This post is sponsored by Silpat and Levoons via Stonyfield's Clean Plate Club blogger program. In exchange for this post, I was provided with the products used to develop my recipe. As always, all content and opinions are my own.
As much as I love holiday lights and candy canes, there are certain things that I dislike about this time of year. The big one is the music. My college-era retail stint spanned three holiday seasons, complete with a soundtrack of horrid renditions of classic Christmas songs. Honestly, it was as though someone in corporate had intentionally found the most annoying cover of "Blue Christmas" ever recorded. To this day, I cringe when I hear "Santa Baby", even the original Eartha Kitt version.
Another one of my not-so-favorite things about Christmas is the shopping. December in Minnesota is not the most pleasant of times to be out and about--the first climate-controlled mall was built here for a reason. Online shopping is convenient, but sometimes, after a day at work (staring at a computer), and then a couple of hours of blogging (staring at a computer) I want to engage with the real world. If the real world involves cooking, that's even better.
So this year is all about edible, homemade Christmas gifts--I'm planning to make David Lebovitz's Spicy Pretzel and Nut Mix for my co-workers, and my extended family is getting an assortment of chocolate goodies. My mom's fudge recipe will come into play at some point, but I started off with two batches of Slow Cooker Sea Salt Chocolate Almond Clusters from the Magical Slow Cooker. While you could melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler, I appreciated that the process was relatively hands-off with the slow cooker--you just need to stir every ten minutes until the chips melt completely, about half an hour. Since the chocolate is a major component of the recipe, I recommend using premium chocolate chip such as Guittard or Ghirardelli.
I tested out a couple of new kitchen gadgets with this recipe: a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat and Levoons, a set of self-leveling measuring spoons. The Silpat, which is made from fiberglass and food grade silicon, is a reusable alternative to wax or parchment paper. It's freezer-safe and oven-safe up to 480 degrees, and removing the cooled almond clusters was a breeze. The Levoons include a nifty little scraper that levels dry ingredients, but what I loved most is that they can be pulled apart for use and then snapped back together for compact storage.
One of the few benefits to living in Minnesota in December that I have plenty of cold space--I chilled the clusters on baking sheets in my garage. If you're lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, your refrigerator or freezer will do the trick.
Adapted from The Magical Slow Cooker
Yield: about 2 dozen clusters
- 2 1/2 cups raw almonds
- 12-ounce bag semi sweet chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- coarse sea salt
Add almonds, chocolate chips, and vanilla to slow cooker and stir until well-combined. Cover and cook on low, stirring every 10 minutes, until chocolate chips are completely melted and almonds are evenly coated. Total cooking time will be about 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with a silicon liner (such as a Silpat) or wax paper. Using two spoons, drop tablespoons-sized clumps of the almond mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and chill until set.
Store clusters tightly covered in refrigerator.