Photo above: Checkered cookies are in the center, surrounded by Caramel Shortbread Sticks.
A neighbor requested 8 chocolate mousses and two dozen cookies for company she is having tomorrow. The cookie requested was Land O' Lakes' Caramel Shortbread Sticks (see previous post "cookies -- shortbread"), but the recipe only makes 16 triangles or 20 sticks. I made the shortbread sticks and also made this Mario Batali recipe, because it sounded good -- and it is. I've always been a fan of milk chocolate, but I am slowly changing. When I tasted the bittersweet chocolate on these cookies, I was sold! I used Nestle Chocolatier, 62% cacao, and even by itself it's good.
I like trying a new recipe from a site that provides reviews. Several readers mentioned that they had trouble with this recipe because it was crumbly and dry and wouldn't hold together. It was the same for me -- I upped the butter by 3 Tbsp. which was just enough to hold the dough together. I also added almond flavoring to this recipe, to bring out the almond flavor of the nuts. I'm glad I did, because the flavors and texture are perfect. This is a crispy, tender crunchy cookie with a mild almond flavor and the chocolate just sets it all off to perfection. Very, very good and worth making. The original recipe can be found on the Food Network website (http://www.foodnetwork.com/).
Checkered Cookies in the Style of Piemonte: Baci di Dama, adapted
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds (I used part sliced, part whole)**
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional -- my addition)
2 tsp. Creme de Noyeaux (creme de almond) (optional -- my addition)
1/4 cup bittersweet dark chocolate, melted (I used Nestle Chocolatier, 62% cacao)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the almonds, sugar, flour, butter and flavorings. (If using whole almonds, process them small first, then add remaining ingredients.) Pulse lightly until the almonds are ground and the mixture is homogeneous. This makes a crumbly dough that does not quite stick together until you press it.
Using a rounded measuring tablespoon, place small scoops of the mixture on a lightly greased baking sheet, separating each scoop by at least 1 inch on all sides. Use the tips of your fingers to gently flatten the tops of each scoop. (I filled the tablespoon barely to the top, leveled it off and pressed it down, then turned it out onto parchment lined baking sheet that had been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Then I flattened the dough with my fingers, smoothing the edges. Next, I dipped the bottom of glass in sugar and flattened the dough further.) Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or till golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature on wire racks.
Once the cookies have cooled, gently melt the chocolate in the bowl of a bain-marie (a stainless steel bowl fitted over a saucepan of simmering water so that the bowl just touches the water). Remove the melted chocolate from the heat. Carefully spoon out a bit of melted chocolate on the flat sides of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookie halves to form a sandwich, pressing gently so that the chocolate adheres to both sides of the sandwich. Let rest until the chocolate has cooled, holding the cookies together. Yield: 28 cookies or 14 sandwiches
**I only had 1/4 cup of sliced almonds, so I used 1/4 cup whole with skins on. Sliced almonds have skins on, so I figured it wouldn't matter. It didn't seem to. I ground the almonds first, then added the other ingredients to the food processor.