Saturday, October 22, 2011

Down East Chocolate Cookies

"Do you have any almond paste that isn't colored?" I asked my fruit and nut (and grain and olive...) seller. "Just for you, sweetie," he leered. This is the guy who, when I protested that I was far too lazy to crack my own walnuts, offered to come over and crack them for me. Smooth. Just to say that in France, almond paste often comes in little packs of pink, green, and natural color. I have no idea what happens with the pink and green--maybe people make little flowers and such?

Almond paste/marzipan is kind of a controversial ingredient in my family: right up with raisins, in fact. And it's the same people who hate marzipan who also hate raisins. Go figure. So I figured that at least 3/4 of the family would enjoy this cookie.

The technique and ingredients are a bit strange: no flour (I guess the almond paste takes that role) and the batter needs time in the freezer. Like the peanut sauce, it's also a "sleeper recipe" that I probably would have ignored. But that would have been a mistake.

Just as Maida promised, these seem crisp until you bite into them, when they become chewy and delightful: kind of like a Tootsie roll, only with more and better chocolate flavor. The almond paste does not shout out its presence, so even Claire loved them. In fact, the only problem with this recipe is that it doesn't make enough: I only got to eat two before they were all gone.

Here's the recipe. Consider doubling it if you want to have enough to share (or to have some for yourself).

Down East Chocolate Cookies

1-1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 T. (3 oz.) butter
3/4 c. (5.25 oz.) sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/3 c. (3.5 oz.) almond paste* (in the US, this comes in a tube from Odense. Don't buy marzipan or the almond filling in a can.)
1 large egg
1/2 t. almond extract

Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Mix in the sugar and salt, and then crumble in the almond paste. Give the mixture another 30-second burst, and whisk until smooth. Add the egg and almond extract and whisk until smooth again. Put the mixture in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until quite thick.
When you're ready to bake, heat the oven to 300 and get out a couple of flat cookie sheets and some parchment paper or silicon mats (which seemed to me ideal for this purpose). Scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough onto the mats/parchment sheets--I found 6 to a sheet was just right because these spread a lot. (Maida wants you to carefully form these into round balls. You can see how well I followed her advice. Don't be like me.) Bake for 21-22 minutes, rotating in the oven unless you're using the convection setting. Let cool completely on the parchment or silicon. Fight for the last cookie.

*If you want to use up your leftover almond paste, this cake is a nice way to do it. Or just make more cookies--you'll want to.

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