Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Handmade Chocolate Clusters

After a fabulous week of resplendent regal blogs, it's difficult to come up with something that measures up. When in doubt — chocolate! These lovely handmade chocolate clusters are addictive little critters. Made with only a handful of ingredients, they're ridiculously simple to make and are absolutely delicious. You can use either milk or dark chocolate and your choice of nuts and dried fruit, such as hazelnuts, peanuts or chopped pecans combined with rum soaked raisins or even anti-oxident rich dried cranberries or blueberries — but whichever combination you choose, your friends and family will be impressed and inhale these heavenly handmade nuggets of pure delight! Where were these at the Royal Wedding?

Handmade Chocolate Clusters
Makes about 50 chocolates
Inspired by a recipe by Giuliano Hazan 

4 oz. golden raisins or dried cranberries
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
4 oz. blanched hazelnuts, peanuts or pecans 
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the raisins or other dried fruit, in a bowl with enough water to cover until they're soft and plump, about 15-20 minutes. In a saucepan, melt the chocolate over med-low heat, stirring frequently. Coarsely chop the nuts by hand or in a food processor, or leave them whole for a crunchier chocolate.

Squeeze out the excess water from the dried fruit and add them to the melted chocolate, along with the nuts and cream. Using a spatula, blend it all together.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and using 2 small spoons, drop bite-size mounds of the chocolate mixture in neat rows, then refrigerate until the chocolates harden, about 1 hour. Serve chilled.