Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day 2013: Francois Payard's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies




When I found out eighteen years ago that I was going to have a baby boy I decided that this was my opportunity to give a precious gift to womankind.  I figured that most everyone before me was clueless when it came to raising their boys which, I surmised, was the reason men did so many stupid things when it came to women.  So I was going to fix all that with my little wonder boy.   Well after eighteen years of blood, sweat and tears, I am here to tell everyone that it isn't nearly as easy as it looks.

Don't get me wrong, I have a pretty good kid, but as I raise this young man I realize that the old saying is true, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  We just don't get each other.  What I think is a gentle reminder, he see as nagging.  What he sees as waiting for the perfect opportunity, I interpret as maddening procrastination. What he believes to be comfortable, homey surroundings I think is a mess which could potentially cause condemnation of our property.  So out of sheer exasperation and exhaustion I turn him over to his father who thinks he can teach him how to "handle" women, and so it goes, the blind leads the blind.

Well, coming fresh off of a "you see if you can do something with him" break, I am rested up just in time to help my young Martian get through Valentines Day with his first real Venusian.  Just to make sure that I don't overlook anything, I called in reinforcements in the form of his big sister, who is all over this one.  I do have to say I'm a bit worried because in her short history with boys she has dealt with stupidity of epic proportions, and she might not know her own strength.  I must remember to ask her to be gentle with him.

For this year while he is still a beginner, we're just going to hit the high points.  We'll be sure and tell him that he doesn't have to spend a ton of money to show a girl how much he cares, just put a little thought into it and go the extra mile.  Be sure and smell that perfume before you buy it, read the card before you leave the store with it, and most importantly spend the day with her instead of hanging out in front of the Xbox with your Martian brethren. 

In the future we'll go over advanced topics like Godiva and Tiffany, but for this year, I think that's enough.  Oh yeah, there's one other thing I want him to know.  His first Valentine still loves him very much and will always be here for him, even if we don't exactly understand each other.

To show all of my Valentines how much I love them, I like to put together some little red gift bags full of tokens from the dollar store or small things that they have mentioned they like throughout the year.  I also make some kind of special sweet chocolate treat for everyone to enjoy.  Through the years I've made cake, cupcakes, truffles, ice cream and chocolate covered strawberries, and even though they've all been delicious and well received, I think they are really going to love what I have in store for them this year.

I discovered this year's treat over at Jules Food.  If you've never visited this blog, you'll  love the adventurous recipes beautiful photographs.  I take it to the bank if something is endorsed as really good, so when this recipe for Francois Payard's flourless chocolate cookies was featured, I knew I had to make them.  Sure enough, they are perfection.  Light, with a thin crispy shell on the outside and a little chew on the inside, these are some special cookies.  Best of all, they are easy to prepare.  If you really want to impress this Valentine's Day, bake up some of these elegant bites for those you love.



Francois Payard's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

This is similar to the New York Magazine recipe that Jules used to make these wonderful cookies.  Like Jules, I only had about 2 cups of nuts (mine were pre-chopped) when I made mine.  The recipe still worked beautifully.

2 - 2 3/4 cups walnut halves (I used 2 cups chopped nuts)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350.

Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven watching closely, until they are golden and fragrant, approximately 8 - 10 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them. Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk (or combine with an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or with an electric mixer set to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen). 

Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper onto wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
 
*I found that to get 12 nice big cookies, use a slightly heaping dessert spoon of cookie dough.

**I only had one large baking sheet, so I baked mine in batches which worked well enough.  The batter for the second batch did stiffen up on me a bit while the first batch was in the oven, but it was still loose enough that it worked.  I do have to say that the second batch wasn't quite as glossy and pretty on top, but still tasted great.

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