Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters Recipe

Bouchées croustillantes au chocolat, amandes et gingembre

Lately I’ve had an insuppressible urge to declutter. I would chalk it up to the advent of spring if it hadn’t been so stubbornly cold, and if I didn’t find myself in that state of I-can’t-bear-to-live-with-this-stuff-for-a-minute-longer several times a year.

Actually, one of my resolutions for 2010 is to take on at least one decluttering project every weekend. It can be something quick, like sorting through the restaurant business cards we’ve accumulated over the years and removing the ones we’ll likely never visit again (done), or something ambitious, like reorganizing our overstuffed basement, recycling/tossing/giving old things away (check).

It’s not that we buy that much stuff to begin with, but clutter seems to build up out of nowhere; perhaps a good theoretical physicist will one day study the phenomenon. In any case, I find it relaxing to know I have a counter-strategy in place, and it’s easy to tailor the size of the endeavor to the time and energy I have, yet still get a nice feeling of accomplishment. I even write down what I’ve done each weekend, to keep track; I don’t go so far as to award myself little congratulatory stickers, but I’m this close*.

The approach applies to the kitchen, too, and I try to go through my cabinets and drawers with as unsentimental an eye as I can summon, and prune, prune, prune. What I no longer need I sell or give away. There is a special shelf in the lobby of my apartment building, and the unspoken rule is that one can leave objects, books, and magazines there for others to take. They’re unfailingly snatched up in a matter of hours, and it’s fun to think that some of my unneeded utensils simply live on another floor now.

And of course, my pantry also needs to undergo that treatment on a regular basis, to refresh my memory as to what it contains (the cabinet is so ill-conceived I have to take everything out to get a good look), group ingredients together with a semblance of logic, and identify those that need to be used up soon.

Unfailingly, I turn up small leftover amounts of dried fruit and nuts I want to use before they have a chance to shrivel up entirely or go rancid**, and these chocolate clusters are a delicious way to do so: they’re simply made by combining your choice of nuts, dried fruit and puffed grain with melted chocolate, and letting the clusters set.

(And by a happy coincidence, they’re also a perfect use for the box of 1,000 mini paper cups I’ve been working my way through for the past, um, six years.)

Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters

The chocolate cluster is a classic confection, but I only started making them after buying some at a chocolate shop in Barcelona a few years ago. Their version was called Trencadent and I couldn’t stop eating them; I tried making them after coming home to Paris, and it turned out to be the easiest thing ever.

My rule of thumb is to use 1 cup of dried fruits and nuts plus 1 cup of puffed grain for each 250 grams (9 ounces) of chocolate; this creates an ideal crisp/crunchy/chewy texture and chocolate-to-filling ratio.

The puffed grain is there mostly for texture; the flavor is brought on by the nuts and the dried fruits. The following pairings I’ve tried and liked:
- almonds + candied ginger (as below),
- pistachios + dried apricots,
- peanuts + dried cherries,
- Brazil nuts + dried figs,
- almonds + candied orange rind,
- hazelnuts + raisins.

But really, you can make up your own combos depending on what you have on hand, or visit Sara or Dorie for more suggestions.

You could certainly add some spice or a touch of ground chili, but neither is necessary. Just remember to toast the nuts, so their flavor will be at its maximum.

