If you have an hour to spare and are looking for something that will inspire "Did You MAKE these??", try "$100 Almonds" which I first made on Labor Day 2000. And it was a laborious day...
THE WRONG WAY
The best food writers implore their readers to read the recipe before you begin. Although not in their league, I beg you to read the recipe before you SHOP.
I read, but didn't write down the recipe, and bought raw instead of blanched almonds. It took three hours to blanch 1-1/2 pounds of almonds. (NOTE: To blanch almonds, dip in very hot water for about 10 seconds, and then remove the peel. Almond by almond. One at a time. Very tedious.)
A more focused almond blancher would have thrown the almond peels into the trash instead of into the garbage disposer which promptly clogged. Adding the $89 plumbing bill to the $8.49 for almonds and $2 for chocolate created "$100 Almonds."
Correctly prepared, this recipe takes an hour. It is ridiculously simple.
THE RIGHT WAY
"Roasted & Frosted & Chocolate Almonds"
(adapted from"Handcraft Illustrated" Fall 1998.)
1 # (6 cups) whole blanched almonds
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
dash of salt
2 oz semisweet, really good chocolate
Restaurant-quality sheet pans (won't warp)
Large non-stick saucepan (for easy cleanup)
Silicon spoon or spatula (for stirring sticky sugar)
Parchment paper or silicon liner (for easy cleanup)
1. ROAST ALMONDS Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the almonds in a single layer and roast for 10 minutes or until slightly brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Set aside 2 cups in a large bowl.
2. FROST ALMONDS Combine water, sugar and salt in a large preferably non-stick saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 4 cups of roasted almonds. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicon (or wooden) spoon until the water evaporates and sugar crystals form. (This is AMAZING) Spread on a baking sheet and cool 30 minutes. Add 2 cups of frosted almonds to the 2 cups of roasted almonds in the large bowl.
3. DRIZZLE CHOCOLATE. Spread the remaining 2 cups of almonds on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Put the chocolate in an unsealed freezer bag and microwave 1-1/2 minutes on medium power or until melted. Cut off the tip of the bag and drizzle chocolate on the remaining almonds. Cool overnight.
4. MIX the roasted, frosted chocolate almonds and store airtight.
1. Buy a serious baking sheet from a restaurant supply house such as Hochenbergs on Kasota in St. Paul, MN. For about $6, you''' have weapons-grade, yours-for-a-lifetime heavy baking sheets measuring 12x19 inches, which would cost at least $15 in an Important Cooking Store.
2. If you buy five pounds of almonds, you will need three baking sheets to prepare this recipe efficiently,
3. Separating the almonds after they are frosted and after they are chocolate-drizzled is a very nice thing to do for your friends and family who will love these things. Or, leave them clumped and call it all "Bark."
4. You can use LOTS more chocolate, and you can mix white and dark.
5. FOR EXTREME DECADENCE, drizzle one side of the almonds and let the chocolate set. Do not separate the nuts. Cover the baking sheet with wax paper or parchment and flip them. Drizzle the second side. Let the chocolate set and THEN separate the nuts.