I grew up in Michigan, the child of typical midwesterners. My Dad is oft to say pithy things like, “California is the land of fruits and nuts,” and “Ann Arbor is a little piece of California right here in the midwest.” Naturally such statements piqued my interest. So I attended university in Ann Arbor, and shortly after graduation, I moved to California. Because if there’s two things I like, it’s fruits and nuts (in all connotations of both). And it turns out that “old dad” was right.
When I got here I spent an entire year being perpetually cold to the bone. It was strange, but true. My t’ai chi teacher recommended that I discontinue eating any raw food. That helped a lot. So I spent my first year in California snacking on dried fruits and nuts. During that time I discovered what I still consider to be the ideal fruit and nut pairing: roasted almonds and golden raisins.
A couple years ago I started making treats for all the people who help me get through my days as a new mom. I got all sorts of ideas online. I’m coming up on year three and while I really want to continue the tradition, this year my resources are a bit limited. So I realized that I’d have to pick just one of my tastily selections to prepare and share. Given that I’m pretty sure my California Turtles are an original idea and my personal favorite, it seemed obvious which one I should pick. I love these candies because when I get them just right, the flavors balance beautifully. The chewy sweet raisins are caramelesque but nutritious too. The goodness of almonds and dark chocolate are self-evident, I think.
I’m pretty loose when it comes to making things and this year was no exception. Some of the almonds got a little too roasted. And most of the turtles were too chocolatey since I opted to use mini cupcake papers and that threw off my proportions. Also, I used regular raisins since the golden ones were from China and given that I live right here in the land of fruits and nuts, purchasing fruits from a distant continent seems superfluous among other things. I’m sure that folks will make do with the result (and so far these little tasty treats have indeed been well-received). Besides, the fact that they were homemade with lots of love and the Brandenburg Concertos playing in the background must count for something.
Here’s How I Make Them
First I soak the almonds to break down the phytic acid and dehydrate them. Then I roast them. Then I melt chocolate along with the scrapings of two vanilla beans in a double boiler while I make little piles of three almonds. When I add the raisins the almonds scatter which makes me realize that I should put them in little cupcake papers. This contains everything, but somehow gives me the idea that I should put more chocolate than the usual just-enough to keep the little pile together. I set the candies in the fridge. Then I wrap them up and deliver them with a smile (and most likely some sort of explanation about their many imperfections). I regret not sprinkling a bit of celtic sea salt on each candy, but I was out of time…next year perhaps? Within twenty-four hours, I recall that I have three candy mold sheets that would probably have been perfect for holding the little clusters of fruits and nuts so that I can retain the circumstances that encourage the proper balance of all three flavors that make these California Turtles the perfect homemade confection.