Switch Witch Switch: Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Marbles
I was dreading this project. It’s real name is Billes de Noisettes au Chocolat, for God’s sake. It was the one thing in the entire world my kids asked to make, in exchange for surrendering their junky Halloween candy this year. I procrastinated, avoided, considered “forgetting,” and all-in-all just about gave up because I just didn’t wanna.
Yet, I felt compelled to give my kids their first choice treat, since I was snatching the candy from their hands and disabusing them of the sweet Switch Witch story, all in one fell Halloween. (Actually, they were surprisingly game for the new plan). But I still didn’t wanna.
I could not have been more wrong! This is the perfect activity for kids. Few ingredients, few steps, lots of hands-on mashing and poking of stuff, and hardly any actual cooking.
The recipe comes from the book Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, by the sparkling food blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier.
First, you grind up a bunch of hazelnuts with some powdered sugar in the food processor. If there’s anything more fun for a little kid than pressing the “Pulse” button fifty times without being asked not to, I don’t know what it is.
Be sure to grind your hazelnuts into a course dust, rather than tiny pebbles, and don’t add too much powdered sugar, so it’s oily enough to stick together.
Then, you just roll up the paste into balls and insert toothpicks. Again: It’s like getting a pass in the kitchen, if you’re two. Or four.
“We can put our hands in the food?” Yes.
“We can mash it and roll it and make shapes with it?” Yes.
“We can stab it with wooden spears??” Yep.
Now, you will have to follow behind them, slyly compacting the balls so they stay together, poking the toothpicks down far enough so they don’t fall out, etc. But, you’ve met preschoolers. You knew that. You do that with every project where people will be eating the results.
Melting chocolate in a double boiler is exactly the opposite of how complicated it sounds. The hardest part is finding a bowl that will sit on top of your pot. Conveniently, I inherited this handled bowl from my mother. The only thing I ever use it for in life is for a double boiler. The handles hold it up so nicely, but you don’t really need them. Just get a bowl that’s bigger than your pot and you’re all set.
Set a couple inches of water to boil in the pot, have your child dump half a package of chocolate chips into a metal bowl and set it over the pot for a few minutes, stirring once a while. Done. (This would make a yummy, FAST chocolate syrup for ice cream, if you just stirred in 1/4 cup light corn syrup, 3/4 cup heavy cream and a teaspoon vanilla.)
Pop one of your marbles into the bowl and spoon chocolate around it. Swirling it gracefully through a cascading river of chocolate like they do on cooking shows is out of the question since the toothpick keeps falling out. On the other hand, you may not have this problem if you grind your hazelnuts fine enough and don’t add too much powdered sugar. Learn from me. (I told you I was only semi-fabulous).
And, here’s what we ended up with!
Ours turned out a little grainier looking than the picture. Another issue you may not have if you mind the grind. Grind it fine!
Either way, it tastes good. I like hazelnuts. And not just because I like the word “noisettes.” Which I do.
Mmf, sschlurp, mrmph.
Easy as these are, they are nice enough to serve at a fancy dinner party with coffee, as Clotilde suggests. (Maybe get some more attractive skewers.)
Look what a fantastic shot this would have been, if I hadn’t just manhandled the subject matter, leaving a big ol’ fingerprint on it. I also like the TV wires artfully draped across the background. Oh, well.
The Switch Witch may leave presents, but the real gift is time with mom.
And good chocolate.
- 1 cup shelled hazelnuts, toasted and husked (S&T note: I found them in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods)
- ¾ cup confectioners' sugar
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons honey (grease your measuring spoon with a little vegetable oil)
- 3 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
- Combine the hazelnuts, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and form a well in the center. In a small bowl, combine the honey with 1 tablespoon hot water and stir to dissolve. Pour into the center of the hazelnut mixture and stir with a fork to combine.
- Knead the hazelnut paste for a minute or two, until it comes together and you are able to shape it into a ball. (It will be a little sticky, but it will dry as it chills.) Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to a day.
- Remove the hazelnut paste from the fridge. Scoop out rounded teaspoons and shape them into small balls, about ¾ inch in diameter, with the tips of your fingers. Line them up on a plate and plant a wooden toothpick vertically in the center of each. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place the plate in the fridge.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring from time to time.
- Dip each of the marbles in turn in the chocolate, holding it by the toothpick and swirling it around gently to coat. Leave the very top uncoated, so the hazelnut paste shows. Lift from the chocolate, let the excess chocolate drip down for a few seconds, and set on the parchment paper, toothpick pointing skyward. Let rest somewhere cool (but not the refrigerator) for 2 hours, until the chocolate coating is dry. The marbles will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature in an airtight container.
- Resting/chilling time: 1 hour for the hazelnut paste, 2 hours for the finished marbles.
- Variations: The marbles can be made with other nuts, such as almonds or pecans.
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