And let me remind you that Easter comes early this year — Easter Sunday is on April 4 — so if you’re in the market for an easy giftable chocolate idea, this may be it!

~~~

* Need help decluttering? Take a look at the Apartment Therapy Home Cures, which offer helpful weekly assignments, advice, and support. The spring home cure has just started, and the kitchen cure is under way.

** My freezer is too small and too humid to keep nuts safely, but if you have room in yours, it is said to be a good way to ward off rancidity.

Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Makes about 35.

Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250 grams (9 ounces) good-quality dark chocolate, preferably couverture-grade (see note)
  • 80 grams (a slightly rounded 1/2 cup) whole unblanched almonds, toasted
  • 80 grams (a scant 1/2 cup) candied ginger (a.k.a. crystallized ginger)
  • 60 grams (1 cup) puffed rice (or other puffed grain)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, plus a little more for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Have ready about 35 mini paper cups (2.5 cm or 1 inch across the base is a good size), or a silicone baking mat, or a sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Chop the chocolate finely and melt it in a double-boiler (i.e. place the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, not allowing the bowl to touch the water), stirring regularly to ensure even melting. If you have a candy thermometer, the chocolate temperature to shoot for is 31-32°C (88-90°F) (see note); if you don't have one, don't worry about it.
  3. While the chocolate is melting, chop the almonds and ginger roughly.
  4. When the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and place it on the counter. Add the almonds, ginger, puffed rice, and salt, and stir gently with a spatula to combine thoroughly.
  5. Using two teaspoons, scoop the mixture into the prepared paper cups, or just plop little mounds onto the silicone mat or parchment paper. (Alternatively, you can spread the mixture in an even layer and then break it into shards once set.) If you like a little salty jolt, sprinkle a touch more salt on top; be light-handed, though.
  6. Let rest somewhere cool (but not in the fridge) until completely set.

Notes

  • Couverture chocolate is higher in cocoa butter than ordinary chocolate. It is therefore more fluid when melted, which makes it easier to work with and ensures a thinner, more even coating.
  • This will allow the chocolate to take on a smooth, shiny finish.

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  • http://www.howsweeteats.com Jessica @ How Sweet

    Those look absolutely delightful! YUM!

  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I think pecans and cherries would taste really good together too!

    I eat my nuts way too fast for them to ever get rancid.

  • http://trainingtable.blogspot.com/ 12th Man

    Just love how easy-to-follow your instructions always are, and yet, they’re not boring and clinical. Thanks so much for yet another keeper.

  • http://gourmetlab.blogspot.com/ chandrika

    Hi clotilde, I am a new reader of your blog. I stumbled across your blog and just fell in love with the name of the blog. Nice job with decluttring. We all have to do that time to time:) I like your ginger and almond chocolate clusters. Actually, in India we make similar clusters with puffed rice, dried fruits (raisins), nuts (peanut/cashew) and caramel. Sometime we substituted puffed rice with toasted sesame seeds. Sesame seed version is my favorite. Sprinkle of salt on the cluster sounds interesting to me. I think macadamia nut and fresh coconut will be a good combination for the cluster too. Since, I have some fresh coconut on my hand, I might try them out. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • http://croquecamille.wordpress.com Camille

    Heh. I’ve been tempted to buy a box of paper cups, too. I fear they’re not the sort of American cupcake liners I’m looking for, though. Do yours go in the oven? If so, I might just have to start working my way through my own box of 1000… :)

  • http://bilingualbutter.blogspot.com Lucie de Bilingual Butter

    I’ve been dreaming about all the chocolates I’m going to make for Easter since Christmas (sad, I know) and “fritures” with dark chocolate and chopped candied ginger is on the top of my list as well as white chocolate lambs with puffed rice and crushed crêpes dentelle. Just might have to add these, they look wonderful!

  • Lizzie

    These look lovely…but don’t you think ‘Trencadent’ sounds like an 80s toothpaste brand?!

  • sam

    a few weeks ago, at a supermarket checkout a copy of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine caught my eye: “How to De-Clutter”. I so need *that* I thought adding the journal to my purchase. It has been sitting on my bedside table ever since, never once opened… cluttering.

  • Amis

    Mmm. Yum!
    Is there any way to make candied orange rind? Or any other combos, for that matter?
    Thanks!

  • http://www.edenkitchen.com Joe @ Eden Kitchen

    Mmm, I’m thinking i’ll start with candied ginger and almonds – can’t wait to try them. Thanks!

  • Chloe

    Hi,
    Thanks for the suggestion ! I have so many nuts and dried fruits in my pantry :-)

    What kind of nut would you suggest to go with prunes ? I do have a bag of those I need to use…

