Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Better Than Payard - Pecan and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Mendiants

No need to order from Payard, although their marzipan cookies are unbelievable and available through Gilt Taste, because you can make fabulous chocolates at home in minutes with your favorite toppings. Customize these for a gift with the specific nuts or fruits the recipient loves. Heidi F. shared her recipe with me after I went gaga for her pecan and sea salt chocolates along with every other guest at a birthday dinner. They turned out delicious on my first try.

A mendiant is a traditional confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and/or fruits. You can make mendiants with this recipe or regular chocolates with nuts inside, as pictured above. In either case, I think the sea salt really sets these apart so be sure to sprinkle it on before the chocolate is fully hardened. Every ingredient should be top quality because each can be tasted individually in the final confection.

Toast chopped pecans on a frying pan with sugar to taste and a thick pat of unsalted butter until the sugars are a bit carmelized. I used fresh raw Texan pecans found bulk in Whole Foods, Zulka pure unrefined cane sugar, and unsalted European style Straus organic butter. For those wanting a healthier alternative, eliminate or minimize the butter and sugar.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set atop a pot of nearly-boiling water.  I used 70% dark Venezuelan El Rey Gran Saman chocolate  available in bulk at the Whole Foods in Potrero, SF. If you temper the chocolate properly, it will have a glossy finish when cooled, won't melt in your fingers as readily, and will have a crisp snap. I didn't do it 'properly' but so what, who cares...it was delicious anyway. ;p

Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper or Silpat. Spoon the melted chocolate over little piles of your pecan mixture, or for mendiants - put down the chocolate first and sprinkle the nuts on top. Don't forget to sprinkle a touch of sea salt crystals on top; I ground up Sosalt brand coarse sea salt crystals and sprinkled it onto the chocolate, not the pecans, so it would hit the tongue first. Refrigerate the cookie sheet to allow the chocolate to harden for about 60 minutes. Enjoy!

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