Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DIPPY MADNESS at the end of the term!

I know I sing the same song at the end of every semester, but WHOA--this one has been a killah! So I did not feel motivated to make elaborate Christmas treats for my co-workers this year. Of course, it should be noted that I have been treating them nearly every week of the term with crock pots of homemade soup, but I wanted to make a little something special for my nearest and dearest colleagues. Continuing the semester-long crock pot theme, I followed the Crockin' Girls' lead, as I so often do, and made chocolate nut clusters in the slow cooker.

Their recipe is for peanut clusters, but I wanted to take it up a notch, so I used fancy mixed nuts (no peanuts at all), and right before I scooped them out, I also added a bag of frozen caramel bits. YUM! I should note that I changed their chocolate dip a bit, too. The resulting candy was delicious, but very sweet. Next time, I might omit the white chips or the milk chocolate and double the bittersweet. It's easy enough to play around with this recipe and make it your own.

The crock pot nut clusters were so much yummy fun, that I did a second batch of white chocolate to do Oreos and even some little Ritz Bitz peanut butter sandwiches (they end up tasting a lot like a Butterfinger!). I found some cute little Santa treat bags at Big Lots, and in each one, I put four nut clusters, two Oreos, and four Ritz Bitz. I like to think the candy will sustain my co-workers through this hellish finals week!

Crock Pot Nut Clusters

two 24 oz. cans fancy mixed nuts (no peanuts)
one 1 1/2 lb. pkg. almond bark, cut into large squares as marked
one 12 oz. pkg. Ghirardelli white chips
two 4 oz. bars Ghirardelli white chocolate, broken into squares
one 12 oz. pkg. Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
one 12 oz. pkg. Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
one 11 oz. pkg. Kraft caramel bits, frozen

Place the nuts on the bottom of the crock pot, then all of the chocolates. Cover and cook on low for three hours (I placed two paper towels under the lid to absorb any condensation). Stir, turn off heat, and let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in frozen caramel bits and scoop out onto waxed paper, parchment, or Silpat immediately (I used a small cookie scoop). Chill under the candies are completely set (I put mine out in the garage!).

Crock Pot White Chocolate Dip

one 1 1/2 lb. pkg. almond bark, cut into large squares as marked
two 12 oz. pkgs Hershey's white chips
one 12 oz. pkg. Ghirardelli white chips
two 4 oz. bars Ghirardelli white chocolate

Oreos and Ritz Bitz peanut butter sandwiches

I melted everything except the cookies and the crackers in the crock pot on low for about two hours (once again, with paper towels under the lid to catch condensation), stirring every so often. Keep an eye--and a nose--on it, as it will scorch easily! Dip anything that strikes your fancy (pretzels would be yummy, too), shake on some colorful, holiday-appropriate sprinkles, then let set up on baking sheets lined with waxed paper or parchment in a cool environment.

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