Friday, November 12, 2010

Dark Chocolate Traditions

 In March I posted one of my family's favorite cookie recipes. This one is the other favorite, and was also passed down to my mother from her Italian maternal grandmother. These chocolate cookies are perhaps a little less suitable for breakfast than the fennel seed ones, but that may not stop you (or me) from eating them for breakfast when they are available. I made them on Monday night because Nathanael and I had a long car ride in front of us on Tuesday, and not only did I want to eat them all the way there, but I also wanted to share them with the family members waiting for us on the other side. As it turned out there was more than enough food when we arrived, so we still have most of the cookies, but that is alright with both of us.
  I remember making these cookies with my mom, sisters, and a family friend one year when we had an all day Christmas cookie bake. There are no eggs in these cookies and the dough is quite delicious; I ate so much of the dough that even our family friend told me to stop. I tried, but I think I ended up still having a few more bits of it. I recall we also made some kind of sugar cookies where you mix 2/3 of the dough with pistachio pudding and they ended up looking like little green UFOs with tan domes.
This cookie recipe has you do some unusual things, which might dissuade you if you are picky, but I would recommend that you be brave and branch your chocolate cookies into this new and gourmet realm. (Just make sure you read the recipe from start to finish before beginning. You will need almost a whole box of cocoa, and probably most of a bag of confectioner's sugar to frost.)

 You will chop not only the nuts, but also the raisins. This will keep them from cracking the cookies as they bake. The recipe calls for coffee, and even though I don't EVER drink coffee, these cookies are one of my favorites. The coffee will not only give richness to the chocolate, but since it is warm it will soften the raisins and melt the shortening. These cookies are the only reason I brew coffee (well, them and Nathanael).
These cookies have no eggs, and the original recipe calls for vegetable shortening, so in their traditional form they are vegan. However, shortening is falling out of style because of hydrogenation, so if you are an adventurous vegan go ahead and try some combination of oils. I typically use some butter and some oil. 

  Sifting your dry ingredients will ensure the cocoa is mixed well with the flour.

 I roasted my cloves in the oven to make them slightly easier to grind with the mortar and pestle, and it made our house smell wonderful until we returned from our trip three days later. However, roasting is not necessary.
 The dough is a scrumptious mixture that is easy to work with and not dangerous to eat. What more could you ask for?

The only thing missing is the almond frosting. Then they will taste really Italian.

Italian Chocolate Cookies  yield 4 dozen
Wet ingredients
1 cup of hot coffee
1 cup shortening (I usually use 3/4 butter, 1/4 canola oil)
1 cup raisins, chopped
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup sugar

Dry ingredients
4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups cocoa
3 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cloves (you can add up to 1 1/2 tsp, but my family usually keeps it on the low end)

Later addition
3/4 to 1 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional and not in original recipe, try to balance them out with the walnuts to equal no more than 1 1/2 cups so that the cookies don't crumble)

 In a medium glass bowl pour the hot coffee over the shortening/butter to melt it completely. Once melted also add raisins (to soften them), vanilla, and sugar. In a separate bowl sift together dry ingredients. Mix wet and dry mixtures together and add walnuts and chocolate chips. Mix with your hands until all ingredients are mixed evenly. Let dough rest for 5 minutes. Roll into 1 inch balls, place on greased cookie sheets, and bake at 375°F for ten minutes only. Remove carefully to a wire rack and cool fully. If desired (and you will desire it once you taste it) frost with confectioner's sugar frosting.

Confectioner's Sugar Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar (sifted if possible)
1/2 tsp pure almond extract (or vanilla if you must, but almond is better)
10 tsp milk (2% or whole)

Place sugar in a bowl and add flavoring. Measure the first 5 tsp of milk into the bowl and then stir the mixture into a paste (this reduces lumps). Slowly add the remaining milk, one teaspoon at a time, stirring after each addition. You will probably use all 10 tsp, but it may depend upon your sugar. Resulting frosting should be somewhere near the thickness of Elmer's glue. Dip cookies in completely, scraping off excess, and set on a wire rack to dry. Allow frosting to harden before storing cookies.
This will frost about 2 dozen cookies, more if you scrape up the drippings.


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