From the Pantry: Almond Shortbread with Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Ganache
I know quite a few of my fellow Daring Bakers have chocolate fatigue after the chocolate eclair affair, but what do you when you've got a jar's worth of leftover chocolate glaze? Can't just let it go to waste.
One of my friends, long ago, told me the theory of why men need their alone time, why they come home and need to sit in front of the TV in silence, or retreat to the garage/workshop by themselves, whereas women will talk and chat with their friends, one of the topics of course being, "why doesn't my guy want to talk to me?"
The"caveman theory" goes that back in prehistoric times, cavemen would retreat to their caves to ponder the difficulties of life, and think about how to solve their problems. I don't know, I guess being cavemen they hadn't evolved enough to talk about their problems with others. Instead, they sat in their cave until they had figured out the solution to their problems or come to terms with their caveman existence, and that's how men have been programmed to act ever since.
So now, whenever I'm talking to my boyfriend and I notice he's staring off the distance, and not really paying attention to what I'm saying (I know all you girls know what I mean!) I immediately ask him, "Are you in your cave?" And he'll usually say yes, and I'll respond, "Well, just let me know when you're done sitting in your cave."
Well, I'm not really one for sitting around in caves, but being a baker what I do is "sit in my pantry." When, say, I've got a tub of chocolate glaze and I need to use it, I'll sit in my chair and start picturing all the ingredients I have on hand, and all the different ways to combine them. I'll pair flavors, add some, discard others, consider various techniques, until something pops into my mind and I think, yes, that's exactly what I want to eat right now. It's amazing how it always coalesces together - sometimes I'll know in a moment what I want to make, sometimes it takes a while, but once I've thought it out I'm always so excited to get started.
When I first started baking, I was reproducing recipes from my favorite cookbooks - a perfectly respectable and reasonable course for a beginner. I would always pore over the recipe listings, noting the various combinations of ingredients and flavors, and wonder how these so-talented chefs had conceived of them. It wasn't until several years later that I gained the courage and initiative to start coming up with recipes of my own, but now I realize it's just a matter of learning, practicing, and experimenting. Sometimes my creations come out just as I envisioned, other times I taste them and I think about what I'd do differently. But I like to think every time I attempt something new in the kitchen is another step on the long and very delicious road of pastry.
So what did my trip to the pantry yield this time? Well, I thought about turning the glaze into truffles, or using it as a layer in a cake. Then I thought about what tastes I'd been missing lately, and my mind flashed immediately to almonds. That turned quickly into almond shortbread, topped with a spoonful of chocolate. I wanted one more element, and the last piece fell into place: raspberries. So: tender, buttery discs of shortbread combined with a rich, dark chocolate raspberry ganache. When my mouth starts watering I know I've hit on my kitchen project for the day.
The almond shortbread recipe is adapted from the shortbread recipe for my Field Guide to Cookies book, so you are getting a bonus preview as well! It's very rich and buttery, and fantastically fragrant with the almond extract! The dough can get very soft, especially if you are working in warm weather like I was, so my advice is to not fight the dough and use the refrigerator as your friend! I find it easiest to roll the dough out on a silicone baking mat or some other transportable surface. If it starts getting soft and sticky, place the entire thing in the refrigerator and let it chill for about 5 minutes or so. Resist the urge to dump more and more flour on it to prevent sticking, or from balling up the dough to try again: the less you manipulate the dough, the more tender and delicate your shortbread will be. Again, work with the dough, don't fight it! The results will be well worth it.
My glaze, after refrigeration, had firmed up enough to be piped out, but if you have no leftover glaze i've provided a simple ganache recipe below. It's flavored with Framboise, but you can add whatever flavoring strikes your fancy. I rolled out the shortbread to a thicker 1/4" and topped the baked cookies with a swirl of ganache; I also rolled it out to a thinner 1/8" and made a sandwich with the ganache as filling. Either way, it makes for an elegant little afternoon bite, and it used up my remaining chocolate nicely.
So if you ever see me gazing off into the distance, just know I'm not "in my cave", I'm "in my pantry", dreaming up something new to bake!
Makes 36 2 inch by 1 ¼ inch cookies
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup rice flour
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Whisk both flours together in a bowl and set aside.
In the mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and almond extract on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Remove bowl from mixer and mix in the flours by hand with a wooden spoon, until combined. The dough should be homogeneous and stick together as one lump, but try to mix as little and gently as possible - this will make the shortbread more tender.
Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a ¾ inch thick rectangle.
Refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up the dough. At this point the dough can be double wrapped and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease several cookie sheet pans or line with parchment paper.
Process the sliced almonds until fine in a food processor.
On a floured board, place dough and dust with flour. Gently roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness and cut into desired shapes. If dough gets soft, place back into refrigerator for 5 minutes.
Roll cookie edges in the ground sliced almonds. Place on sheet pans leaving 1 inch space between cookies. Dock centers of cookies with the tines of a fork twice.
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until edges a lightly golden in color.
Cool completely on sheet pans or transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
Makes about 1 cup
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 tablespoon Framboise
Chop the chocolate up into small pieces and place into a bowl.
Combine the cream and corn syrup together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil on medium heat over the stove.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let the mixture sit for a minute or so to let the chocolate start melting.
Using a rubber spatula, carefully stir the mixture until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth, trying not to incorporate too much air into it. Stir in the Framboise.
Let ganache cool to room temperature and thicken. Once it is thick enough to pipe you can spoon it into a pipng bag fitted with a small star tip and decorate the cookies. If it's too soft you can refrigerate for an hour or so to let it firm up.
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