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Monday, December 14, 2009

All about the chocolate

Several months ago, I made some truly delicious little treats for a party. We were giving take-home boxes of goodies to our guests and these delights formed part of the offering.

Everyone loved them, and a few guests requested the recipe. And then, when I went to dig up the scrap of paper I had the recipe written on, it was gone. Gone somewhere into the depths of my home office, and certainly not where I swear I had left it (among the many other 'recipe paper scraps' and clippings, obviously - where else would I put it?).

So the other day I was cleaning out a few bits and pieces from said home office, where the towers of books, papers and random miscellany had become, lets say, mountainous, and lo and behold, there it was. Quietly sitting atop a file of old accounts and business paperwork, and very definitely NOT with the countless other food-related clippings I hoard like gold dust for the distant-future time when I will collate, file and organize every recipe I own.

Nonetheless, I think this little gem was just waiting for the right time to show itself again, and with Christmas baking requirements entirely upon us, these Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bites might just be the thing you've been needing to add to the season's repertoire. They are simple (providing you have a food processor and a stand-mixer), rich and present beautifully in little beribboned boxes, either alone or as part of a holiday baked goods selection.

Oh, and now that I've put the recipe up here, I need not worry about losing it again, and nor will you!

Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Bites
makes a few dozen, depending how large you roll them

I would like to credit this recipe to someone, but I cannot remember where the original came from, only that before I adapted it, it contained almonds rather than hazelnuts, and rum instead of Frangelico. I am sure that either way will work just as beautifully.

240g dark chocolate, chopped
As the title of the post suggests, it really is all about the chocolate - you will very much taste the chocolate in the finished cookies, so make sure you use something that you really enjoy eating. I went with a Barry Venezuelan 72% couverture.

50g unsalted butter

45ml Frangelico or other hazelnut flavoured liqueur

2 large (59g) eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup golden caster sugar
you could use normal caster sugar at a pinch

1 heaped cup hazelnuts, toasted
Best way to do this is pop them single-layer on a tray in a 180C oven for 8-10 minutes until fragrant, then wrap them in a tea towel and rub most of the skins off while they're still warm. You can use pre-roasted nuts however they won't give as fresh a taste to the finished cookies.

1/2 cup plain white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

white caster sugar and icing sugar for coating the cookies
Mine needed somewhere between half a cup and a cup of each sugar.

Melt the chocolate, butter and Frangelico together in a metal or glass bowl rested over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let any water or steam get into the chocolate mix or it will seize and you'll need to start again).

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until they are very pale and thick (around 5 minutes on medium speed). Slowly mix in the melted chocolate mixture.

In a food processor, blend the nuts until ground finely but not a paste. Tip the nuts into a large mixing bowl and stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Stir the nut mixture into the chocolate/egg mixture until well combined, then cover and chill the mix for a couple of hours or until firm (I leave mine overnight and it doesn't hurt the mix at all).

When you're ready to bake, line a couple of flat baking trays or cookie sheets with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170C. Fill a bowl with white caster sugar for rolling the cookies in.

Roll heaped teaspoons of mixture into balls, then roll each ball in the sugar before placing on the trays, leaving 2-3cm between each cookie.

Bake for 12-15 minutes - the cookies are done when they are set at the edges but still a little bit soft at the centre (don't overbake them or you'll have dry, crumbly cookies instead of chocolatey, tender ones).

Let the cookies cool slightly on the trays before filling another bowl with the icing sugar and rolling each warm cookie in it to coat generously. Over a number of days (if they last that long!), the icing sugar coating may start to look a bit 'greasy' - if this bothers you, just re-roll the cookies in some more icing sugar before you serve them.

These will keep, sealed up somewhere cool (but not the fridge), for a couple of weeks easily.

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