Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cashew Clusters

The simplest solution is not always the best one, and complexity ought not to be feared as a general rule, but there are times in which life just seems so messy, so convoluted, so arduous, that I lean full-on into searching for ways to strip away the excesses and find the center.

Summertime tends to be conducive to that sort of thing, of course.  Afternoons at the pool have supplanted homeschool lessons and chores and the like, and dinners constructed from fresh-picked vegetables are the norm.  It just seems right to lighten the load a little.  Less time spent taming the hair with a blow dryer, smaller mountains of laundry to conquer, fewer errands and activities on the schedule.

Less can be more, after all, and as much as I tend to shy away from corny truisms such as that one, it has been Just.  So.  Hot.  lately that I can't help but appreciate the thought of sitting by a fan, putting my feet up, and sipping an iced coffee while pretending to be genteel and unencumbered by the demands of life and parenthood and all that.

You can picture it, right?  Me perched on the porch in a white dress, the Spanish moss dripping from the massive old oak trees, a ceiling fan spinning languidly overhead, and perfect peace and quiet whilst my immaculately-dressed, well-mannered children play a game of croquet together on the manicured lawn?

It could happen.

Until then, though, I will search for simplicity in more realistic places.  Like dessert.

And we have discovered the mother of all completely simple, utterly perfect desserts.  Even better, and easier and faster, than those beloved Peanut Butter Cookies.  Two ingredients.  Less than five minutes.  No oven heating up the house.  Total Perfection.  


When I asked The Carnivore what he might want us to make for him for Father's Day, I was prepared for a complicated answer.  Something along the lines of Pralines or Blue Cheese Meatballs.  Instead, he suggested I make use of the copious amounts of cashews stashed away in our pantry and the dark chocolate chips that he knows I keep no-longer-hidden in the back of the fridge.  "Like turtles," he said, "Except without the caramel."  

"Like nut clusters?" I asked suspiciously.

I thought the idea was a little loopy at first.  It just didn't seem quite right that I could melt a bit of chocolate and stir in some nuts and end up with nice little nut clusters.  Corn syrup seemed like a necessary ingredient, or possibly a candy thermometer would be required.  It just had to be more complicated than he was thinking.  So I did a little recipe research (partly to prove him wrong) and found countless recipes that included excessive quantities of ingredients and overly-cumbersome techniques, but then I came across an utterly simple one and with a little bit of tweaking, we have found our new go-to candy.

By the second batch, I had the nuts-to-chocolate ratio spot-on, and we were head over heels in love, these clusters and The Carnivore and I.  We are partial to cashews around here, and I love and adore any combination that marries salt with dark chocolate, so this kind of thing is right up my alley really.

The simplicity is nearly overwhelming (contradiction in terms notwithstanding).  The recipe goes like this: melt dark chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove, stir in nuts, drop by spoonful onto wax paper, refrigerate until hardened.

Crazy, right?  These little drops of heaven are mainstays for us now, and we haven't gone a day without a batch in the fridge for going on two weeks.  When we start running low, The Carnivore looks a bit worried for a moment, and then I throw another batch together while doing the dinner dishes. They're THAT easy.

We like them very heavy on the nuts, with just enough chocolate to hold them together, and I'm not above using even the salty nut dust in the bottom of the cashew canister to make them even more dense. I prefer them a bit on the thin and flat side, so that they are easier to bite into, and so that the edges are a bit more delicate to the tooth, but they are just as delicious when piled high and messy-looking. 

The salty-and-bittersweet taste is utterly pure, which is easy to imagine given the short ingredient list, and can be a bit addictive, but since they are so easy and so quick to assemble, and the ingredients can be kept on hand at all times, addiction is nothing to fear in this case.  


DARK CHOCOLATE CASHEW CLUSTERS, adapted from (makes about 20)
  • 11.5 oz package dark chocolate chips (I love the Ghirardelli 60% cacao)
  • 1 1/2 cups cashew halves (or the less expensive halves-and-pieces mix)
  1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave (about 2 minutes).  Or, melt the chips in a small pan set over low heat on the stove, stirring almost constantly.
  2. Stir nuts into the melted chocolate.
  3. Drop by small spoonful onto waxed paper, and put in refrigerator until hardened.


Jennifer Jo said...

Well, it's about time, I'd say!

I can totally see you languishing on the veranda. Do you have an extra rocker for me?

The Hubbards said...

I just told India I have a new recipe for her to give a go... YUMMM!!!! I can't wait to try these!

Deb said...

I made these yesterday in the hopes that my dad would like them and they could becme a Christmas present from my son to him. Well, I am going to have make another batch by Friday as the ones made yesterday will not last that long.

Thanks for posting this, I have been thinking about since I saw it over the summer.


Anonymous said...

I'm doing recipe research for salted chocolate cashew clusters. Did you use raw or roasted cashews to make this recipe? Thanks much for the tip.

Sarah Beam said...

I used salted, roasted cashews.