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Recipes for easy chocolate candies

These chocolate-coated clusters of nuts, pretzels, dried fruit and/or cereal are perfect for the holidays.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
Granola rochers.

Chocolate candies are practically a requirement around the holidays, but they needn’t be fancy. These chocolate-coated clusters of nuts, pretzels, dried fruit and/or cereal, a great idea lifted from Jacques Pepin’s PBS series More Fast Food My Way, are simple to prepare and make a nice homemade holiday gift or nibble. They’re called rochers (say ro-shay)  — meaning rocks or little boulders.

The combinations are limited only by your imagination — use small pieces of any nut, dried fruit, salty snack, or cereal that appeals. Go for the highest-quality chocolate you can; everything from dark chocolate through milk, or even white, chocolate works well.

To mix the rocher ingredients with the melted chocolate, use a heatproof flexible spatula. Try to scoop the mixture quickly, because the chocolate begins to stiffen as soon as it’s combined with other ingredients. And make sure the baking sheets fit in your fridge.

PRETZEL-PEANUT-RAISIN ROCHERS

Makes 24 to 30 1½- to 2-inch candies

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1½ cups ¼- to ½-inch broken pretzel pieces (about 4 ounces)

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¾ cup salted peanuts (about 4 ounces)

¾ cup raisins (about 4 ounces)

10 ounces chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the pretzel pieces, peanuts, and raisins; transfer half the mixture to a second bowl.

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In a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water over low heat (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water), melt the chocolate, stirring frequently with a heatproof flexible spatula, until fluid, smooth, and glossy, about 3½ minutes (you should have about 1 scant cup). Scrape half the chocolate into 1 bowl of the pretzel mixture and stir with the flexible spatula to mix well (leave the rest of the bowl of chocolate on the saucepan, and stir it occasionally.)

Working quickly, scoop scant tablespoons of the pretzel mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1½- to 2-inch rounds. Once all of the first batch of pretzel mixture has been used, combine the remaining melted chocolate and remaining pretzel mixture and repeat to scoop the second batch. Place the sheets in the refrigerator and chill until the chocolates are firm and set, at least 30 minutes. Serve (or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks).

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
TIP: For the Pretzel-Peanut-Raisin Rochers, pretzel sticks that are about ¼ inch thick work well, breaking down easily into nice-sized pieces, about ½ inch long, for the candy.

VARIATIONS

> Hazelnut-Dried Cherry Rochers

Makes 24 to 30 1 ½- to 2-inch candies

I particularly like the flavor of Trader Joe’s Unsweetened, Unsulfured Dried Bing Cherries here. The crisp rice cereal gives the candies extra texture and crunch, but you can omit it if you prefer, increasing the quantities of hazelnuts and dried cherries to 1½ cups each.

Follow directions for Pretzel-Peanut-Raisin Rochers, substituting 1½ cups crisp rice cereal (about 1½ ounces) for the pretzel pieces, ¾ cup roughly chopped lightly toasted hazelnuts (about 4 ounces) for the peanuts, and ¾ cup dried cherries (about 4 ounces) for the raisins.

> Granola Rochers

Makes 24 to 30 1 ½- to 2-inch candies

It doesn’t get any simpler than mixing granola — any flavor you like — with melted chocolate. The yield will depend somewhat on whether the granola is loose and granular or in larger clusters.

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Follow directions for Pretzel-Peanut-Raisin Rochers, substituting 3 cups granola for the pretzel pieces, peanuts, and raisins.

> Pecan Rocky Road Bites

Makes 24 to 30 1 ½- to 2-inch candies

Defined loosely, Rocky Road comprises chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts. I like pecans, but you can use any nut you choose. Briefly refrigerating the marshmallows is a hedge against them melting in the warm chocolate. Don’t add the melted chocolate to the chilled bowl, though, or it will seize.

Follow directions for Pretzel-Peanut-Raisin Rochers, making following changes:

1) Substitute 1½ cups mini marshmallows (about 3 ounces) for the pretzel pieces. Before melting the chocolate, place the marshmallows in a bowl and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.

2) Substitute 1½ cups pecan halves, lighted toasted, cooled, and chopped or broken into ¼- to ½-inch pieces (about 6 ounces), for the peanuts and raisins.

3) Proceed as directed, leaving the marshmallows for the second round of scooping in the fridge while working with the first batch.

> Chocolate-Dipped Crystallized Ginger

Makes 2 dozen 2-inch pieces

As a fiend for both ginger and chocolate (I like it dark in this case), this simple sweet is one of my all-time favorites. It’s particularly nice to serve after dinner.

I don’t bother trimming the ginger slices into a uniform size or shape, but you can if you’d like a more consistent appearance.

4 ounces dark chocolate chips or finely chopped dark chocolate

24 slices crystallized ginger, roughly 2 inches long (about 4 ounces)

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and set aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water over low heat (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water), melt the chocolate, stirring frequently with a heatproof flexible spatula, until fluid, smooth, and glossy, about 3½ minutes (you should have about a generous 1/3 cup).

Working quickly with 1 slice of ginger at a time, hold 1 end and dip the slice about half to two-thirds of the way into the chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl and set the slices on the parchment-lined baking sheet as you go. Place the sheet in the refrigerator and chill until the chocolate is firm and set, at least 30 minutes. Serve (or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks).

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.