Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate Cashew Coconut Clusters

Chocolate Cashew Coconut Clusters - made August 13, 2011 from Death by Chocolate Cookies by Marcel Desaulniers (book #149)

Finally, a non-brownie recipe :).  I only made 1/4 of this recipe as I just wanted to try it out in case I want to make it for holiday gift packages later on in the year.  It's sometimes tricky to work with chocolate in the summer because of the heat.  Even though I live in a temperate climate, when it's warm, chocolate still doesn't set properly without a little help from the refrigerator and even after it's set, you still need to keep it cool to prevent it from melting again.

I love cashews and I love coconut so this is my kind of confection.  I switched out the semisweet chocolate for milk chocolate to make it even more to my liking.  With only 3 ingredients, I hope I hardly need say to use the best quality ingredients that you can.  Whole cashews worked well for this and if you can't find fresh coconut, the packaged kind is fine but don't use something that's been sitting in your pantry for months.  And use the best quality chocolate you can!  I used the E. Guittard milk chocolate wafer buttons that Sur La Table sells.  I would've preferred Valrhona which is my favorite milk chocolate but my retail sources only sell it in semisweet.

Careful when you toast the coconut as it can brown quickly.  You want to spread it in a shallow layer and bake it in a light-colored pan, stirring it every so often to let it brown more evenly.  Don't worry about having it all be brown - if you try to toast every shred of coconut, some will burn while others remain white.  As long as the majority are a light golden brown, it'll be fine.

Anytime you melt chocolate and rely on it to cool and harden again, you have to be careful not to overheat it in the melting stage.  Chocolate should be tempered in order to avoid chocolate bloom, those grayish streaks you see once the chocolate sets if the chocolate hasn't been tempered properly.

I liked how this recipe turned out.  Normally I like my coconut to be soft and chewy but toasting it gave the candy a nice crunch.  It's definitely more of a winter or cold-weather candy to make though as milk chocolate has a lower melting point than dark chocolate and it was too easy for it to melt once it's out of the refrigerator.

2 cups unsalted cashews
8 ounces shredded dried coconut
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped into ¼” pieces

1.    Preheat the oven to 325F.
2.   Toast the cashews on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until uniformly golden brown.  Cool the nuts to room temperature.
3.   Toast the coconut on a baking sheet in the preheated oven until lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Cool the coconut to room temperature.
4.   Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat.  With the heat on, place the semisweet chocolate in the top half of the double boiler.  Use a rubber spatula to stir the chocolate until completely melted and smooth, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Transfer the melted chocolate to a 4-quart bowl.  Add the cashews and coconut.  Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture until the cashews and coconut are completely coated with chocolate.
5.   Immediately portion 24 clusters, 1 heaping tablespoon (approximately 1 ½ ounces) of mixture per cluster onto wax paper.  Allow the clusters to harden at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm enough to handle.  Store the clusters in a tightly sealed plastic container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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