Here we go, new year new recipe! I will not go through any ‘good intention list’ as we are already 9 days after new year’s eve and probably I am already late 😉 I have an aim for this 2014, though: to enjoy every day of it, without over analyzing, regretting or brooding over anything. 2013 taught me it ain’t worth it 🙂
So, back to my kitchen experiments, this time I tried to make an Italian traditional treat: Croccante. This word means ‘crunchy/crispy’ and self explains the main characteristic of this sweet! It is quite easy to make, but you have to pay attention while making the caramel…if it accidentally turns too brown (read burns!) the taste of your Croccante will be bitter. You can use almonds, hazelnuts or any other kind of nut you have. Either way, this crispy, sticky, crunchy sweetness will be the perfect treat when you don’t have time for a whole piece of cake!
– 2 cups hazelnuts (roasted)
– 1,5 cup almonds (roasted)
– 4,5 tbs honey
– 2/3 cup caster sugar
– lemon (optional)
- Pour sugar and honey into a saucepan and let melt over low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Sugar will melt completely up to become a beautiful blonde color: be careful it does not become dark. Meanwhile, coarsely chop almonds and hazelnuts.
- When sugar is ready, turn off the heat, and toss nuts into the saucepan, stirring continuously till they are well mixed .
- Immediately pour the mixture onto an oiled marble slab, or on a sheet of parchment paper placed on a baking sheet.
- Level the mixture well to give the desired thickness (I usually make it very thin, like no more than 0,25 inches) using a greased spatula or knife. If you life the aroma, you can press it down with a lemon cut in a half so that will unleash all its flavor.
- Let cool a few minutes and before it solidifies completely cut it into strips or bars with a large knife. Serve it after few hours or when it is completely cold
I have always had a love-hate relationship with French meringues. I am totally in love with their fluffy consistency, but hate to make them because one out of two times I mess them up! Luckily, I discovered a very useful article where the author (an Italian chemist) reveals all the secrets for a perfect result. You would say: ‘ A chemist???’. Yup! Cause cooking is chemistry (and love, and passion, and creativity). I translated few tips from the article that will make your meringues turn amazing (read below). To obtain a different flavor I added dessiccated coconut, which can be skipped if you prefer to have your meringues the tradional way. They match perfectly with a cup of hot chocolate and some whipped cream…oh so yummy!!!
– 2 egg whites
– 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs white sugar
– 2/3 cup dessiccated coconut*
– vanilla essence (optional)
- Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk on a low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium and whisk for another 2-3 minutes, or until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Then, while continuing to whisk, gradually add the sugar and dessiccated coconut (plus vanilla essence, if desired) a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is stiff and glossy – this may take 5-10 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and preheat oven 200 F. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip pipe the meringue into 1½-inch diameter cookies, spacing them about ½ inch apart. Bake meringues for 40-45 minutes (they don’t have to change colour becoming brown). Let the meringues cool down inside the oven, with the door slightly cracked.
Tips: To get the most volume from beaten egg whites, it’s best to start with whites at room temperature. Submerge them in their shells in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for about 5 minutes before using.
Copper, stainless-steel or glass bowls work best for making meringues. Avoid plastic bowls for whipping egg whites as they can often harbor traces of grease or fat, which prevents the whites from getting stiff.Do not add sugar before whipping the egg whites. Do not add any salt (even if some recipes call for it, just don’t!). Instead use cream of tartar or some lemon drops to obtain stiff peaks (acid components do that).
