Daring Bakers: Hazelnut Banana Nougat


The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.


My house smells so amazing right now!

You’re just going to have to take my word on that, though, since they have yet to invent smell-er-net or whatever. But seriously, it’s like toasted marshmallows (the good kind) without the bonfire smoke thanks to the various sugary components of this month’s confectionery challenge.

It’s been my experience, making candy in the south, that our biggest challenge is humidity and there’s something like a handful of clear, bright days where everything will work if you hold your mouth right. The rest of the year? Well, I remember making these sugar-dipped pear slices back at the Plantation as a garnish for Pear Clafoutis during the first few weeks there. It was, of course, summer in south Georgia and humid as all get out, and I had to store the slices in a plastic container with some powdered dehumidifying agent to try and keep them from going limp before the next dinner service.

I’ve made divinity at Christmas that I had to store in the freezer because it was the only way it would stay semi-solid. Pralines have crystallized in front of our very eyes. And more of the same. So it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that I put together the ingredients for the chocolate nougat, hoping I wouldn’t end up with a weepy, goopy mess.

I needn’t have worried. At least about it not setting.


Thanks to a random cold snap last night, we had pretty much perfect candy-making weather. And as I watched the sweet meringue whip around my stand mixer, letting it mix the 3-5 minutes to cool off a bit before adding the chocolate and other mix-ins, something strange happened. One moment it was silky smooth and belching steam like a locomotive, the next it developed that whipped look of the inside of a 3 Musketeers bar, and then–in the blink of an eye–turned to something much more choppy. Adding the chocolate didn’t smooth it out (maybe it would have, had I melted it, but that’s hindsight talking). Since the nuts and dried fruit originally called for in the recipe were either High-FODMAP or not Todd’s favorite, I used toasted hazelnuts and banana chips–sort of like Chunky Monkey meets 3 Musketeers.


Unfortunately, it stayed pretty crumbly. I managed to get a few decent-sized pieces for a picture but instead of neat little bricks they’re more like field stones, so the majority got put into an airtight jar. Despite its rugged appearance, it melts nice and smooth on the tongue, so it’s not crystallized or anything like that. I tried adding a little water to a bit of it, but that just melted it, so we’ll leave it crumbly.


Besides, this way it makes an amazing ice cream topping!

A Little Taste of the Crescent City


New Orleans Praline cocktail
It’s been a busy week here at Money Creek: 2 cocktails and 3 bottles of wine busy! But it was while creating one of my Character Cocktails for an upcoming product launch (they’re not just for people, you know) that I was struck with inspiration for this week’s Alphatini cocktial, the letter N.

And a good thing I did because I was drawing a pretty big blank, facing the second half of our alphabetical series. But inspiration was found and now I can’t see how I would have missed it.

For this one we’re going to take a little field trip to my favorite city in the USA: New Orleans. Not the city of my birth (though only an hour away) I always get this thrill of excitement when I see those wrought-iron balconies, narrow streets and iconic signs. The go-cups and Marie Laveau’s don’t hurt either. And it’s been far too many years since I’ve made it back to play tourist visit.

New Orleans isn’t short on flavors to savor, either: there’s the seafood delicacies, the spicy sauces, Cajun this, Creole that, and then there’s the desserts. It’s one of these desserts that became our mission to recreate: the Praline.

Pecans surrounded by a creamy, melt-in-your mouth candy. And candy? Is time consuming to make (not to mention dangerous: molten sugar and a better chance that the humidity will prevent it from setting properly). This cocktail? Gets the job done with a lot less trouble.

New Orleans Praline

1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/2 oz Frangelico
1/4 oz Butterschnapps
1 1/2 oz Cream Soda

Combine vodka and the liqueurs over ice and shake with a touch of the zydeco in your soul. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass while adding the cream soda.

There’s not a readily available pecan liqueur that I’m aware of, so we went with the smooth hazelnut liqueur instead. If you prefer, you could use amaretto but you might also need to add more vodka and soda to balance the stronger flavor of the almond liqueur. Either way you’ll end up with a rich, creamy, decadent cocktail that contains the essence of a praline without all the work.

