cookie kisses: chocolate hazelnut baci

chocolate-hazelnut-baci-cookies-recipe

I think the first time I tasted the perfect-for-each-other combination of chocolate and hazelnuts was at my grandmother’s house. It was probably around the holiday season, where I’d find pretty little boxes of Italian sweets like torrone and bowls of multicolored foil milk chocolates to explore.

I unwrapped what looked to me like a Hershey’s chocolate kiss and popped it into my mouth, only to be surprised that the crunchy nut under the chocolate shell wasn’t a peanut – as in an M & M – and the creamy nougat was unlike the inside of my favorite 3 Musketeers candy bar.

That was my introduction to Baci, the Italian chocolate kiss made by Perugina., and I fell right then and there. I learned that Baci were a special treat, and hard to find if it wasn’t Christmas or Valentine’s day. I had to grow up before I discovered Nutella was what European kids had on their sandwiches instead of peanut butter and jelly -really?! By then I was ready and waiting for anything with the flavor combo of chocolate and hazelnuts, also known as gianduja.

chocolate-meringue-kisses-recipe chocolate-hazelnut-baci-cookies-recipe

I have to confess that these days I find Nutella is a bit too sweet, and not as deep, dark and chocolately as I want. It must be that this 90 percent dark chocolate I’ve grown to like has changed my tolerance level; it has so little sugar that all you taste is the roasted complex notes of pure chocolate.

You can find the combination just about everywhere now – even Jif is marketing a version. I like to make homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread - it doesn’t much resemble the commercially made kind. It’s a bit rustic with its tiny bits of hazelnuts, but so rich in flavor it’s like tasting the essence of the ingredients.

chocolate-hazelnut-baci

I love looking at the food blog What Katie Ate, and her post on Chocolate Ganache Meringue Kisses inspired me to make baci, remembering my first Italian kiss.

chocolate-hazelnut-baci-meringue-kiss-recipe

cookie kisses: chocolate hazelnut baci

Yield: about 1 dozen baci

Ingredients

  1. ½ cup granulated sugar
  2. 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  3. 2 egg whites
  4. 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  5. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 cup homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread or prepared spread such as Nutella

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees and arrange an oven rack in the middle of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the sugar and cocoa in a bowl.
  3. Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  4. Gradually sprinkle the sugar mixture into the egg whites at medium-high speed, then continue to beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy; 2 – 3 minutes.
  5. Scoop and drop the meringue in small blobs onto the baking sheets 1 inch apart, using (1-1/2 –inch) cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons.
  6. Bake about 1 hour, or until the cookies are no longer tacky, but feel dry and firm to the touch. If necessary, lower the oven temperature to keep them from browning.
  7. Turn off the oven, prop the door open and cool the cookies for at least 30 minutes. Peel the cookies off the paper.
  8. Spread one cookie with some chocolate hazelnut spread and sandwich with another; repeat until all the cookies are matched. Any odd cookies are the baker’s treat.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/cookie-kisses-chocolate-hazelnut-baci/

chocolate semifreddo

chocolate semifreddo

Semifreddo – literally “half-cold” in Italian – is a dessert with varied interpretations. Basically it’s a creamy frozen mousse, sometimes layered with sponge cake or cookies and sometimes flavored with nuts or fresh fruit.

Making semifreddo forges a lazy path to homemade ice cream; all the benefits of a gelato or frozen custard without hauling out the old ice cream maker.

chocolate-semifreddo-recipe

Well… not so much lazy as it is a savvy shortcut. Because while there is no churning involved in the making of this recipe, there is some melting (chocolate), whipping (cream) and folding (together) that needs to be done.

chocolate semifreddo familystyle food

Typically, a semifreddo is set in a loaf pan or deep dish and sliced or scooped family-style for serving.

