SPICED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE NUT CLUSTERS!

SPICED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE NUT CLUSTERS!
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Food can be many things: It can be, simply, sustenance, or, more whimsically, it can be art, or, more urgently, it can be medicine. Food can be tenderness and care and attention. It can be utter play and abandon. It can be revenge and anger and sorrow. And, in the words of the anonymous young woman behind Bread Face Blog, “Everything about food…is very sexual.“ Food is a reflection of every aspect of human existence. After all, without food, there is no human life.
Today—and, miraculously, these spiced caramel chocolate nut clusters—is about going back to the source, the beginning, to honor mother and fatherhood. Two very sweet things are happening today: The first is the Virtual Cheese Baby Shower for Sarah Snixy of the gorgeous blog Snixy Kitchen, thrown by the amazing Alanna of Bojon Gourmet and Todd of HonestlyYUM. The second is my father’s birthday. Today! Happy birthday, Dad!!

Which brings us to these chocolatey caramely nutty clusters of love.

Since Sarah’s Cheese Baby no doubt also loves nutty caramely chocolatey things (fetuses are wicked smart), and Sarah has been such a tremendous source of sweetness, beauty, and inspiration for me, I figured she’d also want in on these clusters. And so today is all about celebrating the wonders of parenthood vis-a-vis my father’s birthday, Sarah’s impending motherhood, and the sweetness of food as an act of devotion.

Though food can be all those things mentioned above and so many more, one of my favorite manifestations of food is its power to demonstrate real, true love. And while these nut clusters may look like a jumble of caramel, walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts covered in bittersweet chocolate, they’re actually the closest I could get to making my father’s absolute dream dessert.

When I was thirteen, my mom, dad, and I traveled to Europe for the first time. Everything was exceptional, surreal, like I had walked into a live painting and my very being had taken on a mythic quality. A team of young male soccer players from Africa followed me around a chateau. I listened to the French language swirl around mouths like a luscious wine. I watched couples dancing tango to live music on the banks of the Seine. And I saw pastries unlike any available in our tiny island home on Maui.

Of the many highlights of that trip for my father, I think one of the brightest was a pyramid-shaped dome of caramelized nuts that my mom and I found for him in Paris, on Father’s Day. Since then, it’s remained in my mind as his Peak Dessert Experience™. (Ps, oh come on, you know you have one, too!) I decided that, as far from Parisian patisserie as I may be, I wanted to create something reminiscent for his birthday this year.

These nut clusters are drenched in spiced salted caramel, baked, cooled, coated on the bottom with bittersweet chocolate, and drizzled with the same on top. Finished with flaky sea salt, of course. They’re just the right amount crunchy and chewy, and deeply satisfying. Not quite a Parisian patisserie, but I think they’ll do the trick. They’re on their way to Maui now, so he’ll have to report back. I have a good feeling about it.

And Sarah—I’m raising a nut cluster to you and your sweet Cheese Baby, for the lifetime of adventures and patisserie that lie ahead.

(Psst! A whole crew of exquisite bloggers contributed to the Virtual Cheese Baby Shower for Sarah—scroll to the bottom to see all the amazingness.)

Virtual Cheese Baby Shower

Cheesy Things

Fix Feast Flair – Mixed Greens Salad with Lilikoi Vinaigrette, Honey Macadamia Nuts, and Goat Cheese

the briny – Smoky Beans n’ Greens Enchiladas with Roasted Sweet Potato and Sunflower Seed Cheese

Half Baked Harvest – Greek Falafel Melts

Healthy Nibbles & Bits – Japanese-Spiced Goat Cheese Ball with Pistachios

Just Putzing Around the Kitchen – Cheesy Fried Spinach & Artichoke Bites

My Natural Kitchen – Brazilian Cheesy Thyme Popovers

Vanilla And Bean – Almond-Sage Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Gruyere

FoodieCrush – Cheesy Sausage Pizza Bread

Foodness Gracious – Avocado Feta Bowl with Couscous Grilled Chicken and Charred Corn

Will Frolic for Food – Vegan Walnut Parmesan Zucchini Noodles

Vegetarian ‘Ventures – Pimento Mac & Cheese Bites

MJ and Hungryman – Cheese Stuffed Kimchi Pancakes

Savory Simple – Cheddar Chive Crackers

Sweet Things

the pig + quill – Mini Vegan PB+J Cheesecakes

The Kitchen McCabe – Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes + Honeyed Chevre Whipped Cream

