You may have noticed that I’ve had quite a few baked goods featured here lately. Bella Eats is starting to look more like a baking blog than an all foods blog, which is not my intention even though I do have a not-so-secret desire to be a baker. The truth is, when I am stressed, overwhelmed or even underwhelmed with life in general, or just want an excuse to be lost in my head for an hour or two, I bake. Some people go for a run, others practice yoga, I pull out the flour and sugar and butter and get to work mixing and shaping.
Maybe its because I am training to be an architect, spending my days working on minute details for buildings that won’t break ground for another six months and won’t be complete for another two years. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of patience, to get to the point in a project where you feel the satisfaction of seeing the results of your hard work. The days can be frustrating, the hours long, and at the end of it all you may not even be happy with the final result. But you continue forward, filing away the lessons learned on one project for a similar situation on the next, always striving for the perfect design against the odds of disagreeable clients and undesirable sites.
There are a lot of similarities between baking and architecture – formula, precision, a bit of risk taking, structure – but one very notable difference is timing. I can enter the kitchen, experiment with a new recipe that I’ve been dreaming about and have results in 1-2 hours. And if the final product doesn’t come out exactly as I had imagined, I can try again the next evening. Or immediately even, if the desire to get it right then and there is strong enough. That [nearly] instant gratification is what I love most about baking. The reactions from friends presented with something you’ve made from scratch help as well – who isn’t happy to be surprised with a plateful of baked goods?
There are nights when I get home from the office needing to bake. Not just wanting to, but needing to. Sometimes I’ll pick a recipe that is tried and true, other times I’ll try drastic experiments that go horribly wrong but always teach me something new. Last week I was looking for a recipe somewhere in the middle – a recipe that someone else had tried and recommended, that I could play with and put my own twist on. Luckily I had recently discovered Sweet Amandine and spent most of Sunday reading through her archives, soaking in her lovely writing and photographs. I found these chocolate hazelnut bites, put my own little spin on them and got to work.
There are a lack of preparatory photographs in this post because baking these cookies on that particular night was purely for my mental well-being. I was tired, a little bit frazzled and a lot in need of the dark chocolatey, almondy, slightly salty goodness that these three-bite cookies delivered to my mouth. The process to make them was really quite simple – melt chocolate, amaretto and butter in one pan while whipping together the egg and sugar in another. You combine the two, fold in some finely processed toasted almonds and then chill the batter for 1-2 hours. If you have the patience, shoot for two hours of chilling. I couldn’t stand it and pulled them after just one so that I could get to work on the methodical task of rolling each lump of dough between my palms and coating each ball with granular sugar and then powdered. They bake for a quick 10-12 minutes and then you are free to pile them onto a plate, grab a glass of wine and cuddle up to your partner on the couch. There’s no better cure for a long day, I promise.
Also, if you are in need of some cheer the next evening as well, they are great crumbled over vanilla ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Almond Bites
makes 3-4 dozen 3-bite cookies
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp amaretto
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3-4 pinches sea salt
*1 cup each of granulated sugar and powdered sugar, in separate bowls, for rolling dough balls in
- Preheat the oven to 350*.
- Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant. Do not burn. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in a double boiler with butter and amaretto until smooth.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the eggs and 1/3 cup sugar on high speed until pale, as pictured above (5-8 minutes). Stir in the melted chocolate mixture.
- Pour the cooled nuts and flour into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the baking powder and the salt, and pulse a few more times. Stir the ground nut mixture into the chocolate batter.
- Chill for 1-2 hours, preferably 2, until batter is firm.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 again and set up your bowls of granulated sugar and powdered sugar. Roll the chocolate cookie batter into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball first in granulated sugar and then in powdered sugar. Set the cookies in rows, at least 1-inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, swapping the top and bottom baking sheets about halfway through. The cookies should be slightly firm around the edges, but otherwise soft.
- Cool on a rack completely, then store in an airtight container.
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