Chocolate Stuffed Almond Cookies

Chocolate Stuffed Marzipan Cookies

Chocolate Stuffed Marzipan Cookies

We just finished the coldest Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on record here in New York City so that means it’s now officially the holiday season and COLD. I haven’t posted in just about 2 years but something about this fall meets winter time of year gets me in the baking and sharing mood. So to break my hiatus, I’m sharing these easy yet crave-worthy super soft Chocolate Stuffed Almond Cookies.

Cookies are probably the easiest dessert to bake and share with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and really anyone during the holiday season. They are the classic go-to for festive baking and it seems very few people will turn down a good cookie. Even that friend that’s constantly on some new healthy diet will make an exception and at least break off a little piece of one. Then there are those of us who have a hard time stopping at 2 or 3 cookies, especially ones that contain gooey chocolate and almond paste, a taste commonly associated with Marzipan this time of year. The almond paste makes these chewy delights just festive enough to pass as holiday cookies but not so festive that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy a batch whenever you please.

Chocolate Stuffed Almond Cookies

You’re probably more accustomed to seeing marzipan in the shape of fruits or maybe occasionally stuffed in chocolate, especially in Germany or perhaps Belgium. But these Chocolate Stuffed Almond Cookies offer a fluffy chewy texture that is often lacking in plain sugary marzipan sweets. Fresh out of the oven, these have that same lovely almond flavor associated with marzipan, but a more balanced sweetness and light almost cake-like exterior that hides a gooey chocolate surprise.

Happy Cookie Baking! And Eating!

Chocolate Stuffed Almond Cookies

1 dozen

Ingredients

5 ounces almond paste
½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 oz of your favorite Dark Chocolate (recommended: Dove)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Break or chop the almond paste up into small pieces. Mix the almond paste with the butter in a large mixing bowl until combined.

Add sugars and mix until creamy. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the butter sugar mixture and stir until just combined.

Chill 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile break the chocolate into roughly ¾-1 inch pieces.

Take a heaping spoonful of dough and flatten in the center. Place a piece of chocolate in the center of the dough ball and fold the dough over the top to completely cover the chocolate. Place onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are just turning golden brown on the edges and just starting to turn golden on top but still appear soft.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Serve warm!

Makes about 1 dozen

Almond Chocolate Cookies

Looking for a great charity to donate to this season? Check out Cookies for Kids Cancer

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Carrot Cake Cookie Bites

Carrot Cake Cookie Bites

Carrot Cake Cookie Bites

The onset of Spring usually means time to make carrot cake. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to make my favorite traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (hoping to get the recipe up here soon). So in a pinch, I made these quick carrot cake cookie bites. They aren’t exactly the same as the cake but still have the familiar carrot and cinnamon flavors and an icing drizzle adds a similar cream cheese frosting sweetness.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Soft Biscotti

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Soft Biscotti

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Soft Biscotti

It’s safe to say that pumpkin is officially out of control. You know a flavor profile has reached new highs when Oreo comes out with a seasonal version. There are worse flavors we could obsess over. Candy corn, for example, seems to be a budding trend that I just don’t quite understand. Candy corn has very little flavor. It’s just sugar and corn syrup – does this mean America’s next fall obsession might be straight sugar? Pumpkin is at least versatile and technically a vegetable (requiring very little processing even in its puréed form).

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Mini Chocolate Almond Meringue Tarts

Mini Chocolate Almond Meringue Tarts

Mini Chocolate Meringue TartsI know this may seem like an odd selection for a recipe post just a few days before Christmas. It’s not holiday specific and it doesn’t contain peppermint, molasses or ginger, or any other Christmasy baking ingredient that is usually expected this time of year. What you have here is a tasty little party dessert that covers all your festive baking bases. Almond paste is the dominant flavor in the crust, which then accents the rich chocolate ganache filling. But lets not forget the meringue. These lovely white peaks are the finishing touch that brings all of the components together into one delicious mini dessert.

