Starry, Starry Nights

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starry, starry nights
Chocolate and more chocolate!

It’s has been a while since we’ve made anything from Gesine Bullock-Prado‘s recipe list (This one comes from her book, Confessions of a Closet Master Baker, a good read). It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that some of the recipes she provides are rather daunting. Okay, we’ll admit it, sometimes the recipes are completely daunting. But, they’re always tasty. Okay, we’ll admit it, they’re completely outstanding. The kind of treat that you wish bakeries would make, but, alas, do not. The kind of treats that you hope, one day, with enough practice, you could make something that looks that good.

Fortunately for you, today’s recipe is easy, and there really isn’t too much in the way of presentation. Also fortunately for you, these little cookies are packed with flavor. The best flavor: chocolate. You will take a bit and wonder how that much chocolate flavor can be packed into that morsel. You’ll think it’s a fluke, or that your imagination and taste buds are working overtime, so you’ll try another, with the same result.

Well, before you start drooling, we’d better move on to scratchin’ up a batch of Starry, Starry Nights.

Starry, Starry Nights

Yield: About 60 small cookies

Starry, Starry Nights

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder, not Dutch-procesed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75 g (heaping 1/2 cup) sliced almonds
  • 235 g (8.2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 60 g (1/4 cup + 1 Tbs) sugar
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • Granulated sugar, for rolling

Abbreviated Instructions

In a large bowl (the dough will end up in here), combine cocoa and salt.

Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse/run until finely ground, about 60 seconds. Add almonds to the cocoa and salt, and whisk thoroughly.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine eggs, sugar, and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until light and fluffy, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Add chocolate mixture to the almond mixture and combine thoroughly.

Add 1/4 of the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold in. Carefully fold in remaining egg mixture.

Cover batter and refrigerate until firm.

Pour granulated sugar into a small bowl. Using a teaspoon, scoop chilled batter into balls about 1/2 inch in diameter. Roll in sugar and place an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

Freeze solid, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake 13 to 16 minutes, rotating front to back halfway through, or until sugar is cracked but not browned.

Cool completely on baking sheet.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2014/08/starry-starry-nights/

Ingredient discussion:

Use the best bittersweet chocolate you can. We use Callebaut 70% cacao that we buy in huge (11-pound) bars. It’s very good. We’re not sure why this recipe calls for non Dutch-processed cocoa; perhaps the acidity of the cocoa is needed. We had some, so we used it. For eggs, the best come from happy hens. And, for hens to be happy, they need plenty of grass and bugs. Know the hens, trust the eggs.

Procedure in detail:

mise en place
Getting everything ready beforehand makes baking fun and easy.

Mise en place. While there’s nothing difficult in this recipe, it’s worth going through the trouble of measuring out everything before starting. It’ll make the recipe seem even easier to make, plus there’ll be no last-minute scrambling for an ingredient. Instead, one task will flow into the next, and you’ll be able to concentrate on what you’re doing. For example, we measured the almonds right into the food processor bowl. Followed by the cocoa and salt into a 3-quart bowl. Then the chocolate and butter went into the top of a double boiler. And, finally, sugar and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. The eggs stood alone.

Grind almonds. Grind the almonds in the food processor by pulsing or turning it on. We set our food processor into the sink; that way, if any crumbs fly out, we can simply swish them down the drain. For us, grinding the almonds took about a minute of processing.

almonds and cocoa
Watch for those lumps of cocoa, and try to break them apart.

Mix with cocoa. Add the ground almonds to the cocoa and salt. Break out a whisk and whisk until well-combined. Remember that cocoa is a bit lumpy, so give it a good whisking. After that, set aside the almond mixture.

melting chocolate
It’ll only take a few minutes to melt the chocolate and butter together. Don’t get water in the mixture, though; It’ll seize up.

Melt chocolate. Place the double boiler over simmering, not boiling, water. Using a rubber spatula — you’ll need one in a bit, anyway — stir together the chocolate and butter as they melt. Once melted, remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool for a minute or two.

egg batter
The egg mixture will get fluffy and very smooth. Just give the mixer time to work.

Mix eggs and sugar. Crack the eggs into the sugar and honey mixture. Starting on low, increase the mixer speed to high as the sugar and eggs combine. Once on high, beat until the mixture is light and creamy, about 7 to 10 minutes.

chocolate and almonds
Looks good enough to taste now, doesn’t it?

Mix chocolate and almonds. Pour the melted chocolate over the almond mixture and use your spatula to mix it together, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well mixed.

folding in egg mixture
Start by folding in about 1/4 of the egg mixture, then fold in the rest.

Fold in egg mixture. Pour about 1/4 of the egg mixture on top of the chocolate almond mixture. Using  the spatula, fold the in egg mixture until it’s no longer visible. Pour the remaining egg mixture on top, and fold it in carefully, trying not to deflate the egg mixture. You can do it.

folded batter
Keep folding until all the streaks are gone.

Chill. Cover the batter with plastic and chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours. Use this time to clean up.

shaping balls
We used a teaspoon measuring spoon (didn’t work very well) and an ordinary teaspoon for shaping (worked better).

Shape and roll. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Pour some granulated sugar into a small bowl. Using a teaspoon or small scoop, form 1/2-inch diameter balls from the now-firm batter and roll them in the sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about an inch apart. If you’re going to be baking these today, don’t discard the bowl of sugar.

rolling in sugar
Roll in sugar. That’s the stars part.

Freeze. Place the baking sheets, uncovered, in the freezer until the cookies are solid, at least one hour. At this time, you can place the cookies in plastic freezer bags to bake later, or you can bake them now.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

starry, starry nights
After the second rolling the cookies will have a lot of stars.

Roll in sugar. Pour sugar into a small bowl and roll each ball in additional sugar, then return to the baking sheet.

Bake. Slide into the oven and bake 13 to 16 minutes, or until the cookies spread, the sugar cracks, and they’re still slightly soft when you touch them in the center. The sugar should not brown.

Cool. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet.

Wow! Choc-o-late. And then some. These are super-duper chocolatey! Eating these cookies is like eating chocolate truffles, that’s how chocolatey they are. Only it’s even better than truffles. They get just a bit crisp on the outside, but the inside will melt in your mouth. We knew we could trust Gesine to provide the best chocolate cookie around. Or at least one that you’ll want to have again and again. Plus, they’re easy to make. And, you can keep the frozen balls of dough for several weeks in the freezer — just for emergencies, of course. Five, five, five!

Worth the trouble?

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