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Milk Chocolate Nut Clusters

Milk Chocolate Nut Clusters
Recipe courtesy of Barbara Pollack of Expert Foods!


I'm a milk-chocoholic. Dark chocolate may send others into fits of ecstacy but it's much too bitter for me. I've been looking long and hard for a way to make a version that looks and tastes like good milk chocolate and have finally come up with a really satisfying recipe.

This chocolate is essentially a ganache and will be soft at room temperature. However, it does feel like the professional kind when served from the freezer. If you want it harder, use cocoa butter instead of the regular butter, or find a way to get some of the wax that professional candy makers use. I chose to stick with more readily available ingredients, now that mascarpone seems to be popping up all over.

Use any combination of nuts you like, in almost any proportion. I include flax seed as it goes very well with chocolate and, since it's so good for us, it turns this confection into something that's downright beneficial. Although flax seed may not be a supermarket item yet, most health food stores carry it.

If you find my recipe not quite sweet enough for your taste, try dusting the nut clusters with an additional packet or two of sweetener. You can use any other sweetener you like (except saccharin which does not work with chocolate for most people) and you can also save carbs by using a liquid sweetener or crushing tablets.

Recipe By : Barbara Pollack
Serving Size : 45 Preparation Time :0:10 + time to freeze

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 tablespoon cocoa*
2 tablespoons ThickenThin not/Sugar*
9 packages Equal™ sweetener
pinch salt -- optional
4 ounces mascarpone cheese (3/8 cup volume equivalent)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/2 tablespoons butter -- melted
2 ounces pecan halves, after shelling
1 ounce walnut meats -- pieces
1 ounce almonds, toasted -- sliced
2 ounces flax seed


I make these as if they were drop cookies. If you have the patience, they could be shaped or molded.

Toast the nuts if necessary. (Taste them, you'll know if they need this flavor boost.) Let them cool.

Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with waxed paper or baker's parchment. (I prefer the jelly roll pan because the sides protect the chocolates from being crushed in my overcrowdedfreezer.) Clear a space in your freezer large enough for the pan.

Melt the butter.

Combine dry ingredients in small bowl and stir to break down any lumps from cocoa.

Measure mascarpone into a larger bowl (I use a two-cup glass measure and "eyeball" the measurement by using 1/4 of the container) and stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir thoroughly, until the color is consistent throughout. Add melted butter and stir until glossy. Add the nuts and optional flax seeds and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls on prepared pan.

Freeze until firm. Transfer to airtight container and store in freezer.

NOTES:

One ounce of chopped nuts or flax seed is approximately 1/4 cup.
Mascarpone cheese spoils within a few days after opening, but these candies keep in the freezer for months. I usually make a quadruple batch, keeping the mixture in the refrigerator as it waits its turn on the cookie sheet. This recipe freezes can be tripled or quadrupled, as needed, to use the entire container of cheese.
Take advantage of the ganache-like characteristic and use this recipe without the nuts as a filling, or thin it with cream for an icing.
Vary the recipe with flavored syrups, or even real fruit puree.

Nutrition* (per piece, as calculated by Mastercook, made with unsalted butter, salt, flax seed): 44 calories; 4.0g fat (0.7g sat); 1.5g carb (of which 0.7g is fiber); 0.7g protein -- also provides 1% of Vitamin A, calcium, and iron Daily Values. *based on no-calorie sweetener