°F, turns the heat off and stir the chocolate until it just reaches 110°F. Separate the top of the double boiler from the bottom, and set the chocolate aside to cool. You must cool the chocolate gradually, stirring it occasionally so that it cools evenly, until it reaches exactly 87°F. Check the temperature of the chocolate often. When it reaches 87°F, add the reserved grated chocolate and stir to combine. Return the double boiler to the heat, and gently heat the chocolate, stirring constantly, just a minute or two, until most of the grated chocolate is melted. (Watch it carefully—it is important that you don’t heat the chocolate above 90°F.)
4. Put the almonds in a medium bowl and pour one-third of the tempered chocolate on top. Stir the almonds to coat them with the chocolate, and continue to stir until the chocolate begins to set up (if it takes more than 5 minutes, refrigerate the bowl for 1 minute and then continue to stir). Add half of the remaining chocolate and repeat stirring until the chocolate begins to set again. Repeat with the remaining chocolate.
5. Sift the cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners’ sugar into a gallon Ziplock bag. Add half of the chocolate-coated nuts and seal the bag. Shake to coat the nuts with the cocoa mixture. Pour the nuts and cocoa mixture into a sieve set over a bowl. Separate the nuts and then shake them to remove the excess cocoa. Place them on the baking sheet. Transfer the cocoa back to the bag and repeat with the remaining nuts.
6. Place the remaining confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and add half the nuts. Place them in the sieve over the bowl and shake to remove excess sugar. Transfer them back to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining nuts and sugar. Store the nuts in an airtight container in a cool place.