Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

Those of you following the news know that the East coast had its first major snowstorm of the season yesterday.  Here in my part of New Jersey, we received about 6 inches of snow, followed closely by some nice sleet (which made for a very pleasant shoveling experience this morning).  

Snow days are great because they give you liberty to do things you might normally feel guilty about spending time doing.  So here I sit at the Mac, writing to you, looking out at the snowcapped mountain range in the distance, patchouli candle scenting my office, iTunes cranking (currently the new Bruce Springsteen song "The Wrestler" is playing - BTW, incredible song). And a fresh batch of cookies just out of the oven...

Being somewhat snowbound always makes me think about baking (no surprises here), and the other day I found a recipe from Martha Stewart that sounded good - Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps. I thought this would jive pretty well with the newly arrived snow so I set off to make these this afternoon.  I doubled the recipe because the standard recipe only made 18 which seemed way too small for a holiday baking session. These are really easy to make (which is one of my prime considerations for baking), delicious, and winter-y looking.  And there's no dough rolling here, another bonus. You just scoop up about a teaspoon's worth (a real teaspoon from your flatware, not a measuring teaspoon) of dough, roll it into about a 1 inch ball, fluff it around in confectioner's sugar, drop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, and into the oven they go.  Tip for you: wear disposable plastic gloves when rolling up the dough - it gets a little messy.  Shawn Colvin playing now just in case you were wondering.  These little cookies are more fudgy and less espresso-ish than I expected, but I like them.  The recipe is below.  Let me know how you like them.

I want to leave you with a quote I read today from the November 2008 issue of Conde Nast Traveler.  One of the books in their article on the best books about fictional destinations is "The Epic of Gilgamesh." Truth be told, I had not heard of this. Written in 2500 BC (you read that correctly), this is the world's oldest epic poem about a great king who was inconsolable over a friend's death and goes off in search of "immortality and a way to keep loss at bay." The king gets a tip from a barmaid, "good advice for any traveler: "fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice." Good advice I think for this time of year, and all year round.

And now, herewith the recipe (Duffy's "Mercy" blaring now):

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps (makes 18)

These cookies look like little snow-covered mountains. They will keep for up to a week stored in an airtight container at room temp. Roll each ball in confectioner's sugar twice to make sure it's thoroughly coated and no dark dough is visible.

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
4 t instant espresso powder
1 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
4 TB unsalted butter
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Scharffenberger)
1 TB milk
Confectioner's sugar for coating

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour confectioner's sugar (about 1/2 cup) into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.

Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12-14 minutes; cookies will be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Signing off with Bruce Hornsby's "Walk in the Sun."

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