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jessie, Lucie and Joe – Glad this provides some inspiration!

    Samantha – Pecans + cherries does sound like a winning combo. Let me know if you try it.

    12th Man – Thanks, much appreciated!

    Chandrika – Thanks for telling us about the Indian versions — great suggestions.

    Camille – I’m pretty sure they go in the oven, but I admit I’ve never tried. And if you want a few hundreds to experiment with, it could be arranged — let me know. :)

    Lizzie – I sort of saw a reference to “decadent” instead, but I see what you mean. :)

    Sam – Love the recursive anecdote!

    Amis – Yes, it’s possible to candy your own orange rind. I tried it years ago and it was a fun project, but a bit too time-consuming for me to do it regularly.

    Chloe – I’d suggest a prune/walnut combo!

  • Maria

    I have a wonderful cookie recipe that belonged to my Italian Nona. It includes prunes, chocolate, raisins and walnuts. This filling is stuffed into tender cookies.

  • The Paris Food Blague

    i can’t think of a better melange than almond and ginger!

    looks lovely

  • http://www.wearenotmartha.com Sues

    These are such a good idea! And I need to do some major de-cluttering. In my kitchen and elsewhere!

  • http://chocolatierm.blogspot.com Brian Asis

    Amazing clusters :D I say they look really delicious :D

  • http://floyd-mayweather-vs-shane-mosley.blogspot.com/ Alex

    I love almond chocolate so much, how I wish I could taste almond like this with a kick of garlic. Great post love it.

  • http://thelacquerspoon.blogspot.com the lacquer spoon

    Nothing can beat this all-time loved combo of choc, nuts and fruits! I should be careful of overeating ;)

  • Tracey

    ‘Trencadents’ would be Catalan for ‘toothbreakers’!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Maria – That sounds really really good. Would you be willing to share your Nona’s recipe?

    Tracey – Great to know, thanks for enlightening us!

  • Agnes

    Great idea. I also need to declutter my kitchen, because we received quite a lot of presents (mostly food that we don’t like) during christmas. I am thinking to make your clusters from the chocolate we got from Sinterklaas (a dutch version of Santa), but they are mostly milk chocolate, would it work?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Agnes – Yes, you could absolutely use milk chocolate here. Let me know how they turn out!

  • http://noblenourishment.wordpress.com/ Catherine

    They look delicious, love the wee tub they’re in! I admire your ability to de-clutter, I’m SUCH a hoarder, I can never get rid of anything :( love the special shelf in your apartment lobby, what a brill idea!

  • http://www.cozydelicious.com Katie @ Cozydelicious

    Yum! I make a very similar treat with matzoh farfel (broken up bits of matzoh) instead of puffed rice and serve it at Passover. I often go for a combination of dried cranberries and almonds, but the ginger sounds like such a good idea! I’m going to hav eto try that this year.

  • carol

    truly a post out my life, decluttering…LOVE this as i’m so glad i’m NOT the only one doing this… its such a great cleansing act & too funny, i actually *feel lighter* when i’m all done!

    thanks for this recipe, even more – the suggestion for easter gifts!! BRILLIANT! so doing this!!

  • http://frenchcookingfordummies.com French Cooking for Dummies

    wow, it sounds very easy to make! I’m already thinking of a lot of combinations I could try :D
    The dried bananas I bought last week won’t be escaping from that one!!! Have you ever tried making them with fresh fruits? I’m thinking pear cut into small dices could be nice too…

  • http://www.joiedevivreanamateurgourmetsguide.blogspot.com/ Joie de vivre

    Beautiful as always Clotilde and a great way to use up leftovers! I love to declutter. It seems like the more I declutter (when I get in the mood) the more energy to declutter I get!

  • Rachel

    These look lovely! I look forward to trying the almond-ginger version, but the combination I’m currently in love with is walnuts + dried sour cherries (I used it in the Luxury Brownies) so that will be next on the list.

  • http://freshslowcooking.com Zibi

    I’ve never made chocolate clusters before but these sound like the perfect recipe to try. I really love the combination of ginger and chocolate…but I don’t want to buy 1000 mini paper cups so I will definitely go with the parchment paper :)

    You’ve also managed to inspire me to declutter. I promise that this weekend will be the weekend I put my wedding away! It’s been laying on our spare bed for months because it’s too long to hang…how terrible is that?!

  • http://www.remedialeating.com molly

    These are a favorite of mine, with pistachios, tart cherries and ginger. The puffed rice is a wonderful notion — will have to give it a go.

  • http://www.charmofthecarolines.com Susan at Charm of the Carolines

    Freezer too humid for storing nuts? Is a special freezer required or speacial packaging? I have a prolific pecan tree and would love to store them for future use.

    Susan

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    French cooking – I’ve never tried this with fresh fruit. I’m pretty sure it would work (try to stick to fruit that’s not too juicy), but the clusters would then have to be eaten within a few hours of the making. After that, I’d worry the fruit would no longer taste so fresh.

