Also known as dragées or givrettes, these addictive French confections are toasted almonds that are coated in caramelized sugar and then tossed in chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar. I make them every year around the holidays, and I have always tempered the chocolate before coating the almonds, but I realize that the extra step of tempering chocolate may be off-putting for busy home cooks. So, I decided to skip the tempering and just used melted chocolate, and I’m thrilled to say that they turned out perfectly! These almonds make wonderful gifts, by the way – pack them in small, clear cello bags and tie the top with a bright red or green ribbon.
Makes about 1 ½ pounds
- 2 cups (300 grams) whole blanched almonds (unblanched will work too, but blanched are better)*
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (59 grams) water
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/3 cup (37 grams) alkalized (Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (102 grams) confectioners’ sugar, divided
*Note: If you can’t find blanched almonds, you can blanch them yourself. Bring a pot of water to a boil; add the almonds and set a timer for 1 minute. Drain the almonds and rinse with cold water to cool them down. Squeeze each almond to remove the skin.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚ Scatter the almonds on a baking sheet and roast for 8 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the almonds completely.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, water and cream of tartar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the nuts and stir to coat them evenly with the syrup. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon – after several minutes, the sugar will crystallize and turn sandy. Then, as you continue to stir, the sugar crystals will remelt and liquefy, gradually turning to a golden-brown caramel. When all of the sandy sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, then stir until the butter is melted.
- Carefully spread the caramelized nuts onto the prepared baking sheet – they will be extremely hot – trying to separate the nuts as much as possible with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Then use two forks to further separate the nuts. Let the nuts cool completely (if your baking sheet fits in the freezer, you can freeze the nuts until they are cool).
- When cool, break up any remaining clusters of nuts with your hands. Place the nuts in a bowl and place the bowl in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.
- You can either melt the chocolate on the stove or in a microwave. For the stove, fill a medium saucepan one-third of the way with water and bring to a simmer. Put the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and place the bowl over the pot of water. Turn the heat off and allow to stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is two-thirds melted. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted. For the microwave, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on 30% power for 30 seconds. Stir well and continue to microwave in 30-second intervals until chocolate is about two-thirds melted. Stir until it is completely melted and smooth.
- Remove the nuts from the freezer. Pour one-third of the melted chocolate over the nuts and, using a rubber spatula, quickly stir the nuts to coat them. Refrigerate the nuts until the chocolate has hardened, about 10 minutes. Drizzle another third of the remaining chocolate over the nuts while continuing to stir, coating them evenly. Refrigerate the nuts until the chocolate hardens, about 10 minutes. Pour the remaining melted chocolate over the nuts and stir to coat. Refrigerate the nuts until the chocolate is set, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the nuts from the refrigerator and break them apart with your hands (if you have food service gloves, now’s the time to use them). Sift the cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners’ sugar over the nuts in the bowl and, using your hands (this is where things get messy – if you happen to have food-service gloves on hand, now’s a good time to wear them!), toss them until they are coated with cocoa powder (break up any remaining clumps of nuts at the same time). Working with small batches, transfer the nuts to a fine-mesh sieve and shake them to remove any excess cocoa powder, transferring them to a bowl or the prepared baking sheet as you go.
- Place ½ cup (48 grams) of the remaining confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and add half the nuts, tossing to coat them well. Place them in the sieve over the bowl and shake to remove excess sugar. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining nuts and the remaining ½ cup (48 grams) confectioners’ sugar. Store the nuts in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 2 weeks.