New Ghirardelli LUXE Milk Chocolate


Have you heard? Those lovely chocolatiers, Ghirardelli, have come out with a new line: LUXE.

In clean, white packaging (these bags are paper instead of the traditional foiled-printed plastic) the banner touts what should be a reassuring label, “All Natural,” but what it really makes me wonder is–what wasn’t natural about the regular Ghirardelli we’ve been eating all these years?

In CVS, the other day, I happened upon a display that featured bags of both the LUXE line as well as a variety of classic squares. Unfortunately, of the unfilled variety they only had a dark chocolate (which showed no additives different than the LUXE line’s soy lecithin, a common emulsifier) and the rest were filled with various goos (tasty goos, as goos go, and I don’t make a habit of turning them down when offered). This made direct comparison of milk chocolate to milk chocolate impossible. The filled chocolates (caramel was the one I examined) did show corn syrup and other ingredients that some consider unnatural, but that’s just as likely to be from the filling as the chocolate (separating the components out would have helped).

Another unfortunate fact is that I’ve been unable to find a shred of nutritional data on Ghirardelli’s website, or even a complete ingredient list for each of their products–the individual packages give a mailing address to send off for the information.

So, what’s a girl to do? Luckily I had to go grocery shopping last night so I scouted every Ghirardelli package I could find, searching for the nasty un-naturals. Um, I don’t get it: I looked at dark chocolate squares, milk morsels, semi-sweet morsels and on down the line. The white chocolate baking chips did contain palm kernel oil, for what it’s worth, and the Vanilla Dream squares did have an extra preservative for the vanilla itself. Curious.

But how does the new line taste?

Ghirardelli LUXE Chocolate Samples

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a sample of each of the LUXE Classic Milk, Almond and Hazelnut chocolates. Todd and I gave them a thorough tasting the other night and this is what we thought:

Todd Jenn
Milk -Smooth
-Kind of different flavor compared to Hershey or Dove
-Definitely different, but that’s to be expected
Hazelnut -Nutty flavor
-Chocolate itself tastes different
-Nuts dominate (not necessarily a good thing)
-Very nutty
-Like a crunchy Nutella
-Chocolate really sticks to your teeth, doesn’t dissolve as quickly
Almond (Todd’s allergic to almonds so Jenn got this one all to herself) -Almond flavor is present (of course) but not overpowering
-Nuts seem to be more finely chopped than the hazelnuts were
-Flavors blend so well!

I’m not sure Todd would choose this version of Ghirardelli over the styles we’re used to but I absolutely loved the Almond flavor, enough to buy a bag at the store. At approximately $0.53 a piece, it’s an indulgence worthy of the name, but perhaps that’s as it should be.

Back to that whole ‘All Natural’ thing for a moment. If (as far as I can find) the current Ghirardelli chocolates are not all that un-natural, what’s the point of this new line? Is it lacking those fillings that require all the preservatives and syrups and so forth? Is there a difference in the chocolate itself? Maybe, there could be a formulation change but if ‘All Natural’ is what they’re selling, this sounds like an advertising gimmic and not a new, innovative product line.

What still concerns me is the lack of nutritional data and ingredient lists on the website. Sure, I found most of what I needed in the store but only because I was already planning on going–and it was hardly their entire product line. I shouldn’t have to send away for this data or do more than a few mouse-clicks on their site to find the information I required to fully evaluate this product.

As far as I can see, they have nothing to hide but the omission makes me suspicious. I would encourage (as much as one, lone blogger can) a company with as rich a history as Ghirardelli has, to consider updating their site to tell the consumer exactly what she needs to know.

You want your customers to think how great your product is, right? Not wondering what you’re not telling them.


As stated, I was provided 3 pieces of chocolate to sample and review. The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own except where expressly noted (seriously, do you think they would pay me to say what I just did?).