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/

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/

rosemary Lemon Polenta Cookies

Rosemary lemon polenta cookies
My go-to holiday cookie recipes are the ones that are the most unfussy. As much as I tend to be all hands-on in the kitchen, I possess a serious lack of patience when it comes to decorating food. Especially cookies, cakes and other sweet things- it’s just not my style. People who can spend hours on the finer details of beautiful desserts – I am in awe of them.

I’m pretty sure that same impatience gene seeps into other aspects of my life, but I’ll skip that story for now. All I can say is that yoga breathing is something I’m grateful to know and practice. Even with those deep breaths going in and out, I don’t see a future designing wedding cakes.

However, I do love to share some baking during the holidays and that’s why these cookies are a favorite. They have that rustic crunch from the cornmeal, an amazing lemon scent and a hit of piney-fresh rosemary.

Rosemary lemon polenta cookies

Rosemary Lemon Polenta Cookies

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  1. 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  2. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  4. 2 eggs, at room temperature
  5. ¼ teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
  6. 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  7. ¾ cup coarse ground cornmeal (polenta)
  8. 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  9. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  10. ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  11. ¼ cup pinenuts, plus extra for garnish
  12. Glaze:
  13. 1 cup powdered sugar
  14. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  15. 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter and sugar in a standing mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium high speed. Add the lemon zest and the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Stir in the lemon extract, if using.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, rosemary, baking powder and salt in a bowl until blended together.
  3. Add the dry mixture to the butter on low speed in 2 parts, just until the dough comes together. Stir in the pine nuts. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or two, until the dough is firm and scoopable.
  4. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Scoop the dough into tablespoon-sized balls (I like to use a cookie scoop) and arrange on the cookie sheets.
  6. Bake 12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and slightly golden on the edges. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, cream and lemon juice until smooth. Spread some glaze on each cookie; put a few rosemary sprigs and a pine nut on the top.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/12/rosemary-lemon-polenta-cookies/