Chocolate and Pistachio Cookies

Happy 2016, people! I really hope this turns out to be a very good one. Judging from the first few weeks, you wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to think so, but here’s hoping! A lot has happened over the last few weeks, most notably I went back home to Italy for the Christmas/New Year holidays. It was great to be back and to pretty much devote my entire time to stuffing my face with great food and doing very little else. I also took advantage of my traveller’s nature to visit a few new places (Turin, just to name one) and to try the local cuisine in Venice.

Next week I will be in London for work. Needless to say, I will take advantage of my convenient location to try out a few places, namely Honey & Co. and Jose Pizarro‘s tapas restaurant. I cannot emphasise enough how obsessed I am at the moment with Middle Eastern cuisine. After having tried a few recipes off Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour’s latest book, I finally landed on Honey & Co.’s baking book, a true revelation. Below you will find my twist on their recipe for gooey and soft chocolate and pistachio cookies, although I strongly suggest you give their other creations I go!

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Ingredients

  • 250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 55g unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 65g strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • about 150g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water. Make sure the water in the pan is gently simmering or the chocolate may seize and become grainy. Once melted, remove from the double boiler and allow to cool slightly.
  2. In the meantime, whisk the eggs and the light brown soft sugar together in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. You want the mixture to double in volume and to fall back on itself like a ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture and gently fold in with a rubber spatula.
  3. In a bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients, then gently fold in the mixture and combine until there are no flour streaks visible. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until you can easily handle the mixture. You could also refrigerate it, but you may need to bring it back to to room temperature if you cool it too much.
  4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Pour the roughly chopped pistachios in a shallow bowl. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  5. Divide the cookie dough into 12 and, using your hands, roll the pieces into balls, then drop them into the chopped pistachios and gently roll them around until they are completely covered. Arrange them on the prepared baking trays, allowing plenty of space in between for the cookies to expand while baking. Repeat until you have used all of the mixture.
  6. Bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes in the centre of the oven (you may need to do one tray at a time), so that they firm up on the edges but stay nice and chewy in the middle. Remove the trays from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before attempting to lift the cookies. Enjoy!

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Sachertorte Cookies

If you were wondering what had happened to me, I do apologise. Last week was the real week from hell, where I had to juggle so many things I have no idea how I managed to make it until Sunday. And yes, for once Sunday was an actual day of rest, much to my partner’s surprise. Usually you would find me buzzing around the kitchen or the flat, or maybe pushing my partner out of bed to go somewhere. This time, I just wanted to chill out. This week looks like it might be slightly quieter, which is good as I can resume my gym duties. Last week was also the last time this year (I think) I was summoned at the University to mark some of the interpreting exams. A pleasure and an extremely interesting experience, as usual, it proved to be the perfect even to bring some of these wonderful cookies.

In case you’re not a big fan of cakes or you don’t feel confident enough to bake one, this recipe is perfect for you. You can get (more or less) the same flavour of a big Sachertorte in a tiny mouthful. This cookie has crunch, provided by the biscuit base, topped by a soft and gooey heart (the apricot jam), encased by a crisp and melt-in-the-mouth chocolate layer. One bite and you will be converted. The recipe comes from one of my many Italian baking books, called The Tastiest Biscuits in the World – a promise just from the name. You don’t have to go all bakery like me and try and make these of the same size or use a piping bag to distribute the jam. I believe homemade if the way to go, I just can’t help to use some of the tools I have in the kitchen!

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Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 160g apricot jam
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 30g unsalted butter, softened (for the glaze)

Method

  1. Line two to three baking trays with parchment, then set aside.
  2. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, then beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then beat briefly until incorporated.
  3. Pour in the dry ingredients (flour, salt and cocoa powder), then mix briefly until the mixture comes together. It shouldn’t be either too sticky or too hard.
  4. Transfer the bowl onto your working surface, then use your hands to take walnut-sized amounts of the dough. Roll them between your hands to make them into a ball, then place them slightly apart onto the baking sheet and press your finger into the middle to make an indentation. If you suffer from a (completely made up and very) mild form of OCD like I do, you can use a measuring spoon to make the balls all equal. I used a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon.
  5. Put the trays in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  6. Bake each batch for 15 minutes or until slightly hard to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  7. Transfer the apricot jam to a piping bag, then snip off the end. You can do this with a couple of teaspoons, but I would make a mess. Fill the indentation in each cookie with the jam, then set aside. You should have enough to fill them all.
  8. In the meantime, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, then set aside to cool slightly. The chocolate shouldn’t be too fluid or it will run away when drizzled. Once ready, use a tablespoon to drizzle some of the chocolate on the cookies. Make a criss-cross pattern if you want, but any way is fine. The aim is to encase the apricot jam in a layer of chocolate, so try and not to overdo it! Leave to cool and harden, then enjoy!

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