The Power of the Dark Side

I make mayonnaise from scratch, and I stash the leftover egg white into a ziploc bag, adding them in one by one over time, and updating the number with a Sharpie. Yesterday, I decided to organize both the box freezer and the small one above the refrigerator, and as a result, unearthed massive amounts of food completely forgotten, languishing sadly in the dark and frosty corners. One of the newly rediscovered treasures was a baggie holding five frozen egg whites.

Later that day, I was searching the net for a chocolate recipe by Giada de Laurentiis, who is a featured chef in the I Heart Cooking Clubs blog event, and there it was, a beautiful vessel for my lonesome egg whites: Chocolate Hazelnut Kisses. You might find a squirrel without a stash of nuts, but not a Serb. I emptied the bag of hazelnuts onto a baking sheet, shoved them into the oven, and waited impatiently for the heady, rich smell of roasted nuts. As soon as the first whiff reached my nostrils, I went about collecting the other ingredients, pivoting on my left foot (that’s how big my kitchen is). While stirring, I was anticipating the magic that would emerge from the union of chocolate, hazelnuts, cocoa, honey, vanilla, and egg whites.

It did not take long to recruit my ever-ready youngest Beastie to help me with piping the rosettes (after all, who else would sacrifice their precious time to lick the bowl and the spoon?), and let them dry for a couple of hours (the recipe calls for drying them overnight, but for my lack of planning I could not abide by the rules). When the time came, three polka-dotted sheets went into the oven. The comforting and warm aroma of chocolate joined the lingering hints of hazelnuts, and drove both Beasties and Husband from their lairs. While the kisses were cooling off, I melted some chocolate, gave each girl a teaspoon, and showed them how to assemble the sandwiches. Then, I retired to the couch with a glass of wine.

The cookies were everything I thought they would be: chewy, not too sweet, intensely flavored by nuts and cocoa, and small enough to be eaten in one or two bites (depending on the tester). They reminded me in texture of the Parachute Cookies my grandmother Njanja (pronounced nya-nya) used to make with ground walnuts and egg whites, bound together by chocolate buttercream.

We still have a lot of kisses to consume. Today is Halloween, and the Beasties are getting ready to scare or charm some unsuspecting neighbors into giving them as much candy as they can carry (we have a Gypsy and a Hannibal Lecter in the repertoire this year). Nobody will want to eat Giada’s cookies tonight. But I bet they freeze well, just like those Parachute Cookies. And when the chocolate cravings become hard to resist, in a week or two, I will know just where to find the remedy. Providing my freezers stay neat and organized.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SMOOCHIES -BACI D’ALASSIO (Giada de Laurentiis on FoodTV)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole raw hazelnuts
  • 2 cups sugar (I added only 1 1/2 half cups – I do not like my chocolate treats too sweet)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus additional unsalted butter for baking sheets, optional
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa-powder, sieved
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 or 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer in a shallow pan and place them in the preheated oven, turning every now and again, until lightly toasted and the skins begin to blister, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Then, working in batches, rub them between the palms of your hands until the skins loosen and fall away. (This will take some time and not every bit of skin will rub off.) Chop the hazelnuts coarsely. Using a nut mill, blender, or a food processor fitted with the metal blade, grind the hazelnuts to a fine powder. (If the nuts do become oily, pass them through a sieve to break up any lumps.)

Place in a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the butter, cocoa, honey, and vanilla and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the egg whites, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add only enough of the whites for the doughto take on the consistency of a loose paste or spritz cookie dough. Do not worry if all of the egg whites are not used.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them with butter. Spoon the hazelnut mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 6 star tip. Pipe out rosettes 1 inch in diameter onto the prepared sheets, spacing the rosettes about 1 1/2 inches apart. You should have about 60 rosettes in all. Let the rosettes sit, uncovered, at room temperature overnight.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven until firm to the touch but still moist inside, 8 to 10 minutes. When they are done they will not brown and may even look undercooked, so you must test by touch. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Gently turn half of the cookies top sides down on a flat surface and spread about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate on each of the upturned bottoms. As each cookie is coated, press a plain cookie onto the chocolate, bottom side down, to form a “sandwich”. Lay the cookies on their sides on a tray or flat plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Store in a covered container, at room temperature, for up to 1 week.

I am submitting this recipe to I Heart Cooking Clubs, Chocolate Cravings.

