Chocolate Crunchies: A Make-it-Yourself Candy to Make Your Own
For me, it’s the crunch that makes these candies so good, crunch that comes from chopped nuts and corn flakes. Truly. In these candies, corn flakes stand in for the paper-thin pastry called feuilletine (about which more in an instant). I wish I could take full credit for making this inspired substitution, but it’s one I learned from French pastry chefs working in America.
Feuilletine — the word feuille means paper in French — is a super-crackly pastry most popularly made into crepes that are often served alongside ice cream in France and are sold under the name Gavottes. You can buy Gavottes in specialty stores in America — you can buy them already crushed here or (or in smaller quantities here) or you can buy them as pretty rolled cookies here — or you can do what I did and grab a box of corn flakes. The cereal is not as sweet as the crepes, but you’ll get great crunch — and that’s really what you’re after here.
In the version I made for Parade, I used toasted walnuts, raisins, Corn Flakes and chocolate chips. But you can, of course, use your favorite semi- or bittersweet chocolate instead of the chips — you’ll need 6 ounces of chocolate. In subsequent versions, I used Valrhona Extra-Bitter Chocolate. You can also temper the chocolate (Mark Bittman recently did a Minimalist column in The NY Times on tempering), but I never bother. If the fact that the chocolate turns dull bothers you, but you don’t want to temper it, you can dust the tops of the candies with cocoa powder (or powdered sugar) before serving.
Here’s the recipe from Parade. I’ve included some Playing Around options at the end. If you come up with something you like, please, please tell me.
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup soft raisins
1 cup corn flakes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or 6 ounces finely chopped semi- or bittersweet chocolate
Fleur de sel, optional (see PS below)
1) Finely chop the nuts and toss them into a bowl along with the raisins and corn flakes.
2) Gently melt the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave oven on low power. Pour the chocolate into the bowl and stir until all of the ingredients are evenly coated.
3) Drop mounds of the candy mixture into paper petit-four cups or onto a sheet of wax paper. (I use a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop to do this, but you can divide the candy by heaping teaspoonfuls.) Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
Playing Around: Not surprisingly, when you’ve got chocolate and fruit, adding a little alcohol is never a bad idea. If you want to flame the fruit with a spirit, here’s how to do it:
Put the fruit and a couple of spoonfuls of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the water boils and almost evaporates, add 1 to 2 (I prefer 2) tablespoons of whatever alcohol you’re using. Get the liquid hot, remove the pan from the heat and, standing away, set the alcohol aflame. When the flames die out, most of the liquid should be gone, if not, return the pan to the heat and boil away almost all of the liquid. Having a little liquid left to stir into the candies is nice.
Here are some combinations to play around with:
Raisins + Rum or Brandy
Prunes + Armagnac (I made prune/Armagnac/pecan crunchies as soon as I got to Paris)
Dried Apricots + Amaretto or Grand Marnier
Dried Cranberries + Vodka (use just a little) or Chambord
Dried Strawberries + Framboise, Creme de Cassis or Kirsch
PS:Important Addition: Sally just commented that fleur de sel might be a good addition and she’s so right. In fact,after my first few batches I started putting a little fleur de sel into the mix. I’m sorry I forgot to mention it and I’m glad to have been reminded. Thanks, Sally.
Have fun and let me know what combinations you create.