MAPLE WALNUT CHOCOLATE CUPS WITH SEA SALT

maple walnut chocolate cups (vegan) - The First Mess
Chocolate has a serious hold on my heart all year, but lately it feels like a love for the ages. This is mostly to say that I can’t seem to stop it from being around me at all times. Snow flies, we’re in the thick of December, treats abound. Love has proven to be a dangerous and rather heady thing across the entirety of existence and yet, oh weird, there’s my fingers getting to work on another sparkly wrapper. Love and excess is perhaps a more relevant, still timeless, pairing that I’ll accept for the moment. It’s too real and never enough.

So to keep that whole gravely serious thing going I made a very seriously delicious thing. Chocolate cups with tasty fillings are nothing new, I realize. My little version here is pretty wholesome and crazy rich though. It’s vegan appropriate and a very simple gluten-free-friendly adjustment can be made. This combination was a bit of an experiment for me and it worked out so pleasantly. The vanilla, walnut + bourbon butter is a touch intense on its own, but in a sweet little chocolate case it’s perfect. Happy sparkles of vanilla bean-flecked fleur de sel grace the tops and the world feels right.

This recipe is easy and highly adjustable. You can swap the walnuts with any nut or seed you like. I use some graham cracker crumbs for body in the filling, but they aren’t necessary at all. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you could stir the maple syrup, coconut oil, bourbon etc into some store-bought nut butter for total ease. I’ll be toting these to any holiday gathering I find myself at for sure. Hope you’re all still enjoying this lovely season of warmth and togetherness. If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to my favourite sort-of-Christmas-y-but-not-actually-a-Christmas-album and passing out on the couch from way too much chocolate/love :)

Oh, and another lovely thing: the holiday/winter issue of FoodieCrush Magazine is out! I have a recipe for a sticky and wonderful demerara sugar and vanilla breakfast bundt inside along with a little story on our holiday traditions. This beautiful publication is full to the brim with great recipes and content by some seriously talented bloggers (and it’s free!). Check it out here.

MAPLE WALNUT CHOCOLATE CUPS WITH SEA SALT
Print the recipe here!
SERVES: makes around 20 small/mini cups
NOTES: It’s good to grind up the walnuts and make a walnut butter base before you add the maple syrup and everything else. Nuts/seeds tend to zap the moisture out of everything around them when they’re getting ground into things. Also, I would make up the walnut butter right before you intend to assemble the cups to avoid any oil separating issues.

1.5 cups walnut halves, toasted
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, divided
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (use a GF brand or leave them out if need be)
1 tbsp bourbon or other brown liquor of choice (very optional)
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips/pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk of your choice (I went with almond)
pinches of fleur de sel or other nice salt

Make the walnut filling:  Place the toasted walnut halves and half of the vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop the nuts up small. Turn the food processor on to high and process nuts and vanilla until a smooth paste begins to form, about one to two full minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and process again. Add the graham cracker crumbs and pulse a couple times. Then, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, bourbon and a pinch of salt. Process on high until fully combined. Scrape walnut butter into a small bowl and set aside.

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fleur de sel with the remaining vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl/vessel. Pinch the salt and seeds together until the little black flecks are evenly mixed up with the salt. Set aside.

Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and milk in a non-reactive bowl. Set the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water in the saucepan). Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is totally melted and you have a smooth, homogenous mixture.

Assemble: Set out 20 or so small paper cup liners (or 10 big ones). Divide half of the melted chocolate amongst the liners. Drop heaped teaspoons of the walnut butter into the center of the first layer of chocolate. If you have the cups in an actual muffin tin for assembling, bang and twist the pan on the table to settle the initial layers. Pour the remaining melted chocolate on top of the walnut butter layer. Sprinkle cups with vanilla bean fleur de sel. Place cups in the fridge to set.

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