Orange-Lace Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle

September 30, 2009

I once bought some Lace Cookies with dark chocolate from World Market and thought they were amazing.  The large cookies were made into sandwiches held together by the yummy chocolate.  So I went hunting for lace cookie recipes to bring to a Pre-Thanksgiving potluck that I attended last year.  I came across a few versions that included orange zest and hey! I LOVE orange and chocolate together.  And almonds.  So I tweaked a few recipes and came up with the following recipe.

A few notes: I went ahead and invested in a SilPat for this.  I had always wanted one and this seemed like the perfect reason to get one.  After making a few sheets thus far, I’ve gotta tell you . . . SilPat is the coolest thing ever in the world.  These have to be cooked on a greased surface and I HATE greasing the baking sheet between rounds.  This nips that in the bud.  I found a medium-sized one for about $20 at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Also, most recipes called for either all brown sugar or all white sugar.  I hate that.  Since I was using orange, I thought a little brown sugar would complement that really well, but I also didn’t want to overpower the orange with too deep of a flavor behind it.  Which is why I’m using some of each.

On the nuts, yes, chop them by hand.  It’s not that big a deal and it gives you more control over the final texture of your cookie.  I found small packs of slivered almonds and those were a breeze to chop.  I don’t recommend using a food processor here, it will pulverize the nuts into dust and I think having some identifiable nuts is a good thing.

Lastly, I was making these last time and you know what?  I didn’t HAVE 1 1/2 cups of almonds.  After the chopping of 4 ounces of almonds, that gave me about a cup.  What to do?  I didn’t want to go to the store, dammit.  So I found some pecans in my cupboard, chopped those up, and made extra 1/2 cup.  And I really liked them both.  So do what you want!!  This might be good with lots of other kinds of nuts, like walnuts or hazelnuts.  Or with lemon zest.  Or whatever!  Yet again, I encourage mad kitchen experimentation.

Ingredients
1 1/2 sticks of butter (12 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups chopped almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
zest of two oranges
1 egg, beaten
at least 8 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

Method
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Melt the butter in a microwave-safe mixing bowl.  Add the nuts, sugars, flour, and zest; mix well.  Pour in the beaten egg (though honestly, I didn’t beat the stupid egg first because that’s an extra bowl to wash) and mix thoroughly.

Place your handy dandy SilPat (or greased parchment paper) over a cookie sheet.  Drop teaspoonfuls of batter about 2-3 inches apart.  The cookies will spread like you won’t believe, and you don’t want them overlapping.  On a standard cookie sheet, I’ve been able to get 4 across and 3 down without any problem or melding.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and slightly bubbly.  Check them at 10 minutes and see if the middles look brown enough.  For the first couple of batches, check them, close the oven, and count to 30.  It just takes a little patience to determine how they want to cook for you.  My oven took 14 minutes.

Remove the sheet from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.  Let the cookies cool for approximately 2 minutes before attempting to remove them.  Using a butter knife (a spatula is too thick to get under these delicate, girly things), pull up one edge of a cookie to test.  If stays together and wants to bring the rest of the cookie with it but still looks really flexible, you’re good to go.  Quickly transfer all the cookies to another cooling rack, preferably one with rods going in both directions (leaving no slats for cookies to slump through).

By the way, at this point the cookies are still flexible enough to shape into things.  Wrap them around the end of a wooden spoon to make little cookie tubes, or shape loosely into cones.  Hell, wrap them around the bottom of a cup if you want and make little fluted bowls out of them.  Now is the time for sculpting!

When the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate over a double-boiler.  The chocolate kept cooling on me at the table while I was drizzling, so I stuck a heating pad under the bowl and turned it on high. This worked surprisingly well and it may or may not have been something Alton Brown recommended.  I honestly don’t remember.  I drizzled the chocolate with a spoon.  For the few cookies I shaped, those were strategically dipped in chocolate (tubes had the ends, fluted bowls had the edge).

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Why I’m becoming famous, by sharon

September 10, 2009

I bet you didn’t know that I’m on a steady rise to fame, but I am.  And do you know why? Because I bring bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds to parties.

In fact, I was all set to bring something else to a party on Saturday, but the hostess said “Oh . . . well. That’s good. I guess. Or you could bring the bacon date things. PLEASE bring the bacon date things!!”

And so I was at the store today, buying ingredients for the bacon date things.  As I’m checking out,

Cashier: I gotta ask, why do you have this many dried dates? What are you up to?
Me: Oh, I’m making them for a party. You split the dates, remove the pit, stuff it with goat cheese and slivered almonds. Then you wrap bacon around it and cook it.
Cashier: Oh my god.
Me: Yeah . . . it’s kind of amazing. People lose their minds.
Woman behind me in line: What’s this? What are you talking about? You do WHAT do dates?
Cashier: (repeats what I just told her)
Woman: Oh my GOD.
Cashier: Honey, you just got invited to my Thanksgiving dinner. Which is now potluck.
Me: (laughing) They’re so easy, I swear. But they are insaaaanely good.
Woman: You need a card or something. It can say “Bacon-date girl.”
Cashier: But that sounds like she goes on dates and brings bacon.
Woman: I bet that would be just as successful. It’s bacon.
Me: (I’m done checking out at this point and I’m laughing really hard. I turn to leave)
Woman: WAIT! So tell me again, real quick, what do you do?
Me: (repeating the recipe)
Cashier: (hands woman a piece of blank receipt and a pen) Here, if you write it down can you give me a copy?

See there? People who’ve never even TASTED this are going crazy.  So here is the recipe. This is for a larger group, but can easily be multiplied or scaled down.

2 pounds of dried dates
8 ounces of fresh goat cheese (chevre)
slivered almonds
a big pack of thick-sliced bacon, 2 pounds?
toothpicks

I get dried dates for a reason. First, fresh dates can be hard to find. Second, I like the sticky texture against the creaminess of the cheese and the crunch of the bacon and almonds. Third, they’re a little sweeter, which plays nicely against the tanginess and saltiness. And this might be way more bacon than necessary, but what’s wrong with having leftover bacon in the house? It’s bacon.

With a small, sharp knife, cut a slit into one side of the date. Make sure you don’t cut it all the way in half. Open it up a little and pull out the pit.  I like to pit all the dates at once before moving on.  Get your goat cheese ready and make a pile of slivered almonds. Take, I don’t know, a teaspoon of goat cheese and stick it into the middle of the date. Poke a couple almond slivers down in there. Again, do this to all of the dates before moving on.

Cut your bacon strips in half. Wrap a half piece of bacon around each date, making sure the slit you cut is covered, and try to spiral around the whole date. Secure with a toothpick and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Once they’re all done (this amount may take 2 sheets) put them in the oven to BROIL, not bake.  Check and turn them every 4-5 minutes or so until the bacon is cooked through.  This might take a total of 15-20 minutes. Also, don’t have your sheet too close to the heating element. When they’re done, place the dates on a paper towel to drain the excess grease. Remove the now charred toothpicks and put them on a plate.

If you are making these ahead of time, you can store them in the fridge once they’re cooked. They’re best warm or at room temperature, so give them 10-15 seconds in the microwave to take the chill off.  Prepare to have random strangers ask if you are God (this happened to me once).  I’ll try to take some pictures of these and post them when I make this on Saturday.