13 Responses to The Power of the Dark Side

  1. DebinHawaii says:

    These gorgeous little kisses are the perfect little decadent treat. Great pick and good use of those egg whites! ;-)

  2. OMG, Lana, these look heavenly – I simply cannot wait to try these! Cracked me up when you wrote “you might find a squirrel without a stash of nuts, but not a Serb” – that is hilarious :-)
    Sue

  3. Jelena says:

    Moram da priznam da jednu stvar ne znam da pravim i ne rudim se da naučim, a to je pravljenje majoneza. To moj suprug radi i to je jedino osim palačinki što zna da uradi u kuhinji. Nisam bila dovoljno pametna, pa sam brže bolje naučila od njega kako da dobijem savršenu palačinku, tanku i nemasnu, pa sad ih ja pravim umesto da sam se pravila blesava i uživala u njegovom delu. Zato majonez neću da naučim, već ga samo zamolim da ga on napravi kad pravimo Rusku salatu. Kese sa orasima, da imam je i ja u zamrzivaču, ali ove godine su tako slabo rodili i dostigli cenu badema i lešnika da ne znm da li ću ih dobiti ove godine. Na žalost Srbi polako prestaju da budu hrčci i sakupljaju za zimu i to sve zbog ekonomske situacije. Ovde se država igra sa nama pa nema mleka već dva meseca. Dođe nešto malo, pa se proda, pa tako redom. Juče u prodavnici gomila mleka stoji raznih proizvođača, a ono niko se ne grabi. Narod nema para da pravi zalihe, a i toliko smo navikli valjda bili na nestašice da više i ne reagujemo i pomirili smo se sa tim. Ja sam dovukla karton od 12 litara kući onog AD mleka za prijatelja suprugovog koji ima dvogodišnju devojčicu koja ne može bez mleka, a oni u centru ne mogu da ga nađu. Elem, lepo što su deca angažovana u kuhinji, a Đadina čokolada je vrh, kako se to sad kaže među klincima.

  4. Sasa says:

    I just cleaned out my fridge and freezer too! Feels virtuous doesn’t it?

  5. Kim says:

    I love that you have your freezer and it’s ingredients so well organized and labeled. These baci look delicious and just the right size for popping into your mouth. Great choice! So glad to have you participating with us again :)

  6. Good job on putting the little “beasties” to work while you enjoyed a glass of wine. I bet these kisses would pair wonderfully with a deep, glass of red.

  7. Lana, these look lovely!! This is my first visit to your blog. I love your writing (always love a good story). I will be back! ~LeslieMichele

  8. selma says:

    Upravo poput padobranaca iz naÅ¡eg djetinjstva. Prekrasni su…
    Kako je divan taj miris pečenih lješnjaka, tako ga volim. I ja sam jučer pekla lješnjake za keksiće sa Nadinog bloga i cijela je kuća mirisala kao toplo gnijezdašce.

  9. Natashya says:

    Mmm, wonderful! I’ll make these for Christmas! ☺

  10. Lana says:

    @Deb, the cookies were so easy to make and very intense. Now, I have another baggie full of egg whites. I am thinking meringues (the ones with espresso, maybe:)?

    @Sue, I was not kidding about the squirrels:) I do not bake that often, but there are always walnuts and hazelnuts, at least, in my freezer.

    @Jelena, dobro je da si naučila lekciju:) I ja sam se tako trpala u sve i svašta, da pokažem kako znam bolje, i onda svima postane lakše. Zato decu učim da sve znaju, ali da se ne javljaju dobrovoljno. Što se zaliha tiče, moram da priznam da pišem iz nekog nostalgičnog ugla, iz pogleda unazad, na ono što je bilo. Pokušavam da se borim protiv stvarnosti nekim sećanjima koja me odvode u neko mekše i toplije doba, pa neka je i izmišljeno:) (mada nije).

    @Sasa, it feels great! My lists are hanging on the wall above the freezer, with every item written in black, thick Sharpie. I take something out, I scratch it off. I put something new in, I add it to the list. It has worked for two days. If only I could count on the Husband to follow suit…

    @Thank, Kim! I love IHCC – my previous contribution disappeared before I had a chance to take a photo! Husband ate my Braised Short Ribs( I had sequestered them for photographing) for lunch the next day! And yes, having an organized freezer makes my life so much easier:)

    @Kelly, when there are sweets to be made, all of my three girls run to help. It’s chopping onions and peeling potatoes that makes everybody bury their heads into books:) Red it was, and it felt divine!

    @LeslieMichele, thanks for visiting and kind words. I hope you come back! I am so excited to find new wonderful blogs to read via these events.

    @Selma, nema za mene ništa lepše od mirisa pečenih lešnika. I nije samo nostalgija u pitanju. A ovi kolačići su kao padobranci, stvarno, samo mnogo intenzivnijeg ukusa zbog kakaoa.

    @Natashya, they are so easy to make, and would be perfect for holidays!

  11. April Campbell Jones says:

    What an absolutely delightful blog! I would never dare to attempt the recipe yet reading about it and you was an real pleasure! Thank you for this gift!

  12. April Campbell Jones says:

    What a delightful blog! You are a marvelous writer, as well as being an accomplished cook, and I am so glad I found you!

    • Lana says:

      Thank, you, April! Coming from you, the compliments mean eve more! I am glad Vince has found you and I hope that you and Bruce are going to join us in SoCal pretty soon. I love throwing dinner parties!

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