Monday, October 17, 2016

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Chunks for Sukkoth

Sukkoth (Sukkot), the Jewish harvest festival, is upon us. I love this holiday where families gather and eat meals in a sukkoh. The word Sukkot means 'booths'--and refers to temporary dwellings. The sukkah (variations on the spelling) is great fun for children, as it is reminiscent of forts with an open top usually covered with vines or loose branches, cornstalks, or reeds--something that grew from the earth but was cut off. These are laid sparsely, so you can see the sky and stars. A sukkah has at least 2 1/2 walls covered with a material that will not blow away.

When I was very young, our neighbor and friend "Uncle Clyde" and his family always had a sukkoh in their small backyard. I would watch from our back porch...they were across the alley (a very wide alley through which horses and cars could pass--garages were on the alley) as he constructed the sukkah. Then we'd go there for food and drink and songs and fun. The sukkah was there for a full week. What an exciting time for a child. It was as close to camping as I came before I was 9.

Sukkoth is a Jewish harvest festival--the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) that begins on the 15th day of the month of Tishri and is celebrated for 9 days (8 if you're in Israel). Actually Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah that follow the festival are separate holidays but related to Sukkot so are commonly thought of as part of Sukkoth. Sukkoth celebrates the harvest, and it's a very joyous occasion. It is as historical as it is agricultural. Sukkoth commemorates the 40-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.

Since Sukkoth is primarily a harvest festival, though, I thought today's post would reflect fruits and nuts...and, of course, chocolate. Here's a great recipe adapted slightly from Epicurious. I've substituted a few different fruits and nuts, and you may want to experiment with some others. These Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chunks are perfect to eat in a Sukkoh.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Chunks

1 1/4 lb fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
Vegetable oil for greasing pan
2/3 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup salted roasted shelled pistachios (3 oz
2/3 cup salted roasted cashews or walnuts (3 oz)

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
While chocolate is melting, line bottom and sides of 8-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving  2-inch overhang, then lightly oil foil.
Remove chocolate from heat and stir in fruit and nuts, then spread evenly in baking pan. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Lift candy in foil from pan using overhang and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off foil and cut candy with a long heavy knife into 36 pieces.
Tip: If you have more time, chill  candy in refrigerator (instead of freezer) until firm, about 1 hour. 

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