I developed this recipe solely based on inspiration. It is not a Paula Peck recipe nor one from her colleagues. I happen to try a version of these little delights at an Italian Bakery in New Jersey that I often frequent. A chocolate tart with an almond flavored crust seemed brilliant to me and I’m always a sucker for meringue. I had seen the recipe for Almond Short Pastry in my grandmother’s book , “The Art of Fine Baking,” and the use of both ground almonds and almond paste convinced me it would make the perfect tart dough. The richness of the hard cooked egg yolks (one of her best tart-making techniques) combined with the nutty almond pairs beautifully with the chocolate filling. The meringue may be over kill but it definitely gives these tartlets the snowy-peak feel appropriate for holiday entertaining. Besides, who can resist the pillowy white marshmallow texture on top of almond chocolaty morsels of magic?

Ingredients:

Almond Short Pastry
1/2 cup almond paste
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup unbalanced almonds
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup butter
pinch cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 hard boiled egg yolks, pushed through a sieve

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1-12 ounce bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Meringue
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly grease a muffin pan.

Cream almond paste with raw egg yolks until soft. Place almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.

Mix flour and ground almonds together and place in a bowl, making a well in the center. In the well, place sugar, salt, lemon zest, softened butter, spices, hard boiled egg yolk, and almond-paste mixture.

With finger tips, combine the center ingredients, gradually incorporating flour and nuts to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Chill until firm enough to roll between sheets of wax paper (about 1 hour).

Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter or top of a glass, cut out rounds of dough and gently place them in muffin tin, lightly pressing down to line each cup. Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until just barely beginning to lightly brown. Half way through baking, prick centers of cups so they do not continue to puff up. Allow to fully cool.

While tarts cool, make the ganache filling:

Heat the heavy cream and milk in a pot over medium-low until it simmering slightly. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until well incorporated. Beat the eggs and add them to the chocolate mixture, stir until completely combined. Pour the filling into the cooled tartlets and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes until the filling is set and the surface is glossy. Cool completely.

While tartlets cool, make the meringue topping:

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

Pipe mixture onto tartlets. Raise oven heat to 350 and place tartlets in oven, until meringue is golden (about 5-10 minutes). Cool.

Yield about 12 mini tarts.

Mini Chocolate Ganache Meringue Tarts

 

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Crème Brûlée

Classic Creme Brûlée

Creme Brulee

 

Crème brulee is one of those semi-fancy French-American desserts that often seems too pretentious to make at home. This rich custard, also known as burnt cream – a reference to its hard caramelized top layer, is not as fussy to make as it looks. Those familiar with crème brulee may think you need those cute little kitchen blow torches to make it properly. A blow torch is definitely more fun but not necessary. This dessert was around long before anyone determined a blow torch was the best way to caramelize the sugar on top of the cream. I can’t imagine my grandmother using a blow torch in the 1960’s, when she did the majority of her cooking and baking. Although this is not her recipe, it was published around the same time period in 1961 in “The New York Times Cookbook,” by friend and colleague, Craig Claiborne.

So what can you use instead of a blow torch? The broiler, of course. The texture may not be as perfect but a similar sugary glass-like shell can be achieved. Shallow ramekins (unlike the ones shown here) will also help the cooking process. They simply allow the crème to bake faster and provide more surface area for caramelization. Blow torch or not, that first spoonful of the crispy burnt caramel with rich vanilla crème will make the few extra steps to make this impressive dessert, well worth it.

Ingredients:

3 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
6 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat cream over boiling water (in a double boiler) and stir in sugar. Beat the egg yolks until light and pour the hot cream over them gradually, stirring vigorously. Stir in the vanilla and strain the mixture into ramekins.

Place the dishes in a pan containing one inch of hot water and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, or 35 minutes. Do not over-bake. The custard will continue to cook from retained heat when it is removed from the oven. Chill thoroughly.

Before serving, cover surface with brown sugar. Set the dishes in a pan with cracked ice and put under the broiler until sugar is brown and melted. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8.

 

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