SARAH BERNHARDT’S COOKIES

Don’t you love a cookie with a nice story behind it? Sarah Bernhardt was one of the greatest French actresses of the last century. During a trip to Denmark at the height of her career she had a cookie from an upscale bakery and fell totally in love. She was so passionate about that delicacy that in 1911, after her memoirs were published in Denmark, Chef Johannes Steen named this spectacular chocolate cookie after her. Read more about it here. You will find many versions around, but count on Helen Fletcher to bring you the authentic. The cookie joins an almond base, and a chocolate truffle enrobed in a chocolate shell. Many versions cover the whole thing in chocolate, but if you want to do the real thing, cover just the truffle. You should still see the cookie underneath and it will be much more elegant to eat. Worthy of a dame like Sarah Bernhardt.

SARAH BERNHARDT’S COOKIES
(from Pastries like a Pro)

for the cookie base:
100g almond flour
150g granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

for the chocolate truffle topping:
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (28g)
2 tablespoons sugar (25g)
140g semisweet chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla

to coat the truffle:
114g semisweet chocolate (114 grams)
1 tablespoon shortening
Gold Leaf, optional

Make the cookie base. Draw a template with 1 in diameter circles on parchment paper to pipe the cookies, flip the paper so that you can pipe on the back.

Combine the almond flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and run it for a few seconds to combine. Add the egg whites and vanilla, process until a paste forms. Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 in round tip. Pipe rounds of cookie batter on the parchment paper, going just to the circle drawn. They will puff up during baking. Leave the piped cookie sitting at room temperature while you heat the oven to 300F. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes or until they just start to get some color on the edges. Let cool completely on the paper before removing to a cooling rack.

Make the chocolate truffles. Heat cream, butter and sugar until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should be very hot, but not boiling. Submerge the chocolate under the cream and let sit for 4 or 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth. Add vanilla.

pour it into a rimmed baking sheet, cover the top with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until it sets up. If it is too soft to pipe and hold a shape, refrigerate briefly until it can be piped.

If making up to a week ahead, pour into a container, cover the surface with film and chill store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to pipe. Follow the instructions above if it gets too soft.

Fit a pastry bag with a 5/8 inch tip. Fill the bag the truffle mixture. Pipe a kiss shaped mound in the center on top of each macaroon about 1” high and within about 1/4″ from the edge. If there is a pointed tip, press it gently with your finger to smooth the surface out.

Place in the freezer to harden. If not finishing within a day or so, place these in a covered container and keep them frozen for a month or so until time to finish.

Finish the cookies. Combine the chocolate and shortening in a short, wide mouth glass or other small container and microwave at 50% power for 1 minute.  Stir to mix. If the chocolate isn’t completely smooth, microwave for 10 seconds at a time.  Do not let it get too hot.

Remove the cookies from the freezer. Dip them upside down to cover the kisses, just short of their bottoms. Let the excess chocolate drip off. The chocolate finish should cover the kiss but not touch the cookie base. The fact they are frozen will stop the chocolate from running. If the kisses start to warm, pop them back into the freezer. Right after coating, add golden leaf decoration or sprinkles.

Cookies should be kept in the fridge and be brought to room temperature for serving. They can sit at room temperature for a few hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Helen’s post about these cookies is extremely detailed, so I recommend you visit her site if you’d like to bake a batch. She decorated them with gold leaf, I went the easier route and resorted to my trustworthy golden stars. You’ll need to work fast, because the chocolate coating sets almost immediately upon contact with the frozen truffle component.

These are festive and luscious, the type of cookie that will brighten up any holiday table. There is something about the contrast of the cookie base with the melt-in-your-mouth truffle that explains why Ms. Bernhardt went crazy for them.

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RUSSIAN TEA COOKIES: WHEN PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF

This recipe has tempted me ever since I first encountered it on Barbara’s blog. If you read her post you’ll understand my sentiments and want to bake a batch too. So, a couple of Mondays ago I awakened at 5:30 am and went to the kitchen, hoping to have these cookies still warm from the oven for our lab meeting. As you shall see momentarily, the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

Because I was a little tired and sleepy I carefully followed the recipe, and even arranged the measured ingredients on the counter top (the mis-en-place, mark of a serious cook). Nevertheless, unimpressed by my organizational skills, the ingredients refused to shape into a dough. No matter what I did, I only found revolving sandy crumbs forming in the KitchenAid mixer bowl. My husband woke up, came to the kitchen with a good morning kiss, but quickly decided to fetch the newspaper and read it with his coffee, far away from the kitchen (smart man that he is).

I returned to Barbara’s blog … had I forgotten something? – nope, everything was in order. So I gathered up portions of the sandy mess, formed them into “balls” and baked them, into what turned out to be unstable, unappetizing blobs. Frustrated, I rolled one into powdered sugar and tried it….Not fit for human consumption. Almost in tears, I began cleaning the kitchen, and while putting the almond flour away I noticed something printed on the bag: “brown rice flour“.

Some days a woman should not leave the comfort of her bed until way past 7 am, possibly around noon. But, I made them again, and… persistence paid off. Would you believe that the correct flour made them just as tasty as Barbara described?

RUSSIAN TEA CAKES
(adapted from Barbara’s blog, originally published in A Blithe Palate)

1 + 3/4 cups (6 oz) almond flour
2 cups all purpose flour
6 T sugar, divided (4 T + 2 T)
8 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 t vanilla
extract zest of 1/2 large lemon
1 t salt

Powdered sugar for dusting the cookies.

Heat the oven to 325 F.

Cream the butter and 4 T sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla until combined, then reduce speed and add the two kinds of flour, salt, lemon zest, and the remaining 2T of sugar. Scoop a spoonful of dough and roll it into a 1 inch ball. You should obtain about 36 cookies.

Place them on a lined baking sheet. Bake them until light brown, approximately 20 minutes. Do not overcook. Half way through baking time, switch the cookie sheets, rotating them to promote even baking. Remove from the oven and dust them liberally with powdered sugar. Cool on a rack. Eat 3 or 4 four cookies while no one is looking.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: What a difference a flour makes! 😉 My only change to the recipe was to add a bit of lemon zest, because it’s a natural match for almonds. The dough is easy to shape and has a delightful aroma even in its raw form. At the first bite of the cookie I wondered, “do I like it”? But within seconds it melted in my mouth, with a lovely almond flavor, simultaneously sweet and nutty, with a slight splash of citrus as an extra kick. Eat one, and you will reach for a second in no time.

ONE YEAR AGO: CINNAMON-RAISIN WALNUT LOAF

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