High altitude baking: Nutty chocolate drops (recipe)
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Opposites attract, and this cookie is proof. Crunchy toasted almonds are paired with chocolate so soft it’s almost gooey, and the outcome is a rich, candy-like morsel with wide appeal.
The secret to their goodness is to bake them only until the tops are set while the chocolate beneath is still soft. They’ll firm up more as they cool, so err on the side of underbaking them. If they’re truly underbaked, you can return them to the oven for a few more minutes, but, if they’re overbaked, their charm is irretrievable. Be sure to use an excellent chocolate, one you’d eat out of hand.
Don’t hesitate to try the recipe with other nuts, we like them with hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and even with peanuts (they’ll remind you of a popular candy bar). Just be sure they’re toasted until they’re crunchy and flavorful, cooled and chopped before starting the recipe.
Nutty Chocolate Drops
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Makes about 30 cookies
¾ cup whole almonds (3.5 ounces)
4 ounces high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
A pinch baking powder (1/16 of a teaspoon)
1 large egg at room temperature
¼ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heaping ½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Toast the nuts, let them cool to room temperature and coarsely chop them.
2. Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the butter, cut into small pieces. Microwave at a medium-low temperature for 60 second intervals, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove from the oven and stir the mixture until smooth, shiny and fully combined. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Set aside. Using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, combine the egg, sugar and vanilla, and beat for at least 20 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and add the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring until fully combined. Add the flour mixture and, on low speed, stir to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts by hand with a rubber spatula. If very soft, let the dough sit for 3-4 minutes to firm up. (Don’t let it sit for very long or the chocolate will start to harden.)
4. Using two spoons, make mounds of dough about the size that would sit in a teaspoon. Mound them high; if necessary, wet your fingers and push the dough together. Place them on the prepared cookie sheets, an inch and a half apart. Bake for about 5 minutes and then rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and back to front. Bake another 3-5 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are just set and dry but the cookie remains very soft.
5. Remove the cookie sheets to cooling racks. When the cookies have firmed up (check at 8-10 minutes) carefully peel them from the parchment paper and move them to the racks to cool completely. If they are so soft they stick even when cooled, return them to the oven for a few more minutes of baking (350 degrees). Store, airtight at cool room temperature for five days. The chocolate may lose its shine after about 24 hours (the sugar crystallizes), but the cookie still tastes delicious.
This is a variation of a Rose Beranbaum recipe.
Vera Dawson is a high altitude baking teacher and author of two high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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