Meeting the Flourless Chocolate Cookie Fairy
Friday afternoon and I'm thoroughly enjoying the current above-average April temperatures that make it feel more like June. It had been a long week and I'm catching up with some magazines, a few new cookbooks and a glass of white wine. Phone rings, and it's Mister MA, who's decided to invite our friends, the Fonzes, over for dinner without much of a pre-invite spousal consultation.
The cook is really not in the mood for dinner party prep, but Mister MA, now obligated to play host, announces that he will prepare supper but wants to know if the culinary hotline is open for occasional troubleshooting. I step aside and watch him go, go, go, proud of him as he makes marinade for chicken, washes greens for salad ("Yeah, Dude, I know how to make a vinaigrette") and lights the chimney for the grill.
I know he can't cook rice to save his life, so I save him the agony and take the pot into my own hands. As I rinse the grains, I think of the recipe that caught my eye while sunning out on the back porch just a few hours earlier, an intriguing chocolate-y meringue cookie with a chewy texture rather than sawdusty. Hmm -- and flourless, too.
It seemed fitting to embark on this cookie experiment, as the Fonzes were gearing up for Seder at their house the very next evening, and who knows, if the cookies turn out, I can give them my loot and Mama Fonz won't have to make Passover dessert.
As it turns out, Mama Fonz had to stay home because Baby Fonz was down with a nasty cough, Papa Fonz informed us as he entered the back door closest to the kitchen.
While the guys hung out in the yard and monitored the grill, I mixed the cookie batter, which seemed too easy to be true. I was very skeptical that adding egg whites to a batter without beating them would result in anything edible whatsoever, but I did what I was told, no flour, no butter, oil or Kosher margarine, just the fat of the nuts, thank you very much, and just wait and see, young lady. Sure enough, the cookie fairy arrived on the scene, transforming unbeaten egg whites, cocoa, confectioners' sugar and pecans into chocolate fairy dust, in about 30 minutes, start to finish. Chewy, yes sir! And despite my disbelief that cocoa powder would yield enough of a fudgy profile, I was again proven wrong.
The guys plowed through the cookies, so I knew another batch would have to happen -- if only to make sure I wasn't hallucinating from the Friday afternoon sun. Sure enough, the cookies did me right. Now if I could just find a few eager cookie monsters to lighten the load... Fonz? Anyone seen Fonz?
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Francois Payard's Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
From the April 21, 2008 issue of New York magazine
2 3/4 cups walnut halves (Feel free to reduce amount to 2 ½ cups; I've used pecans with success)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven golden and fragrant, about seven minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer nuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.
Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) confectioners' sugar with cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped nuts.
While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not over beat or it will stiffen).
Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for about seven minutes, then move pans from front to back and top to bottom, and allow to bake for an additional seven or eight minutes (for a total of 14-16 minutes), until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked.
Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto two wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to three days.
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