In honor of the Valentine’s Day tradition of shared desserts (how sweet), I molded this semifreddo in mini springform pans, which makes a nice serving portion for two. Using a springform pan makes it simple to unmold, but a regular 8-inch pan works perfectly, too.

chocolate-semifreddo-dessert-recipe

chocolate semifreddo

Serving Size: makes 8 servings

Each 4-inch dessert is the perfect size for sharing with another. If you have some warm chocolate sauce on hand, feel free to gild the lily.

Ingredients

    For crust:
  1. 30 chocolate wafer cookies
  2. ¾ cup sugar
  3. ¼ teaspoon salt
  4. 6 tablespoons melted butter
  5. For filling:
  6. 2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup sugar
  7. 4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  8. 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  9. 4 egg yolks *
  10. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  11. ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
  12. Chocolate shavings and freshly whipped cream to garnish

Instructions

  1. Make crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the cookies, sugar and salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is moistened and holds together when you pinch it. Press about 2 tablespoons crumbs onto the bottoms of each of four 4 x 1 ¾-inch mini springform pans (or use one 8 – inch springform pan). Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake 5 minutes.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the water simmers and sugar is dissolved; add the chocolate and cocoa off the heat and stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and cool 10 minutes.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar with an electric mixer and the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until light colored and thickened enough to form a ribbon, about 5 minutes. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate until evenly blended.
  4. Wash the mixer bowl; add the cream and mascarpone and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Divide the mixture among the 4 pans (or, if using one 8 – inch pan, scrape it all in).
  6. Cover pans with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours or overnight
  7. Remove semifreddo from the freezer 15 – 30 minutes before serving, depending on how firm it is. Unmold and serve with some whipped cream and chocolate shavings over the top, if you like.

Notes

Inspired by a recipe in Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma

* The egg yolks in the recipe are not cooked; you can use pasteurized eggs if you have concerns about using raw eggs.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/chocolate-semifreddo/

dark chocolate biscotti

Dark chocolate biscotti

These last few days of the year are ones I look forward to most; when we can unplug from our usual routine and just focus on relaxing with family. To me that means lots of cooking, feasting, wine-drinking and wood fires in the fireplace. But it can be hard not to get caught up in all that holiday scurrying – shopping, wrapping, decorating…I find myself wondering Am I done yet?

I managed to accomplish some holiday baking this year, and somehow it turned out there wasn’t enough chocolate in the assortment. These biscotti seemed like the missing link. It helps that biscotti are the perfect cookie for packing up in bags for last minute gifts because they’re not fragile or fussy.

The biscotti recipes I like best use butter. Some traditional biscotti are made without it, but I think they can be tooth-breaking hard. The ones here have a nice ratio of crunch, chew and deep chocolate flavor.

I chopped some extra chunks of chocolate to melt and drizzle over the biscotti, and I sprinkled a little flaky sea salt over some of them, too.

Dark chocolate biscotti

Dark chocolate biscotti

Yield: about 30 biscotti

Keep the biscotti in a covered container for up to a week.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. ½ cup cocoa powder
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 2 eggs
  8. ¾ cup dark chocolate baking chunks or chips

Instructions

  1. Arrange baking racks to the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  4. Beat the butter in an electric mixer until fluffy; add the sugar and mix at high speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl if needed, then beat in the eggs. Lower the mixer speed to stir in the flour mixture and mix until just combined; stir in the chocolate chunks.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half on a lightly floured counter into a log about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. Arrange the logs on the baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
  6. Bake 30 - 40 minutes, until the logs are firm to the touch. Cool on a rack 10 minutes.
  7. With a large, sharp knife, slice each log into ¾-inch wide slices on a slight diagonal and put them cut side down on the baking sheet.
  8. Lower oven to 325 degrees. Bake 5 minutes, then gently turn the biscotti unto the other cut side and bake for another 5 minutes.
  9. The biscotti are great plain or dip them into some chopped, melted chocolate if you like.

Notes

Based on a recipe from Gourmet magazine

http://familystylefood.com/2012/12/dark-chocolate-biscotti/