Maple Peanut Nougat Chocolate Clusters

Irvin Lin writes the award-winning blog Eat the Love, a 2011 finalist in Saveur magazine Best Food Blog Awards in the category of Best Baking and Dessert Blogs. His blog has been recognized by numerous outlets, including PBS Food, Bon Appetit’s Daily Links, Food52 News, and Slow Food San Francisco’s newsletter. He has also had his work featured in the premiere issue of the US Masterchef magazine, Yum Food & Fun, and is a contributor to the Good Eggs blog. Irvin lives in San Francisco, a block away Dolores Park, BiRite, Delfina, and Tartine with his partner of 15 years, AJ. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Google Plus.

Maple Peanut Nougat Chocolate Clusters

It’s the end of October and you are probably thrilled that you survived October Unprocessed. Survived? Heck you probably thrived during this month, making more food at home, watching what you eat, and realizing that not only is unprocessed food better for you but it’s also been fun! But the end of October comes one holiday where unprocessed food is hard to avoid – Halloween. Or is it? Why can’t you have a fabulous sweet filled Halloween, one that would make your kids smile with sweet happiness, while still being completely unprocessed? Make these completely unprocessed maple peanut nougat chocolate clusters and prove to everyone that you can have your treat without any tricks!

Now I’m not going to lie. These treats have scant nutritional value. There’s not hidden kale or secret quinoa in them. Sure you can pretend that the dark chocolate you enrobe the candies in is fully of anti-oxidants but you’re pretty much just trying to justify the fact that you’re eating candy. The reality is that this treat is a sugary treat, plain and simple. BUT it does follow the rules of October Unprocessed, in that every ingredient is utterly pronounceable. In fact it passes the kitchen test in that every ingredient can be made in the kitchen, including the chocolate.

In truth, after a month of eating unprocessed, you (and your family) deserve a sweet ending. Happy Halloween everyone and Happy October Unprocessed! Until next year!

Maple Peanut Nougat Chocolate Clusters

Maple Peanut Nougat Chocolate Clusters
Recipe Type: Dessert
There are a number of relatively unprocessed and raw chocolates out there. Do your research and find the one that you are comfortable with and when in doubt, check the ingredients list and look for ones with minimal ingredients (preferably one that doesn’t have lecithin in it, an emulsifier that probably doesn’t qualify for the “unprocessed” tag). You can use any nut butter (your own homemade kind or a quality store-bought one) and your own choice of nuts in this cluster, but I went old school with the peanuts because I thought they were a classic flavor. I did use two whole vanilla beans in this recipe. I know vanilla beans are expensive but I was trying to keep it to whole ingredients as much as possible. If you don’t want to splurge on two beans, just substitute in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in place of each bean. Finally, though it probably goes without saying, don’t use pancake syrup, but use real maple syrup. But you already knew that, right?
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1¼ cup real maple syrup
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ cup (140 g) chunky peanut butter, preferably natural with the oil mixed back in
Peanut Candy Crunch
  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (57 g or ½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (140 g) chopped peanuts
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla salt or coarse sea salt
  • 2 pounds (910 g) dark chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla salt or coarse sea salt
Special equipment
  • Stand mixer with whisk mixer
  • Candy/Deep Frying Thermometer
  • Heatproof spatula
  • Small offset spatula (optional)
  1. Coat a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking oil and line with a piece of parchment paper. Coat the parchment paper as well with oil.
  2. Place the egg whites and sea salt in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Place the maple syrup in the medium-sized pan, with the candy thermometer clipped to the side. Make sure the thermometer isn’t touching the bottom of the pan (that can give you a false reading). Turn the heat to medium high and carefully monitor the pan until the maple syrup starts to boil. Turn the heat to medium low and start to stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, to make sure the maple syrup doesn’t boil over. Cook the syrup until it reaches about 260?F, then turn the mixer on to high to whip the eggs. Paying attention to the mixer (and the maple syrup as you don’t want it to boil over) whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Turn the mixer off and continue to cook the syrup until it reaches 275?F. Turn the heat off, and turn the mixer back on to high speed. Slowly drizzle the hot maple syrup down the side of the bowl, into the egg whites. Don’t pour too fast, or pour in the middle of the bowl, as the whisk attachment will whip the syrup onto the side of the pan and it will immediately harden. Continue until you’ve incorporated all the syrup.
  3. Continue to whip the egg whites until the nougat starts to clump together and get sticky in the middle of the whisk attachment, about three minutes or so. While it’s whipping, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the nougat. Once the nougat starts to clump up in the middle of the whisk, turn the mixer off and add the peanut butter, one tablespoon at a time, folding it in with a large spatula by hand. Once you’ve incorporated the peanut butter, the nougat should look fluffy and thick. Scrape into the prepared pan and spread to cover the entire bottom of the pan with the offset spatula (you can also just use a butter knife).
  4. Let the nougat cool a bit while you make the peanut candy crunch by placing the maple syrup, heavy cream, butter and salt in a clean medium-sized pan with the candy thermometer clipped to the side. Turn the heat to medium high and carefully monitor the pan until the liquid starts to boil. Turn the heat to medium and start to stir constantly with a heatproof spatula to make sure the maple syrup doesn’t boil over. Cook until the candy reaches 250?F. Turn the heat off, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the candy and then add the chopped peanuts. Stir to mix in the vanilla and peanuts and then pour over the nougat. Immediately spread with an offset spatula (or butter knife) to cover the nougat. Sprinkle the vanilla salt over the candy. Let cool for 30 minutes then refrigerate (uncovered) for four hours or overnight.
  5. Once the candy filling has been refrigerated, line a baking sheet with a silpat or piece of parchment paper. Chop the chocolate into ½ inch chunks and microwave for a minute at high and stir. Microwave for another minute and stir again. Microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is melted. While the chocolate is melting, take the candy filling out of the refrigerator and lift the filling out of the pan by grabbing the parchment paper and lifting up. Move to a cutting board and cut the filling into 1½ inch squares (a 6 x 6 grid). One the chocolate is melted (don’t over heat the chocolate) using a fork, dip the square into the chocolate and wipe the excess chocolate off the sides. Move to chocolate candy to the lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining filling. Once done, sprinkle a tiny pinch of vanilla salt over the chocolates and refrigerate until hard (about an hour). Enjoy!

