As I reflect over my last handful of blog posts–and scroll through the pictures on my homepage–I’ve noticed that my little corner of the internet quickly seems to be evolving (or devolving, however you want to look at it) into just another food blog. Pumpkin pie, galette des rois, and sugar cookies have all featured in recent posts. All desserts too. Hmm…what does that say about me?
Although I promise that this is not a food or recipe based blog (however, do expect some more food mentions soon! My flatmate K and I have a macaron making adventure planned for this Valentine’s Day. And B recently requested a blog post about French bread…something I’m more than willing to supply her with!), I do love a good kitchen adventure. And often my musings on life and culture are inspired by my latest foray in food. Food, after all, is one of those little details of life that is taken for granted, until it’s not there, or until you’re presented with something strange, exotic, and unexpected.
In any case, part of the reason for all this recipe buzz and kitchen commotion, is that I have quite a bit of free time here in Troyes. Assistant positions are not full-time. Although I do teach lessons at school every day, I’m only paid to teach 12 classes per week, in comparison with the 18 that a full-time French teacher has.
Now, while in an ideal world, I’d be teaching more hours and earning more money, I do value the extra free time that my short work week awards me. You might be wondering how one could possibly fill so many free hours, yet, somehow the time slips by rather quickly. Whether blogging here, keeping up with my part-time online college classes, getting lost in a good book, applying to grad schools, annoying the downstairs neighbors with jump squats and mountain climbers, or keeping up with friends via skype and googlehanouts, the hours quickly disappear and become a part of my past, just as they always do.
One of the activities that I value and look forward to doing when life supplies me with free time is baking and cooking from scratch. And as this Friday is Valentine’s Day, what else is there to do but make something chocolatey and sweet to share with friends?
Tuesday mornings I don’t teach lessons, and so this past Tuesday I spent my time melting some cooking chocolate, roasting some almonds, and concocting some lovely dark chocolate clusters to give as Valentine’s Day surprises to the 8 other English teachers at my school.
It was a fun and successful adventure, and I only wish I had made more to keep for myself!
Below is the recipe. I went with an almond and dried cranberry combination. They are super easy to make, and the final product is dangerously good! Recipe credit goes to Clotilde Dusoulier, whose blog you can find here. She’s got some wonderful recipes, and I really appreciate her cup/oz-grams and Farenheit-Celcius conversions for each recipe. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent in France and Ukraine trying to figure out how many grams of sugar or flour or vanilla extract there are in a cup or a tablespoon!
Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit & Nut Clusters
- 250 grams (9 ounces) good-quality dark chocolate
- 80 grams (a slightly rounded 1/2 cup) whole nuts, toasted
- 80 grams (a scant 1/2 cup) dried fruit (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
- 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.
- While the chocolate is melting, chop the nuts and dried fruit roughly.
- 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.
- Using two teaspoons, scoop the mixture onto parchment paper.
- Let rest somewhere cool (but not in the fridge) until completely set. (Mine sat for about an hour before ready. However, my apartment is quite drafty. Might take longer in a properly heated home!)
Clotilde has some beautiful pictures on her blog post about this recipe, as well as some different recommendations for great nut/dried fruit combinations. I’d recommend checking it out here!