Chocolate Nut and Berry Clusters

Cleaning up the pantry sometimes yields surprise finds. So take this for instance.. I had a couple of bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Honestly when I did find these , my thought was to fall back into baking a nice banana chocolate bread. But then again, surpriseā€¦surprise .. You  really cannot do the banana bread without bananas.. Ahem! Okay so off they went on the counter while I foraged more. The search yielded cashews, almonds, walnuts and then some dried berries. You see where I am going with this right? Aha.. Not really a tough one is it? Out of the finds of the pantry, I give thee .. Absolutely amazing choco berry nut clusters! Ta-Da!

Measured out choco chips
Measured out choco chips

Decadent melt in the mouth, chocolate nut and berry clusters! All you need is a microwave safe bowl and this is ready in  minutes. 3-4 minutes to melt the chocolate and a few to chop the nuts if desired. Takes about an hour or two for the clusters to set at the room temperature. Now that I think about this , I feel this is a throwback to the Cadbury’s dairy milk fruit and nut – a luxurious treat of the yonder years when I grew up in India. And also incidentally the only kind DH would indulge in. I on the other hand love dark chocolates. I would to love to make this in the dark chocolate combination. But that again is the beauty and versatility of this particular nibble. Your mind is the only recipe book you need to refer to..

You really cannot go wrong with this of course!

Nuts and Berries of your choice
Nuts and Berries of your choice

INGREDIENTS

  1. 2 cups of semi sweet white and dark choco chips mixed.
  2. 2 cups of raw almonds, walnuts, cashews and dried cranberries and blueberries. Measure and chop roughly if desired or you can make it with whole nuts too.
  3. A pinch of salt to bring out the chocolate. Sea salt is better of course. 

METHOD

  1. Take a couple of cookie sheets or baking trays and line it with parchment paper or baking sheet.
  2. In a pyrex glass bowl or any microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate chips and melt it in high for 3 minutes in 1 minute intervals. Stir it in after each 1 minute interval. The end result is a creamy smooth mass of melted chocolate.
  3. Add the chopped nuts and dried berries to the melted chocolate and stir it in. Add the pinch of salt and stir it in. Give it one more stir to ensure there is as much even distribution of the nut berry mix with melted chocolate.
  4. Using a tablespoon, measure out scoops of these on the parchment paper lined trays.
  5. Cool these completely before storing them ( about 1-2 hrs. depending on the room temperature). Need it in a rush? Stick these in the freezer or chiller tray of your fridge.
  6. Serve these with decadent mounds of vanilla ice cream or just eat them plain.
  7. Best stored in the refrigerator.
Pick me!
Pick me!

Dry fruits fudge and Ladoos – Geometric shapes of goodness and they are sugar free!

The festival of lights, can be the occasion to indulge in quite a few calorie laden and very rich as in very fattening sweet meats or mithai. Indulging in wisely is the key, otherwise we find our hearts lighter and the scale heavier by the end of the festive season. This particular dessert is the rule breaker.  This  is  so rich and wonderful in taste, that we almost miss the fact that this has no added sugar – gasp, seriously no added sugar or fat to the fudge. Oh my! These can be quite addictive . They are such a delish to make and absolutely wonderful to indulge in. And they are truly versatile. You can add in any kind of nuts and dried fruits you like. The two main key ingredients forming the base are figs and pitted dates. Just make sure you get these in, and let your imagination take over. Prep time : 15 min Cooking time About : 15 min Yield : 36-40 fudge pieces/ ladoos

Dry fruit and nut fudge and Ladoo

Ingredients : ( For measurements , I used the standard pyrex glass measure. Not very accurate I suppose, but served the purpose nevertheless.)

  • Dried figs : about 2 whole cups
  • Pitted dates : 1 cup. Finely chopped.
  • Mixed Raw Nuts : walnuts,almonds, pistachios and cashews : 1.5 cups total – Finely chopped
  • Flavorless oil or ghee : 2 tbsp.

Optional:

  • Few strands of saffron
  • Crushed cardamom pods – 6 nos.

Method:

  1. In a large sauce pan, boil about 3 cups of water. Dunk in the dried figs, so they soften and rehydrate. The process should take about 10 min. Note you are not boiling the figs. Just added the figs to the hot boiling water and keep it covered.
  2. Once the figs are softened, puree them in a blender.
  3. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably non stick one, add just a tbsp of the fat of your choice to grease the pan.
  4. Add in the pureed figs and cook on medium heat for about 7- 10 minutes. By now the gooey mass of fig puree would be supremely sticky.
  5. Add in the crushed saffron strands and cardamom pods at this stage if using.
  6. Mix well and turn off the heat.
  7. Add in the chopped dates and nuts and stir well. You should have a nice mass of fruit and nut mixture by now. ( Note : If you think it is not in a thick mass, by all means heat up the mix again for a few minutes. usually 5 more minutes should do the trick.)
  8. Meanwhile take a baking tray of your choice, or a thin rimmed platter should do the trick as well and grease it with the remaining tbsp of fat of your choice.
  9. Add in the dry fruits and nuts mixture and pat it down so it can set in evenly.
  10. Let it rest for a few minutes say about 5-7 minutes , and with a greased or ceramic knife cut in the squares or patterns of your choice.
  11. Let it set in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
  12. Dish out the pieces and enjoy .
  13.  Roll up the pieces to form spherical balls or ladoos for variety. Also, please do note that these are soft set fudge .

Verdict: Awesome ! The crunch from the figs, the sweetness of the dates, the nutty indulgences all makes this a royal dessert. Go ahead and indulge. This one is definitely worth it!