    Rachel – Dried sour cherries sound lovely! Where do you find them?

    Zibi – I bought my paper cups at a professional supply store where they were sold by the thousand, but I’m sure you could find smaller boxes. :)

    Susan – My freezer is pretty old, and the things I put in it tend to be covered in frost after a while (the frost even creeps inside containers), so I avoid using it for long-term storage. But if your freezer is recent and you don’t have that problem, you should be fine keeping pecans in there, in airtight containers. (Or, you could send any extra pecans my way. :)

  • http://www.banchettare.com cesare

    Very nice recipe. Compliments

  • Tamsin

    Well this certainly makes decluttering much more attractive! Since moving house and having no proper kitchen I have to keep all my store cupboard ingredients on an open shelving unit which makes it easy to see what I have to use up. That said, I have some walnuts and raisins lurking about that would be all too pleased to make friends with some chocolate.

  • http://www.pebblesoup.blogspot.com Solange

    Have you ever used Freecycle, an online recycling site where people post and pick their stuff which in turn keeps them (stuff not people) out of the landfill. Brilliant. Food goes there too.

  • http://food-cook.com Recipe man

    i love ginger thanks! this looks amazing

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    Again this post is an inspiration to get in the kitchen and whip up some chocolate candy. My husband will love you for this!

  • http://www.vagabondgourmand.com Marolyn

    Oooo…perfect idea for Easter gifting! Thanks for the nudge to go straight to the groaning placard and begin my sorting with almonds and various odd packets of dried fruit (will soak dried apricots in a back-of-cabinet drop of Amaretto. And as usual, your recipes prompt variations. Merci!

  • http://www.latestrecipes.net Olive

    I’ve never had this combination before..almonds, ginger and chocolate..sounds good!! merci! :)

  • Rachel

    Clotilde – re: dried sour cherries, I get them either at Trader Joe’s (lightly sweetened) or from the dried-fruit stand at the Santa Monica farmer’s market (unsweetened). Sorry, I realize this doesn’t help you much!

  • Colleen_C_C

    Dear Clotilde,

    Stumbled across your website through the entry on Barcelona & _trencadent_ (“toothbreakers”): classic!

    Also saw your notes on kitchen clutter, & thought that you might like to visit the community goal-setting site called 43Things, &/or some of the folks who are posting food-related ideas there (see this to offer just one example).

    I’ve also heard 43Things described as a “verb-based blog,” if that might give you a better sense of what goes on there? In any case, I thought that you might find it enjoyable &/or helpful.

    Best wishes to you — & thanks for an interesting blog!

    =CCC=

  • http://www.honeyfromrock.blogspot.com Claudia

    You make Spring cleaning sound almost fun. A delicious way to declutter.

  • http://scratch.typepad.com Rachelino

    Clotilde, do you ever use souffletine for the puffed grain?

    Just curious,
    rachel

  • http://www.kitchentravels.com Dawn (KitchenTravels)

    Love the idea of pistachios and dried apricots, as I can just imagine how pretty the bright green and orange would be upon biting into one.

  • http://www.ultimatefitnessgear.com Patty

    Ooh these look good! I think I’ll try a walnut and fig mash, thanks for posting!

  • http://www.youtube.com/linnlar Linn @ Swedish home cooking

    That looks adorable. I just moved to Paris and I’m looking for some good spot to go out dining tonight, and Lonely Planet recommended your blog. I’m very excited to read about your favorite spots! Linn

  • http://www.foodforlifeandlove.com Holly

    It’s almost sad to admit, but rice krispie treats are one of my favorite little guilty pleasures. I make them for the kids I teach from time to time and end up eating them myself! However, this recipe is a total adult version swapping in chocolate for marshmellow. Maybe I’ll feel more grown up if I eat these. :)

  • http://www.gigglinggrapes.com Julia

    Wow, what an excellent blog I just found!

  • http://otm-inthegalley.blogspot.com/ SeattleDee

    Lovely post with the photo and recipe to tempt me, and the declutter reminder to urge me on toward tidiness. I pack a storage container with “stuff” each Spring before we move aboard the boat and cruise to Alaska. It amazes me that each item becomes desirable to someone along the way. The best exchange was my extra Atlas pasta maker for a cup of her coffee and a terrific morning of conversation with a local artist in a small village of 38 residents.

  • http://www.postcardsfromthenorth.com/blog faith

    How timely! Have been doing some major de-cluttering myself but also feeling a bit of an ‘easter’ urge with the baking. Can’t wait to try some of these ideas.

  • http://bettysbites.blogspot.com betty

    these r so simple – thanks for sharing!

    im trying not to buy any more baking goodies – and trying my best to use up what i have as well – except i end up having to buy more things anyway because i come across a recipe that i just HAVE to make :P

