In my world, “chocolate” means just that… chocolate!
I grew up the daughter of a “choco-holic” and learned early that an easy way to please my dad was to make him something with chocolate in it… the more, and the darker, the better.
So here are two variations on an autumn treat which I’m calling, “The Forest Floor.”
I hope you will try it out this weekend. If you like it, it might make a fast and easy addition to your holiday spread next weekend as we celebrate Samhain and Halloween.
Spread out a cup of coconut, a half cup of sliced or slivered almonds, and a half cup of chopped walnuts or pecans on a baking sheet. Toast in a medium oven for a few minutes until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Chop some dried cherries into small bits. Prepare about a quarter to a half cup of dried fruit. Chopped apricots, raisins or cran-raisins would also work well.
We begin by melting the chocolate.
If you’ve worked much with chocolate you probably already know that you must keep water away from it as you melt and temper it. That is why I prefer the microwave melting method to the double boiler method. Too often the steam from my double boiler affected the melting chocolate and it “seized up” on me.
No worries, seized chocolate still tastes just fine. It just doesn’t have the proper consistency for serious candy making.
Select a good quality chocolate, milk or dark, and place 10 to 12 oz. in a glass bowl or large measuring cup.
Microwave on “high” for 30 seconds, and stir. Continue to microwave the chocolate, 15 to 20 seconds at a time, until it stirs smoothly. Add 2 TB of real butter near the end of this process. I also added 1/2 tsp. of good ground cinnamon to the chocolate with the butter for a richer flavor.
Stir the chocolate vigorously for a minute or two to temper it. I use a rubber spatula to keep the chocolate neatly off the sides of the bowl. Tempering gives the finished chocolate a smooth, crisp texture and clear color. It hardens better when well tempered.
Stir a quarter of your coconut, fruit, and nuts into the chocolate as you finish the tempering.
The first preparation gives you a solid candy bar.
I used a shallow aluminum pan, left from some delicious frozen something from Trader Joe’s. Use any shallow mold you have on hand.
Spread the chocolate fairly evenly in the mold. Top with a generous sprinkle of toasted coconut, nuts, and fruit.
Use the spatula to gently push the toppings into solid contact with the chocolate.
Cover with plastic wrap or slip the mold into a large zip-lock bag, and place the chocolate in the freezer for 10 minutes or the refrigerator for 30.
When solid, cut into small servings. Once hardened, this can be stored on the counter in an air tight container.
The second preparation is a bit crunchier and a bit less intense. It also uses less chocolate for those watching either calories or pennies.
Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and lay out a dozen graham crackers.
Melt and temper 10 to 12 oz. of chocolate, adding cinnamon, coconut, nuts, and dried fruit at the end of tempering. I used Hershey’s Special Dark baking morsels because my Dad loves Special Dark above all other chocolate. Yes, these are going to be a gift for him.
Divide the chocolate evenly between the crackers, dropping a large spoonful on each.
Spread the chocolate evenly on each cracker with your spatula or a small knife. Sprinkle more nuts, coconut and dried fruit on top. I added chopped pistachios to mine, and finished with a light grinding of sea salt.
Oh, the salt makes all the difference!
Cover the tray with plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30. When the chocolate is hard, lift the crackers with a broad spatula and cut or break them into serving sized pieces.
These will keep in an air tight container longer than it will take you to eat them!
I hope these “Forest Floor” chocolate candies and cookies make it into your holiday menu, and that your friends and family enjoy eating them as much as you enjoy making them!
With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells
Recipes and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014