Salted Chocolate Almonds

Meet my ‘it’ snack of the moment. It’s crunchy. It’s simple and easy to prepare. It’s salty and sweet. And last but not least, there’s the chocolate! We all love these little nuts. I have no idea why oh why it’s taken me so long to pull this together. If I had come up with it three years ago when I started thinking about healthier kid snacks, I might have considered the case closed and never started this blog of mine.

Salted Chocolate Almonds Recipe

This recipe is easily doubled. It would also probably be insanely good with smoked salt if you happen to have any on hand. If you don’t have almonds, use cashews!

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 teaspoon (give or take – more is more) kosher salt

Melt the chocolate chips gradually in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, proceed with caution and set the power level to 20% for a minute at a time. After a few minutes, the chips should not appear melted, but should be soft enough to stir into a semi-smooth mass with a silicone/rubber spatula. Stir for a good thirty seconds or more. The warm bits of chocolate will gradually melt all of the firmer chips as the heat is redistributed. If you heat the chocolate too much, it will turn into a coarse chalky mass (from which it is impossible to recover). Melting it gently and keeping it away from moisture of any kind will allow the chocolate to keep its temper and be shiny when it cools.

Once the melted chocolate is ready, add the almonds to the bowl and stir to coat. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread the nuts into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to dry. This should take about ten minutes. Break apart any huge clusters of almonds and serve. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes (including drying time)

Nutty Apricot Turnovers

[donotprint]A year ago I would have dismissed you completely if you told me I’d be making pastry dough from scratch and turning it into little turnovers full of dried fruit and nutty goodness. My mission is to make quick and easy snacks that are healthy too. But alas, it’s time to fess up to the fact that I’ve been playing around with pastry dough lately. I’ve been keeping it off the blog. I’ve been leading a double life.

These turnovers are made with a pastry dough that I’ve modified to include yogurt and white whole wheat flour. The innards include walnuts, pecans, dried fruits, and ground flaxseed. I had a lot of fun making them…and even more fun eating them.

I used to be really frightened by the thought of working with pastry dough. And I still sort of am. But I’m starting to think we should all make pie. I took a pastry class a while ago and it really helped to see a professional whip out a pie shell and see the consistency of the dough, etc. I’ve still got a lot to learn. Thank goodness I’ll need to practice practice practice.[/donotprint]

The recipe for the filling is flexible. Don’t have ground flaxseed handy? Try replacing it with some wheat germ. Don’t have pecans? Just replace them with walnuts. Don’t have dried dates? Try replacing them with more dried apricots and raisins. Other than that, I’d try to stick to the recipe.

Turnover dough:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup plain Greek style yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together a few times. Evenly distribute the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 10 times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with the occasional pea-sized chunk. Add the yogurt and vanilla and pulse until mixture starts to form into a ball.

Remove dough from processor. Form into a disk as best as you are able. Knead it a few times if necessary. The dough will be wetter and stickier than most pastry dough. Wrap the disk tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Filling:

Make sure the walnuts and the pecans are minimally altered. They should not be salted or flavored – just nuts.

2 dried dates, pitted (preferably Medjool)
2 unsulfered dried apricots
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup walnut pieces
6 pecans
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons apricot preserves

On a cutting board, finely chop the dates, apricots, raisins, walnuts, and pecans together. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the flaxseed and salt. Stir to distribute. Add the agave nectar and preserves and stir to coat.

To Assemble:

1 egg
1 teaspoon milk
All-purpose flour

In a small bowl make an egg wash. Beat the egg and milk together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare a work surface by dusting it with flour. Get out your rolling pin and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The dough gets unfriendly once it warms up, have everything ready to go and work as quickly as you can. Don’t make this on the hottest day of the summer.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with additional flour. Beat on the dough with the rolling pin a few times in order to make it malleable while still cold. Roll it out to 1/4″ thickness, turning it occasionally (a quarter or half turn) and dusting with additional flour when it starts to stick.

Cut dough into four squares. Gently pick up with your hands or by resting it over the rolling pin. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of the dried fruit mixture on each square. Wet the edges of the squares with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Fold each square over into a rectangle or triangle. Gently press edges together with the tines of a fork. Cut a small hole in the top of each turnover to allow any steam to escape. Brush the tops with more egg wash.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack with a large spatula. Allow to cool 5 – 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 turnovers (I cut them in half to serve to the kids)
Prep-time: 30 minutes (not counting the time the dough rests in the refrigerator)
Bake-time: 13 minutes

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Honey-roasted pecans

Not too long ago, Serious Eats was kind enough to share a recipe from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home. I have been looking at roasted nuts recipes for a while now and was feeling a little overwhelmed. But Keller’s recipe for Candied Pecans is everything I was looking for. These nuts have perfect balance of crispy, sweet and salty going on. They are also flakey and buttery. If I close my eyes, it feels like I’m eating a croissant. ‘Nough said.

1 1/2 cup raw pecans
1-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread nuts out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a medium bowl. Quickly drizzle the honey and salt over the nuts and stir until they are well coated.

Return the coated  nuts to the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rotating once. I took them out of the oven when it smelled like the honey was starting to caramelize – a tiny bit smokey.

Remove the nuts from the oven, sprinkle on a pinch of salt, and quickly separate any clumps as the honey will harden as the nuts cool. Allow to cool completely and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups nuts (easily doubled)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/2 hours

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Walnut Wafers

Walnuts + Brown Sugar + Butter = Love

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1 cup unsalted walnut pieces
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place walnuts, oats, flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processer. Run the processer for 15-20 seconds. Chop the cold butter into large pieces, add to the walnut mixture, and process 10 seconds more.

Remove the blade from the processer bowl. Squeeze the walnut mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls with your hands. Press the balls 1/4 to 1/8-inch flat on an ungreased cookie sheet. Space the flattened balls about 2-inches apart. There will be some crumbs, but for the most part the mixture should stick together with some good squeezing and the heat from your hands.

Bake for 15 mintues or until the edges are golden. Allow to cool on baking sheet. Remove very gently with a spatula. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Makes 18 wafers.

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Blueberry “Pie”

[donotprint]Pie is always a lovely idea, but I never seem to find the energy (or bravery) to make one, especially just for a snack! So instead, I’ve done my best to create an extremely quick and  healthy alternative.  I love this crust so much that I created a cookie recipe based that is very similiar.[/donotprint]

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Crust:
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cold

Topping:
1 1/2 pints fresh blueberries (approximately 3 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

For the crusts, put the walnuts, pecans, oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for a 5-10 seconds until the texture is crumb-like. Chop the cold butter into large chunks and add to the food processor bowl. Cut the butter into the nut mixture pulsing for 5-10 seconds until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles large rough crumbs. Do not over process. The occasional larger chunk of butter is not a problem.

Divide a heaping 1/4 cup of the crust mixture between 8 ramekins. Press the crust down into the ramekins and up the sides with your fingers starting from the center. Rest assured, any holes or imperfections will be taken care of during baking or covered by the berries.

Bake crusts on the center rack for 10-15 minutes or until edges start to turn brown. Allow the ramekins to cool before serving.

While the crusts are baking, put blueberries, lemon juice, maple syrup and cinnamon in a bowl. With a fork, mash the berries partially so they begin to release their juices.

Once the ramekins are cool, top each crust with a scant 1/3 cup of the mashed blueberries and finish with a dollop of whipped cream if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 “pies”.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 10-15 minutes

Note: Can be made ahead of time. Store the crust and berries seperately in the refrigerator. If possible, remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

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