First thing first: The real Lady’s Kisses have nothing to do with cookies in the picture I posted. I come from the land where Baci di Dama (the Italian name for these cookies) were born and I can tell what I baked is nowhere near…:D
That said, the story of these Modified Lady’s Kisses started two days ago when a friend of mine told me last cookies I baked (Choco Almonds Horns) looked like the ones from a pastry shop. So I thought it would have been challenging to see if also my home made Lady’s Kisses would have looked as good. Between a thousand recipes I chose the one from Martha Stewart book ‘Cookies’…Yeah ok, I should have known better: it’s like asking an Italian to make Banana Bread or Carrot cake. But my unfailing trust in her made me think it was a good idea! I started whisking eggs whites, stirring cocoa, sugar and almonds…and then I thought: ‘Where’s the flour?…and BUTTER???!!!’. With my big surprise there was no butter in the recipe. No Sir. Not even a spoonful…I suddenly realized what I was baking sounded more like a meringue with some almonds in it. But I was already half way, so I decided to go on. I opted for a different filling to add a twist (and basically cause I had to kill those 10 strawberries I had in the fridge). Beside my personal odissey, I would say they turned out really good and matched perfectly with the strawberry cream cheese filling, but Lady’s Kisses are far cry from them. Never mind, I’ll try a different recipe soon!
For the cookies:
– 2 large egg whites
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
– 1 1/2 medium-finely ground blanched almonds
For the filling:
– 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
– 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 8-10 strawberries (or same weight in raspberries)
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Make cookies: Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until egg whites form stiff peaks . Add the sugar slowly; continue beating until egg whites are very thick, 2 to 3 minutes (adding a pinch of salt at the beggining usually helps to have a thicker result). Beat in cocoa until combined. Stir in almonds; mix until completely blended. Batter should be quite thick and sticky.
- Transfer to a heavy pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch sound tip (I used Ateco #846, but it is up to you). Pipe teaspoon-size, peaked mounds onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart.
- Bake until slightly cracked, 15-17 minutes, rotating sheers halfway through. Let cool on sheets several minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Make the filling: Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Soften cream cheese beating. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.
- Chop strawberryes and fold them in to the cream cheese. Gently stir them with a spatula.
- Turn half the cookies over, bottom side up; dollop each with about 1 teaspoon chilled cream-cheese filling. Top with remaining cookies, pressing gently to spread filling to edges.
Yesterday I went to the bookshop and, as always, I spent 30 minutes on the cook books isle! (I should dedicate a whole post to my cookbooks addiction and I will, here soon). I was debated to buy a book about Macarons, but I ended up thinking 25€ were a bit too much for a book which only had one recipe inside. Anways…On the way home I started craving some cookies (starring at treats pictures for hours did not help, really!), so I decided to bake something with almonds. That is why I made these wonderful Almonds Horns, to which I added a twist covering the ends with chocolate. I forgot Macarons really quickly, as they turned out fantastic!!
– 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
– 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting
– 1 large egg
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
– 1 cup almond flour
– 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped for covering
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
- Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and extracts. Reduce speed to low. Mix in flour mixture and almonds until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into a 4-inch log; gently shape into a horseshoe. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment.
- Bake cookies (rotating sheets halfway through) until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks using a spatula; let cool completely.
- Place chocolate in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave in 30-second increments until melted, about 2 minutes.
- Working with 1 cookie at a time, place ends into melted chocolate and turn to coat. Lift cookie from bowl, letting excess chocolate drip off. Transfer to a wire rack or on a baking sheet. Wait until chocolate hardens (if you want to speed up the process you can put cookies in the refrigerator, about 10 minutes).
- Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature 2 to 3 days.
A couple of days ago I was doing the shopping and I found the biggest chocolate chips ever. In Italy we have small ones (we call them gocce – drops, as they are really tiny). It goes without saying I had to make chocolate chip cookies! Usually, when i don’t have the right kind of chocolate chips, I use chopped dark chocolate and it works as well. But this time…Omg, the cookies turned out great!
Between a thousand recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies I choose one from Martha Stewart’s book ‘Cookies’ my baby gave me (I love him also cause he perfectly knows a book like that makes me happier than anything else). It’s not the traditional recipe, as it’s rather cakey than chewy. But I definitely love it!
CAKEY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Prep Time: 10 min Baking Time: 10-12 min
To make about 36 cookies
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Bake until cookies are golden around the edges and set in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.