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Solange – Love the concept of that website, I’ll check it out!

    Rachel – No, it does help! I’ll look for them at TJ’s next time I’m in the US.

    Seattledee – Love the story, thanks for sharing!

    Rachelino – Do you mean Michel Cluizel’s Soufflétine? I haven’t tried using it (here or anywhere), but it should work well. I just use breakfast puffed cereal from the organic store.

  • http://cookncleaner.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    Jeez these look good, and so easy too.

  • http://jennaswellness.com Jenna @ Healthy. Happy. Well.

    Those ginger clusters look awesome! I can imagine they smell absolutely delicious, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.thepunctuationmark.com Punctuation Mark

    I hear you on the decluttering and I’m getting there… i receive lots of visitors so I have to keep a lot of things here… love the choc recipe!

  • Sheila

    Tried this and made a sugar-free version (unsweetened cocoa 90%+Splenda) with macadamia and dried cranberries.Everyone loved it! Just had a bit of problem getting the clusters to form so I ended up putting them inside the fridge. How long do you think should I have waited for the clusters to become solid? BTW, I enjoy reading your blog!

  • http://www.aquabluewedding.com Leslie

    2 of my favorite things … ginger and almonds…this candy must be so delicious!

  • http://www.tobiascooks.com tobias cooks!

    Fabulous mix of tastes. Would love to try that.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Sheila – The time these take to set really depends on the chocolate you used (how much cocoa butter is in it) and the temperature of the room, so it’s impossible to give a definitive time, but I would say mine generally set in 2 to 3 hours in a cool room.

  • http://www.anne-arnott.blogspot.com Anne Arnott

    Hi I saw your link on facebook, I always am trying to declutter. There is only two of us in the house. Where does it all come from? Also my husband is a hoarder, oh boy, I have never seen such rubbish. We moved into this house 4 years ago, and he moved straight into one room which is his office, without even decorating.. I want this room done and sorted argggghh.

  • http://www.wineaspects.com Julia

    I love chocolate and almonds!

  • http://mayweather-vs-mosley-update.blogspot.com/ Mayweather vs Mosley

    I haven’t tried making chocolate clusters but in the weekend I’ll try it. It looks yummy and I hope it will taste yummy.

  • Ena

    These were really good and incredibly fast and easy to make! I paired peanuts and a bit of walnuts (I didn’t have enough peanuts) and dried cherries. My favourite recipes are the ones that only took a few minutes to make, like these and rochers a la noix de coco, love those too!

  • http://www.margaritovspacquiao.com/ Pacquiao vs Margarito

    My wife is 6 months pregnant now and when she saw the pick I was looking at [above], she smiled and told me to cook the same to her tomorrow. I said, what? I have work to do honey… And she laugh and pointed to her big tummy and all I can say is okay… Hopefully I can make it taste good. Thanks for the information.

  • http://www.braidsbybreslin.com/ Christine Ellis

    This is a great blog post! My boyfriend LOVES sweets and I can’t wait to make this for him. Thanks so much!

    Christine :-)

  • http://sportsfreak.posterous.com/ Tom Watts

    As a self confessed chocoholic who is also a huge lover of almonds I’m going to give this recipe a go. However, must confess I’m no super baker but I’m determined to surprise the wife with a few small special treats with our super hot milks. Wish me luck, thank-you for help. Regards Tom

  • http://chocolatechillimango.com Viviane

    Just saw these with the December calendar…mmmm YUM. And hey, I trained as a bona fide theoretical physicist and I think the clutter phenomenon would be a cool study. My field was astrophysics and frankly there are probably some clear parallels with home clutter and space and galaxy clutter :-D

  • Marnie

    Hi, I’m just making these for the first time and am a little confused. On my scale, 1 cup of puffed rice weights 14 grams–it would take about 4 cups to make 60 grams–which measurement is accurate?
    Thanks.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m surprised your puffed rice weighs so much less than mine, but in this instance I would go with the volume measurement and use 1 cup, however little it weighs.

  • http://relishtherussian.wordpress.com/ Kate Stulpin

    Those clusters look delicious! I can’t wait to try making them myself. Great tips.

    Kate

  • Cara Edwards

    Just tried the brazil nut and dried fig combination.. oh my goodness, so good! Why had I not tried this before?! Found a new favourite flavour combination, thank you!! Lovely blog:)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I’m delighted, Cara, thanks for reporting back!

  • nigel

    I do a similar recipe, no puffed rice, but add some sour cherries and a little chilli and a little smoked sea salt and stem ginger – try it!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Sounds wonderful, thanks for sharing! Dried sour cherries cost an arm and a leg here, but I have dried cranberries and I’m super tempted to use those.

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