Monday, January 25, 2010

tipsy chocolate date nut gems

I fear these cookies are going to be a hard sell (and not just because of the title). For those who don't share my fanatical love of dates, I don't know how to convince you that "Tipsy Date Nut Gems" are anything more than a glorified fruitcake.

But they are more—so much more—somehow marrying the richness of a chocolate brownie with the winy chew of a Fig Newton center.

The dark, date-studded interior is moist and fudge-like, with crushed pecans and sweet traces of vanilla and almond. And then there's the (tipsy) rum glaze, a delicious adherent for the confectioners' sugar.

In one bite, Tipsy Chocolate Date Nut Gems were at once elusive and familiar—adult and wonderfully elementary—and for me, completely new. Even better, they were the perfect solution to the small surplus of dates we had left over from Christmas—provisions from the holiday party that never was.

Tipsy Chocolate Date Nut Gems

From Great Cookies, by Carole Walter

The recipe makes 36 little gems, or, if you're like me and lack a miniature cupcake pan, 12 medium gems.

For the rum syrup:
1½ cups water
3/4 cup sugar
3-4 tablespoons dark Jamaican rum

For the batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 cup strained cocoa powder, spooned in and leveled
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup hand-pitted dates (1/4 inch dice)
1 cup medium chopped pecans
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, spooned in and leveled, divided, for dusting

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Coat the mini-muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for one minute. Off the heat, stir in the rum and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed, about one minute. Add the dark brown sugar, the dark brown corn syrup, melted butter and extracts. Mix until well blended, about one minute. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Using an over-size rubber spatula, fold in the dates and pecans.

Using a teaspoon, spoon the batter into the mini-muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just set on top.

Remove the muffin tins from the oven and let the cookies rest in the pans for five minutes, or until the cookies pull away from the sides of the pans. Invert the pans onto waxed paper, tapping firmly against the countertop to release the cookies.

While the cookies are still warm, using a slotted spoon, dip each cookie into the warm syrup and place on a thin wire cooling rack. The cookies should only be moistened with the syrup, not soaked. (Discard any leftover syrup.) Let the cookies air-dry for 25 to 30 minutes.

Place one cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a large shallow baking dish, such as a pie plate. Working with one cookie at a time, roll in the sugar, coating thoroughly. While still in the dish, use the heel of your hand to gently flatten the cookie to approximately ½-inch thickness. Return to the rack and air-dry for 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

When ready to serve, roll the cookies in the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar. Serve at room temperature. [Store the cookies in and airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed paper, and refrigerate until ready to use. The cookies will keep for up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.]

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