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Milk Chocolate Almond Roches

Although these Almond Roches look simple, they require a definite technique, says Claire Clark, pastry chef at the famed French Laundry Restaurant, who includes the recipe in her book Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts. These require some effort, but all your favorite almond lovers will swoon over these.

By Claire Clark

Milk Chocolate Almond Roches

Lovely to look at, delicious to eat – these Almond Roches feature milk chocolate and almonds roasted with Cointreau.

"If your friends like almonds, these are the perfect solution to gifts or after-dinner petit fours," says Claire Clark in her book Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts (Whitecap Books, 2007). "The important thing to remember is that although they look simple, simplicity is not always easy to achieve. There is a definite technique to making the roches look stunning. Follow the instructions below and I promise you your clusters will have the edge. You will be the envy of every roche maker. The secret is the ratio of cocoa butter to chocolate and a cool working environment – avoid draughts and hot kitchens." She suggests using Valrhona which makes "a great milk chocolate, with 40 percent cocoa solids and the Swiss make some of the best milk chocolate in the world, so you could try Lindt."

Yield: about 40

Ingredients

1 lb. 2 oz. (500g) strip or baton (or slivered) almonds (or whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped)
1 fl. oz (25ml) Cointreau
3 1/2 oz. (100g) icing (or confectioners) sugar, sifted
3 1/2 oz. (100g) cocoa butter (or good quality hazelnut oil)
1 lb. 2 oz. (500g) tempered milk chocolate (see instructions)

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Place almonds in a bowl and toss them in the Cointreau until they are all coated. Add the icing sugar and mix well, making sure the nuts are well coated in the sugar too. Transfer the nuts to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown, turning them frequently with a spatula so they cook as evenly as possible. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely.

For the next stage, you'll need 3 small metal bowls, about 6-8 inches in diameter and not too deep. Melt the cocoa butter in a small pan, then transfer to one of the bowls and keep warm (you may need to reheat it gently if it cools down too much, to prevent it solidifying). Place the cooled nuts in another of the bowls. Have the tempered chocolate to hand.

Using the remaining empty bowl, take a small handful of the toasted almonds, add a teaspoon of cocoa butter (or hazelnut oil) and mix well. Add enough milk chocolate to hold the nuts together. The purpose of the cocoa butter is thin the chocolate so you can see the shape of the nuts through it. Too much chocolate will result in a pool of excess chocolate – or 'feet', as we call it – around the base of the roche once it has been spooned onto the tray; too much cocoa butter will make the chocolate too thin so it won't adhere to the nuts. Play around with the quantities until you achieve the perfect results.

Immediately spoon the nuts in small clumps onto trays lined with baking parchment or nonstick baking mats. Do this as quickly as you can, before the chocolate starts to set and the clusters lose the smoothness and shine that make them so attractive. Work with small handfuls of nuts at a time and keep repeating the process for perfect results. Store in a well-sealed container in the fridge to prevent the chocolate sweating.

Claire's Notes:
If the chocolate is setting too quickly and the roches do not look smooth, check the following points:
– Are you working in a draught?
– Is the room too cold?
– Is the cocoa butter warm enough?
– Is the milk chocolate below 82°F/28°C (see tempering instructions).

Indulge © Claire Clark; 2007, Whitecap Books. Photo © Whitecap Books. All rights reserved


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