A big batch of these sweet treats is easy to make in your slow cooker. The portion-controlled bites are hard to resist…and perfect for sharing!
Amidst all of the goodies we enjoy throughout the holiday season, there’s a special delivery that stands out from all the rest. It’s a cookie care package sent by Cindy, a long-time colleague of my husband, who lives and works in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
I can only imagine the time Cindy spends on her holiday care packages. Once the final touches are put on her popular assortment of cookies, candy, and spiced nuts, Cindy carefully packages them in festive boxes and tins to ensure a safe long-distance delivery.
This year, I stowed one of the boxes in the far reaches of the refrigerator in an attempt to—I admit this somewhat sheepishly—have it all to myself. Apparently, no corner of the refrigerator is safe in our house, because my effort failed miserably!
Ostensibly, this box contained basic chocolate peanut clusters, but the first bite told me that they were more than the sum of two simple parts. Plain old peanuts and chocolate are certainly tasty enough, but these offered something more.
When I thanked Cindy, I inquired about these crunchy clusters with their salty-sweet appeal. There were, in fact, a few other key ingredients in these mouth-watering treats. Yet the recipe was easy and conveniently incorporated a slow cooker in lieu of a double boiler, making the initial step hands off.
Cindy found her original recipe, which we both modified slightly, in the 2014 Wisconsin Energies Cookie Book. Cindy makes the chocolates throughout the year, changing the muffin liners to suit the holiday, and says they are always a hit.
I couldn’t agree more. As someone who can be a bit too heavy handed when it comes to dishing out dessert, I also appreciate the built-in portion control. One of these clusters truly satisfies a sweet tooth.
- 2 (16-ounce) jars dry roasted peanuts (you won’t use the entire second container)
- 1 (12-ounce bag) dark chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli or Guittard)
- 1 (4-ounce) bar semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped or broken (like Hershey’s or Baker)
- 1 (24-ounce) package chocolate almond bark or melting chocolate (see notes*)
- Coarse sea salt
1. Place 4 1/2 to 5 cups of the peanuts in a 6-quart slow cooker.** (Cindy always uses the whole first jar of peanuts and between 1/2 and 2/3 of the second. There are roughly 3 cups of peanuts per jar, and I used 4 1/2 cups of peanuts.) Layer the remaining ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the mixture and cook 10-20 minutes more or until everything is just melted. (Avoid letting the chocolate cook too long. Even on low, a slow cooker can scorch chocolate if left too long.)
2. Using a spoon or small- to medium-size cookie scoop, scoop mounds of the clusters into paper-lined miniature muffin tins. (See tip.) Sprinkle very lightly with the sea salt. Allow to sit at room temperature until completely set, 1 to 2 hours. The clusters can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. They also freeze very well.
- * Cindy uses vanilla or chocolate “almond bark,” which doesn’t actually have almonds in it. Melting chocolate is a good substitute. You may use white, milk, or semi-sweet– or a combination of–melting chocolate. (In this batch, I used half semi-sweet and half white chocolate melting wafers.)
- **If you don’t have a slow cooker or simply prefer to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate mixture, I would recommend cutting the recipe in half. As written, the recipe is too large for most double boilers.
- Tip: You can purchase sturdy foil liners that don’t require a muffin tin, but the tin does help to support the candies and maintain their shape. I have one 24-count mini muffin tin. Once I filled it, I put it in the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate more quickly, leaving the remaining mixture in the turned-off slow cooker with the lid on. When the chocolate became too firm to easily scoop by the third tin refill, I turned the cooker on low for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
I’ve made these a few times and followed the recipe exactly, they are delicious every time. However, I just made a batch for my bestie who isn’t a dark chocolate fan and loves raisins. I used milk chocolate melting wafers, 4 cups of peanuts, and 1 cup of raisins. A sweeter twist, but just as delicious. Thanks as always for you delicious and doable recips!
Trudy, I’m so glad this recipe has served you well, and I like your most recent adaptation. The adjustments sound terrific, and I’m sure your friend was delighted to receive such a thoughtful gift!
Can you use slow cooker liners for this recipe for easy cleanup? Does this recipe fill a 6 qt. Crock pot? Mine is 5 qts. at most.
Linda, I don’t use the liners but I don’t see why you couldn’t. Also, you should have more than enough room in a 4- to 5-quart cooker. Mine is a 6-quart model, and as you can see in the photos, there is room to spare. Enjoy!
So glad I came across this recipe. I’ve made it for the past two years, and went looking for it in my archives. Couldn’t find it. Maybe the WE Energy website has it, but now I don’t need to worry. Again, thanks.
I’m so happy you found it again, too, Pat. It is a good one! 🙂
What’s the sea salt for? And how do I use it do I mix it in w all other ingredients.
Hi Kelly, In step #2 the recipe mentions sprinkling the clusters very lightly with sea salt. It adds a nice salty-sweet component at the end.
Can you just spoon the clusters out onto waxed paper & not use the paper cups?