The Little Epicurean – Matcha Mochi Waffles Sundae

Shared Appetite – Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Mousse

The Pancake Princess – Vegan Aquafaba Lemon Meringue Pie

The Food Charlatan – Lemon Bars {gluten-free}

Cheesy & Sweet Things

The Bojon Gourmet – Blood Orange & Corn Flour Ricotta Cake with Whipped Mascarpone {gluten-free}

le jus d’orange – White Cheddar and Apple Mini Pies with Cinnamon-Infused Honey

HonestlyYUM – Sweet Cheese Puffs (for a Sweet Cheese Baby)

fit for the soul – Queso Mais Ice cream {No-Churn}

Completely Delicious – Chocolate Orange Ricotta Scones

Good on Paper Design – Citrus Ricotta Mini Cakes {gluten-free}

Floating Kitchen – No-Bake Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache Layer {gluten-free}

Hungry Girl por Vida – Gluten-Free Pretzel Goat Cheesecake Bites

Heartbeet Kitchen – Roasted Citrus Bowls with Honey Mascarpone

Salted Plains – Pavlova with Mascarpone Coconut Cream and Candied Citrus

The Kitchen Paper – Candied Citrus Ricotta Cake

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SPICED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE NUT CLUSTERS!

makes about 24 2-inch clusters heavily adapted from Bon Appetit’s caramelized nut tart

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup toasted walnuts roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup toasted pecans  roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts roughly chopped
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground vanilla or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • flaky sea salt for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. In a medium saucepan, combine whipping cream, sugars, and honey. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugars and honey into liquid. Continue to boil another 4-5 minutes, until the mixture darkens a bit and thickens slightly. Remove from heat, and stir in toasted chopped nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, and pepper.
  2. Scoop about 2 tablespoons at a time into nonstick tart or muffin tins. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the caramel is bubbling and darkened slightly. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack until pan is cool to the touch, then place in fridge or freezer to cool further.
  3. While caramel clusters are cooling, fill a sauce pan with 2 inches of hot water and nest a heat-proof glass bowl over the top. Bring water to a boil. Place chopped chocolate into the glass bowl and stir continuously until the chocolate melts. Place melted chocolate in a squeeze bottle with nozzle tip if you have it, or keep in the bowl and use a spoon to drizzle.
  4. Once the caramel clusters are cool and hardened, use a knife to free them from their molds. Don’t be alarmed if it’s a bit tricky—just skirt the knife around the edges and work your way under and out.
  5. Place clusters upside down on a wire rack or sheet of parchment paper, and drizzle or spoon a thin layer of melted chocolate over the base, smoothing outward as you go. When finished, place clusters in the fridge for 5 minutes to harden the chocolate. Remove, flip over, and drizzle remaining chocolate over the top. Finish with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Return to fridge to cool for 5 minutes, then enjoy!
  6. Keep refrigerated for optimal chewy enjoyment.
email pinterest twitter facebook
Print

SPICED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE NUT CLUSTERS!

makes about 24 2-inch clusters heavily adapted from Bon Appetit’s caramelized nut tart

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup toasted walnuts roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup toasted pecans  roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts roughly chopped
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground vanilla or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • flaky sea salt for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. In a medium saucepan, combine whipping cream, sugars, and honey. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugars and honey into liquid. Continue to boil another 4-5 minutes, until the mixture darkens a bit and thickens slightly. Remove from heat, and stir in toasted chopped nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, and pepper.
  2. Scoop about 2 tablespoons at a time into nonstick tart or muffin tins. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the caramel is bubbling and darkened slightly. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack until pan is cool to the touch, then place in fridge or freezer to cool further.
  3. While caramel clusters are cooling, fill a sauce pan with 2 inches of hot water and nest a heat-proof glass bowl over the top. Bring water to a boil. Place chopped chocolate into the glass bowl and stir continuously until the chocolate melts. Place melted chocolate in a squeeze bottle with nozzle tip if you have it, or keep in the bowl and use a spoon to drizzle.
  4. Once the caramel clusters are cool and hardened, use a knife to free them from their molds. Don’t be alarmed if it’s a bit tricky—just skirt the knife around the edges and work your way under and out.
  5. Place clusters upside down on a wire rack or sheet of parchment paper, and drizzle or spoon a thin layer of melted chocolate over the base, smoothing outward as you go. When finished, place clusters in the fridge for 5 minutes to harden the chocolate. Remove, flip over, and drizzle remaining chocolate over the top. Finish with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Return to fridge to cool for 5 minutes, then enjoy!
  6. Keep refrigerated for optimal chewy enjoyment.

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