Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 Holiday Party: Chocolate Kisses

Another successful sweet treat from our holiday party were the chocolate kisses cookies from the cookbook Dolce Italiano by Gina De Palma (who has worked as an executive pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo). These took some work due to the multi-step process, but were definitely worth it, since the end result is both delicious and good-looking. Lucullian Delights profiled this recipe with beautiful pictures, but here's my attempt and the recipe again (in volume measurements only).

Chocolate Kisses (Baci alla Cioccolata)
Adapted from Dolce Italiano

For the cookies:

½ cup blanched almonds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum

For the ganache filling:

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dark rum, grappa, cognac, or your favorite liqueur (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are light golden brown and fragrant, 14 to 16 minutes. (It took me less than that in my usually too-hot oven, probably 10-12 minutes). Remove the almonds from the oven and turn off the oven until you are ready to form the cookies. Allow the almonds to cool completely, then grind them in a food processor with the 1 tablespoon sugar until they are finely chopped.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used my handheld mixer), beat together the butter and confectioners' sugar on medium speed until creamy and light, about 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract and rum and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, followed by the ground almonds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill for about 1 hour, until it is firm enough to handle.

4. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the others wrapped and refrigerated. Roll 1 portion of dough into a small log about ¾ inch in diameter. Cut each log into ½-inch lengths and roll each piece into a ball, then roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat them completely. (I just picked off small pieces of the dough and rolled them into balls. That seem to work fine for me.) Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.

5. Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets 180 degrees to ensure even browning, until they are puffed and cracking slightly on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache filling: Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil and pour it over the chocolate and butter. (It is really important to get the cream hot enough - boiling - otherwise it won't melt the chocolate when you pour it into the bowl.) Allow the mixture to sit far a few moments, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Whisk in the rum, if you like. Allow the ganache to cool, whisking it occasionally, until it is firm enough to pipe. (It is also really important to make the ganache while the cookies are baking/cooling and allow enough time for it to cool, otherwise the ganache will be too liquid and difficult to pipe.)

7. To assemble the kisses: Pair up the cookies according to size. Turn one cookie upside down and, using a pastry bag fitted with a plain or star tip, pipe a small amount of ganache onto the flat side, then place the bottom of the second cookie on the ganache to form a sandwich; the two round tops of the cookies should be facing outward. Repeat until all the cookies have been used. Allow the ganache to firm up, at room temperature or in the refrigerator if necessary, then transfer the kisses to a serving plate.

The cookies can be stored, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container kept in a cool place for up to 3 days.

Makes about 2½ dozen sandwich cookies.


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