The first full week of December has more than made up for the dismal snowfall of November. Not only have we received decent snowfall, but snow is slated to continue for another week! This is good news for snow lovers as well as our snowpack, which provides our water all year and is responsible for the beautiful streams and wildflowers in summer.
neva’s nose was wiggling all over as she sniffed the snow in the air
it was quite chilly for a few days – neva got bundled into a snuggy blanket
the view from indian peaks chair at our local hill
Our backcountry has a nice layer of snow, but our ski poles hit rocks and dirt at the bottom because we’ve had no base. Hopefully this series of storms will build a good base for the rest of the season. I haven’t been willing to get my skis waxed and tuned until I stopped hitting rocks! Better late than never.
our skin tracks
i spy a baby moose peeking from behind the tree
crazy little neva sports her orange booties and orange ball
happy girl with a stylish snowbeard
I am in full candy making and cookie baking mode over here. It’s a good thing the holidays coincide with the shortest days or I’d be ditching all of my gift-making duties in favor of skiing. As it is, our evenings have been filled with lots of chocolate, sugar, butter, nuts, flour, candied ginger, lemon zest, more chocolate, and piles of dirty dishes. The main recipients of my annual kitchen frenzy are Jeremy’s administrative staff. I’ve been giving them an assortment of homemade treats for almost a decade. Over the years I’ve received feedback on certain cookies such that they have become regulars in the gift bags. But I do try to mix things up a little and introduce a new cookie or confection each year. This year’s newest addition is a homemade Almond Joy, which should really be called a Coconut Joy because the almond is just a small part of it. Anyway, these are easy and delicious and I had to make a second batch because Jeremy looked so sad when I said I had just enough to distribute to recipients.
vanilla extract, chocolate, flaked coconut, powdered sugar, almonds, salt, sweetened condensed milk
There is no cooking involved in these treats except for the toasting of almonds and melting of chocolate. Stir stuff together, mold it into a desired shape, pop a nut on top and dip it in chocolate. That’s how simple it is. Joy‘s version called for unsweetened flaked coconut, but I grabbed sweetened flaked coconut instead. You know what? It worked great. I mean, it’s candy – it’s going to be sweet and you will just have to climb an extra thousand feet of elevation in your skis to burn it off. No big deal.
adding vanilla to the sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and salt
stir in the coconut
The traditional shape of an Almond Joy candy is a log, but I find shaping a sphere (a ball, if you will) to be far faster and easier. Also? They fit in those little candy cup papers whereas I don’t even know where to find rectangular candy papers for log-shaped Almond Joy candies. So you already know where this is headed. Pro-tip: it’s a good idea to press the almond onto the coconut shape as you make them because the coconut is still sticky. If you wait until all of the coconut has been shaped, the shapes will be dry and the almonds might not adhere properly.
i made coconut spheroids – sticky sticky spheroids
pressing almonds onto the tops
So there is the easy way to dip the candies in chocolate or the hard way. The easy way is well… easy. The hard way is more tedious than hard, but the result is a shiny chocolate coating that snaps beautifully, maintains a nice shine, and doesn’t melt as easily – because the chocolate is tempered. If I were just stuffing these into my pie hole, I *might* not bother with tempering the chocolate, but because these are gifts, I tempered the chocolate. I talk about the seed method in this post, but I give detailed instructions on how to temper dark chocolate in the recipe below. Dunking the coconut balls is not advised, mainly because I did that once and the almond went for a swim in the luscious hot tub of chocolate. It’s better to spoon chocolate over the candy and shake off the excess, keeping everything intact.
seeding with a few chips at 95°f
spooning chocolate over the candy
enrobed and waiting to set
The Almond Joys came out beautifully and taste better than the store-bought version. I suspect that has a lot to do with the quality of the chocolate I used. These make wonderful gifts or treats to serve guests and could be a fun project to make with kids (just melt the chocolate, don’t temper it). Or you could just curl up with a few to enjoy on your own. It’s all good.
ready for the holidays
don’t forget to taste one for quality control
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk*
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
14 oz. sweetened flaked coconut**
30 whole almonds, toasted***
20 oz. dark chocolate chips
* A typical can of sweetened condensed milk is 14 ounces, so don’t pour the whole thing in unless you are doubling the recipe.
** Joy’s recipe uses unsweetened, but I accidentally bought sweetened flaked coconut and it worked just fine.
*** Toast almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes.
Mix the sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt together. Stir in the coconut until well-mixed. It should be pretty thick and gooey. Freeze the coconut mixture for 30 minutes. Shape 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a tightly packed ball or log. Place an almond on top, pushing it down a little so it sticks. Set the coconut candy on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. If you plan to dip the candy in melted chocolate, then pop the baking sheet into the refrigerator. If you plan to dip the candy in tempered chocolate, leave them out on the counter.
Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper, wax paper, or a silpat sheet.
Melt the chocolate – method 1: You can melt the chocolate gently over a water bath by placing the chips in a double boiler or by putting them in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (about 2 inches deep). Make sure the bowl is wider than the pan because you don’t want water getting into the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted completely. Turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the water bath. Take the candy out of the refrigerator. If the chocolate gets too cold (too thick), you can heat the water bath again until the chocolate loosens up.
Temper the dark chocolate**** – method 2: For the seed method of tempering, place all but 10 chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler or in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (about 2 inches deep). Make sure the bowl is wider than the pan because you don’t want water getting into the chocolate or all of it will seize. Stir until the chocolate has melted completely, monitoring the temperature of the chocolate. When it reaches 112°F, remove the bowl from the water bath (it will continue to rise – that’s fine because we are targeting a final temperature of 118-120°F, just don’t get to 180°F or it will burn) and set it on an ice pack or a larger bowl of ice to start cooling it. Stir the chocolate constantly to promote proper crystal formation (for tempering). Continue to monitor the temperature. When the chocolate reaches 95°F, toss in the chocolate chips. This is called seeding and should encourage the formation of good crystals for tempering. Keep stirring. The chocolate is in temper between 88-91°F at which point you can remove the bowl from the ice. Stir often between dippings and when the temperature drops to 88°F, set the bowl on top of the warm water bath (if it’s too warm, place a kitchen towel over the pan and under the bowl). Monitor the temperature as it rises. When it reaches 91°F, take it off the pan.
**** This method is for dark chocolate. Milk and white chocolates should target a high temperature of 116-118°F, seeding at 95°F and perhaps again at 90°F, and they are in temper between 85 and 87°F. Also, you have to use high quality white chocolate – any white chocolate that uses palm kernel oil or coconut oil won’t temper (it will separate and be unusable).
Dip the candies (both methods): Dip the tines of a fork (any fork should do, but you can also use an enrobing fork) into the chocolate. Dip the base of a coconut candy into the chocolate, then set it atop the tines of the fork. Using a spoon, spoon chocolate over the candy to coat the top. Repeat until you have coated the entire piece. Shake off any excess chocolate by gently tapping the fork on the edge of the bowl, then gently scrape excess chocolate off the base on the edge of the bowl. Set the candy on the second baking sheet. Repeat for the rest of the candies. Makes about 30 candies.
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