You could try, Linda, but they may spread a little more than you’d like. As an option, you could pour into a parchment- or foil-lined baking pan to the thickness desired (adjust pan size and use more than one accordingly–I’m thinking a half sheet pan might even be perfect if you have one). Chill until firm and then allow to sit at room temperature a few minutes before cutting. I haven’t used this method with this recipe but have done so with similar bark recipes, so I think it would work well.
I did that last year and it worked out fine!
Good to know. Thanks, Nikki!
I made these last year and they were a huge hit! I am sure it is the variety of chocolates that deepens the flavor. Thanks for the reminder to make them again.
I always think of these around Valentine’s Day, Trudy, although they taste great all year round…which makes me especially grateful for the built-in portion control!
I made them and they were a hit. Thanks so much.
Awesome news, Edie!
This candy was so easy to make and a hit with everyone I shared it with. I made it exactly as Ann did with the mix of white and dark chocolate. It had a nice depth of flavor and when cooled the chocolate was on the creamy side – not hard. I picked up pink Himalayan sea salt and it looked festive on top. I used nuts I had on hand which was mostly roasted peanuts but I had to add some cashews to make up the total weight needed and that worked well. I’ll make this again and will experiment with different nuts. Thank you Ann for this delicious recipe.
Thank you for the terrific feedback, Elaine. I’m so glad these were a hit with all who tried!
Ooooh! These are so worth the calories! I am taking them to work tomorrow, I’ll bet they disappear fast 🙂
I agree on both counts! So glad you like, Trudy!
3 years later and I am still making them for Valentine’s Day!
So happy to read this!!
Still a go-to treat! I put them in the staff lounge with a Happy Holidays card and forego individual gifts. Love the hands-off slow cooker option!
It’s so nice when a recipe stands the test of time and you can dependably return to it. I bet your coworkers have come to look forward to this treat!
I just made these last night (made sure I had all the ingredients before the snow hit) and — WOW! Thank you, Ann (and Cindy) for sharing this. 🙂 And Happy February Birthdays to Jack and Christian!
Way to be prepared, Rila, and so glad you share our fondness for these treats! Thanks also for remembering our February birthdays. It’s hard to believe my “baby” turns 14 tomorrow!
Ann, your new website looks fantastic. Thanks for pouring your energy, creativity, and love of food into this place where all of us can partake. We’re all blessed by you! I really look forward to trying this chocolate recipe and had a question about the almond bark (that doesn’t have almonds in it). I’m guessing that it’s called that because of almond extract? If so, would you recommend putting a little bit of almond extract in with the chocolate mixture?
Chocolate bark is a name for melting chocolate that’s sold in a rectangular package, although coincidentally, I never saw it here until last week. Most of our local store sell the melting chocolate wafters, which are interchangeable with melting chocolate. Despite the fact that almond is in the name, there are no almonds in there! So there’s no need to add extract. I hope that clarifies. Please let me know if you have any more questions…and thank you for your very thoughtful comments!
Thank you, Ann. This is really helpful!
Going to try this very soon-I gave up butter, bacon and beef for Lent, but not chocolate-and I am pondering variations. All dark chocolate, of course. Pecans, perhaps? A dollop of caramel sauce or half a vanilla caramel in the bottom of the cup? Goodness. Fun times ahead.
I love your way of thinking, Carol…enjoy!
Ann – how lovely your candy looks and such a nice gift for Valentines Day! I will try these with the white chocolate wafers since I have not tried that variation. You don’t realize how wonderful all the different types of chocolate are together until you try them and experience the depth of flavors. Thank you for making and sharing one of my favorite recipes!
If you only knew how many of these I have eaten, Cindy, savoring every last morsel. Thank you again for generously sharing the recipe!
They look yummy, I need to go buy some little paper liners!
I love the new “search” box you have incorporated, it makes finding things much more efficient.
I’m really glad, Trudy. My hope was to the searching a bit easier…and yes, do buy those liners soon!
Could we also use macadamia nuts halved too?
If you love them, why not? 🙂
This recipe sounds great and much cheaper than buying these in a chocolate store! Can we use cashew nuts or pistachio nuts and if yes, should we half them so they are smaller?
Seriously, I am forever grateful to Cindy for first sharing these with me…they are THAT good! I’ve only made them with dry roasted peanuts, which definitely contribute something uniquely special. That said, you could absolutely try the recipe with a variety of nuts. Both of your suggestions could really be delicious. I think I would still use salted nuts. Chopping them into smaller pieces would be a matter of personal preference. If you do chop them, I would avoid stirring in too many crumbs. Hope that helps, and feel free to report back!
Yes Ann, when I said I would make them smaller, it was in relation to how big a peanut is, so they will not be made smaller than being halved. Thanks for your two comments. Your new look is very refreshing and you have made it easier to find recipes…oh and did I say that I think your recipes are so fantastic…so much appreciated!:)
Thank you…and enjoy! ♥
Love the new look! Love the recipe!
Thanks, Lee…and they are soooo good!
I assume the sea salt should be sprinkled on immediately after putting the mixture in the muffin cups? Thanks! I love the new look!
Thank you for noticing my omission, Maryellen. You are right, and I just inserted that final step in the recipe. Thanks for noticing the new look, too! 🙂