Candy-Making Doesn't Get Any Easier
Making homemade candy is often a complicated process, calling for sugar to be boiled to a precise temperature or chocolate to be painstakingly melted over a double boiler. Those recipes can make wonderful confections, for those who have the time, but it's also handy to have a few options that require little to none of your attention. This Crock-Pot peanut clusters recipe falls squarely into that category, requiring just a few minutes of prep time and relying on your slow cooker to gently melt the chocolate. It's a big batch, appropriate for school functions or holiday gatherings.
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Yield: Approximately 10 dozen
- 1 pound dry-roasted peanuts, unsalted
- 2 pounds dry-roasted peanuts, salted
- 1 bag (11.5 ounces) milk chocolate chips
- 1 bag (10 ounces) peanut butter chips
- 2 pounds white chocolate bars or vanilla "candy melts"
- 1 1/4 pounds dark chocolate bars or chips
- Line a 6-quart Crock-Pot with a slow cooker liner.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss the salted and unsalted peanuts to they're well mixed. Arrange them evenly in the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Layer the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and white and dark chocolate into the slow cooker. Place a clean kitchen towel over the top of the slow cooker to catch any condensation and prevent it from dripping back into the chocolate, and then cover with the slow cooker's lid.
- Cook on low for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring after the first hour and a half. If you know your slow cooker runs hot, aim for the shorter melting time and stir after 45 to 50 minutes.
- Line large sheet pans with parchment paper, or simply spread parchment on your counter and use that. Stir the melted chocolate and peanut mixture once more. Then scoop it from the slow cooker to the parchment using a small cookie scoop or a large spoon. Aim for about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons per cluster.
- Cool the clusters at room temperature for an hour or two until they solidify. Transfer them to airtight containers and store in a cool, dry place.
- For a deeper peanut flavor, replace the peanut butter chips with 1/4 cup of powdered peanut butter.
- Chocolate scorches easily, especially white and milk chocolate, so if your slow cooker runs hot you might wish to take an extra precaution or two. Lining your slow cooker's insert with parchment paper or aluminum foil before putting in the liner bag is a good idea, and will often keep your chocolate from acquiring a scorched taste.
- For the best and deepest flavor, use a dark chocolate that's at least 60 percent cocoa butter. The white and milk chocolates will mellow its bitter overtones, and the finished treats will have a deeper, richer chocolate flavor.
- Finished clusters can be frozen for longer storage. A vacuum-sealed bag is your best bet for freezing, though an airtight container also works. If you live in a humid climate, place a folded sheet of paper towel inside the container to absorb moisture from the air as it freezes. This helps prevent freezer burn. When you need the chocolates, start by removing the lid and letting them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. This helps minimize the risk of condensation disfiguring the sweets. It doesn't hurt them, but they won't be as pretty as they should.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.