“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion.” – Franz Kafka
While Kafka wasn’t talking about baking, he may as well have been. In the midst of hectic holiday preparations and festivities, I’m here to implore you: don’t water down your favorite recipes just because they may be rich or “unhealthy.” I won’t be so dramatic as to compare it to editing one’s soul…however! Don’t edit the soul of your dish. It’s the holidays. Live a little.
To that end, let’s talk about your to-do list. Have you finished everything? What about those last-minute presents you’ve been putting off? What about that hard to shop for uncle, or the boss who has everything? What about the acquaintance that unexpectedly gave you a gift, and now you’re scrambling to find something for them?
I’ve got a (relatively) quick solution for you: make them something. It’s meaningful, easy, and can be shared with a wide audience. Scads of recipes lie in wait for you within the Internet abyss: homemade jams, pickles, sauces, and hot chocolate are all great options.
Last year, I baked chocolate hazelnut cookies for some of my cohort from a recipe I found online. Recipients liked them so much, I decided to make them a Christmas tradition. I’ve shared a copy of the recipe below, which I promise is not as complicated as it looks.
For a savory option, you can’t go wrong with bourbon beer cheese. My cousin Amanda Cole and good friend Ashley Baker get together every December to whip up a batch, and my aunt Robyn has kindly shared the recipe for your consumption.
My only rule for these recipes is this: no low calorie substitutions allowed. You’ve got a foodie soul to protect.
What are you waiting for? Get cooking!
Baci di Dama Cookies
About 45 cookies
Recipe by Terresa Murphy of La Cucina di Terresa
1 1/4 cups (140g) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup (140g) rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
Pinch of salt
2 ounces (55g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Toast the hazelnuts in a 325ºF (160ºC) for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep golden brown color and the skins are peeling away. Remove from the oven and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, rub the hazelnuts in a tea towel (or if they’re not too hot, with your hands), until as much of the loose skins come off as possible. Let them cool completely before grinding them up.
1. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta.
2. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the rice flour (if using all-purpose flour, sift it in). Cut the butter into pieces then add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does.
3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece until it’s 3/4-inch (2cm) round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches.
Chill the dough logs until firm on a small baking sheet or dinner plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. (Terresa recommends refrigerating them for 2-3 hours, but we put them in the freezer and they were cold within 15 minutes.)
4. Preheat oven to 325ºF (160ºC) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
5. Working with one length of dough at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or freezer, cut off equal-sized pieces using a knife or pastry cutter. The ideal is 5 grams each, if working with a scale. The fastest way to do it is to cut one to the right weight, then hold that one alongside the logs and use it as a template to cut the others. Once you’ve cut a length of dough, roll the pieces into nice little balls and place them on the baking sheet, slightly spaced apart.
If you don’t have a scale, simply roll the dough to the size of a marble, trying to keep them as similar in size as possible.
6. Continue cutting the dough and rolling it into little balls. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during cooking, until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely.
7. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth. Put a chocolate chip-sized dollop of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and take another cookie, and sandwich the two halves together.
Once filled, set the Baci di Dama sideways on a wire cooling rack until the chocolate is firm. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
(Liz’s note: To get more bang for your buck out of the dough, I skip sandwiching the cookies together.)
Bourbon Beer Cheese
(adapted from Jonathan at Gratz Park chef Jonathan Lundy’s recipe http://jagp.info/bluegrass-table-cookbook.html)
14 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoon caramelized onions
12 ounces Ky Bourbon Barrel Ale
1 tablespoon of Bourbon
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
Shred cheddar cheeses. In food processor, puree caramelized onions and shredded cheeses. Slowly add beer. Process until smooth and add remaining ingredients, continuing to process until creamy smooth consistency.
Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Make ahead as flavor takes a while to develop.