I never thought I would learn the recipe for pure bliss at the age of twelve, but the first time I made these I knew I had found it. We had a guest teacher in my 4-H group who had previously worked for a little candy shop in my hometown and she told us that this was the recipe for our town’s most loved candy. When I shared them with my family they too immediately fell in love and they were soon added to our Christmas repertoire. Every year when we deliver platefuls of goodies to friends and neighbors these delectable nutballs always stand out. Within minutes of dropping them off I always get a flurry of texts and phones calls from people exclaiming. Oh. My. Goodness. What are these chocolate nut things? Do you have any more? I need the recipe.
Candy making can be a frustrating endeavor, but I’ve found these difficult to mess up. They even tasted wonderful the year I attempted the recipe without a thermometer and ended up adding a ton of cornstarch to get them to firm up.
As a last note, I generally avoid corn syrup, but for these beauties I make an annual exception. It’s only a tiny bit and it is Christmas after all. 2014 Update: We tested it and you can avoid the corn syrup altogether by replacing it with honey! The taste is unaffected, and you can sleep a little better at night 😉
Chocolate Almond Nutballs with Creme Centers
- 1 C brown sugar
- 3 C white sugar
- 2 TBSP white karo syrup or honey
- 2 C cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 lbs chocolate, for dipping (We typically just use semisweet chocolate chips)
- 3 C almonds (We typically use whole almonds, but any kind will do)
- 2 TBSP butter
- Cook sugars, karo syrup, and cream over high heat until the mixture reaches 226 °F (or the softball stage for any candy connoisseurs out there). The temperature will climb quickly at first, but those last few degrees may make you question whether your thermometer is broken. Just keep stirring and it will get there, I promise.
- Once the mixture reaches 226 °F remove it from the burner and pour it onto a large platter or rimmed pan. A 9×13 pyrex has served this purpose well for us. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until cooled.
- Now is a great time to roast your almonds. Heat your oven to 350 °F and slip a rimmed pan into the oven with the 2 TBSP of butter. Once the butter is melted add the almonds, stirring to coat them. Let the almonds roast in the oven for 8 minutes then stir them. Check the almonds every couple of minutes after that to make sure they aren’t burning. Once they’ve just started to take on a nice golden hue and smell like nutty heaven, pull them from the oven to cool. It’s better to err on the side of under roasted than over roasted, especially since they may continue to brown a little bit before the hot pan cools.
- Remove the sugar and cream mixture from the fridge once it has cooled. Add vanilla. Stir the mixture until it goes from looking like glossy caramel to a dull nougat that can hold it’s shape. This step can be a really good workout so you may want to have someone handy to spell you in case your arm gets tired.
- Roll into small balls, just bigger than a marble. You will want to make them bigger, but resist the urge and keep reminding yourself that they’re going to grow when they get a layer of chocolate and almonds. Your final candy center count will vary based on size, but I’ve never had less than 100. At this point, the centers can be refrigerated if you want to take a break from candy making, or you can continue on. (Freezing or refrigerating can also help them keep their shape when dipped in the melted chocolate.)
- Chop the almonds and put in a large bowl. A food processor does an amazing job of this, but a good knife will also work.
- Melt the chocolate. You can do this in a double broiler or in the microwave if you’re careful. I generally use the microwave in 30 second spurts stirring in between until the chocolate is nice and creamy. Once the chocolate is melted, you’re ready to assemble.
- Create your assembly line: candy centers, chocolate, nuts, and wax paper or silpat mats to lay them on. Having one person be in charge of chocolate and one person in charge of nuts is the easiest way to do this, but it is entirely possible to be a one-person-candy-making-machine. Roll the centers in the chocolate then in the nuts, and place on the waiting surface to cool. Don’t be surprised if you have to halt production to melt more chocolate, especially if you were willy nilly about measuring and just threw a bunch of chocolate in a bowl. Who me? It’s always a good idea to have a little extra chocolate on hand just in case.
- Now the hardest step: wait until the chocolate has set before you partake.