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16 Responses to Maple Peanut Nougat Chocolate Clusters

  1. Karin martinez March 11, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    This look amazing! However, quick question: Will the nougat still come out if you skip the peanut butter? Or something else to substitute? I’m willing to use a processed sub (eeek!) if i must. There’s a nut allergy 🙁

  2. susan November 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Oh my goodness, Irvin, these have my name all over them. I am putting this on my holiday gift giving list!

  3. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen November 1, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    This is more my style than those fancy truffles that seem like they must have a perfect chocolate coating. I can’t pull that off. But these look more rustic and delicious! Something I can sink my teeth into…

  4. Lisa October 31, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    YUM! Is there a trick to pouring the hot maple syrup down the side of the bowl, since tipping the stand mixer isn’t doable?

    Also, can you recommend a good candy thermometer?



    • Irvin @ Eat the Love November 1, 2012 at 12:19 am #

      You don’t need to tip the mixer while pouring the syrup. I just aim for the side of the bowl, right above the whipped egg whites, about 3/4 down, where the bowl starts to bend into the bottom. The syrup hits the side of the bowl and trickles down to the egg whites. Basically you want the syrup to hit the side of the bowl and not the wire whisk, as it will just whip and splatter the syrup onto the side, where it will immediately cool and harden (something I learned the hard way – it’s really tough to clean up!).

      As for a candy thermometer, I’ve used digital ones which are great because they are instant read, but my favorite one in my drawer is actually from Sur la Table. I like it because it has a really large dial and is easy to read (easier than the digitals that I’ve used), clips on the side of the pot and is adjustable to for depth of pot, and is waterproof so I don’t have to worry about washing it carefully. I think it’s under $15 so it won’t break the bank.

  5. Aimee @ Simple Bites October 31, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    I kinda want to jump up and make these right now, Irvin. Thanks for giving us an amazing alternative to all the crappy-crap candy out there.

    • Irvin @ Eat the Love November 1, 2012 at 12:12 am #

      Yay! As I get older, and my taste buds get a little more “sophisticated” I find that I can’t really eat that crappy crap candy anymore. But I can easily scarf one or two of these without thinking…

  6. Becky October 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Wow!! These sound amazing. Maybe there’s still time to make these before tonight.

    • Irvin @ Eat the Love November 1, 2012 at 12:10 am #

      I’ll admit they are a bit time consuming to make because you have to let them chill in the fridge… BUT totally worth it!

  7. jacquie October 31, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    i had no idea that you could make nougat at home either. how very intriging and i would be interested in trying but my mixer doesn’t have a whip attachment. it is just a beatable old hand mixer – can one do it w/ that?

    • Irvin @ Eat the Love October 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      You should be able to do it with the beatable old hand mixer! The only problem is that it’s can be hard to juggle both the hand mixer and the hot maple syrup at the same time, as you sort of need to have the mixer on and working, as you add the maple syrup.

      If you’re coordinated though, here’s what you could do. Place the heatproof bowl with the egg whites on a silpat, silicon heat proof pad or a damp towel, to keep it from sliding around. Start beating the egg whites a little earlier than I suggest (maybe at 250?F) keeping an eye on the maple syrup so it doesn’t scorch or boil over. If you want to cheat a little, you can start even earlier, and add a touch of cream of tartar (technically not unprocessed, but just a pinch will do) to help keep the whipped egg whites stable.

      Then slowly drip the hot maple syrup with one hand, while mixing with the other on medium speed. Or drip a little bit of the syrup into the egg whites, whip, stop the mixer and drip a little more. The maple syrup might cool and get hard with this method, so you might need to heat it up a bit to loosen it on the stove.

      Or get a loved one to help you mix, while you pour or vice versa!

  8. Petra October 31, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Whoa, I had no idea you could make nougat at home! I think I always just thought it was some magical combination of high fructose corn syrup and fairy dust or something. I’m way to untalented to attempt something that requires a candy thermometer, but I’ll book mark it in case I have a rush of daring one of these days 🙂

    • Irvin @ Eat the Love October 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

      Yep! Most people don’t realize that nougat is totally doable at home. And yes commercially it is probably made with HFCS, but the nice thing about making it at home is that you can control what goes in it. I worked with maple syrup because it’s unprocessed, but most recipes at home call for white cane sugar and a little regular corn syrup. You can swap out the corn syrup for honey if you go that route.


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