California’s cookie is shortbread with cinnamon, mini chocolate chips and a whole lot of chopped almonds.
I’m starting to wonder if I should change the title of this blog to “I done effed it up a little” or something. Fun fact: when I used to have a general blog, back in the day before Facebook (yes, I’m old), and before Facebook got the way it is now, one of the things I used to post was “The Accidental Gourmet” which chronicled what my dad recently called “pulling a Homer (Simpson): you messed up but did good somehow” with teaching myself to cook. Anyway, since I can never seem to pull off the recipes flawlessly despite my schooling… Learn from my mistakes. This time it has to do with dipping chocolate. More on that later.
You might notice the recipe link says “gluten free.” I made it full of gluten again and here’s why: if a recipe is incidentally gluten free, I’ll make it as written, say if it uses almond flour or something like that. Same if a recipe is vegetarian or vegan. But if they ask me to use a mimic substitute, in this case a one-to-one gluten free flour blend, I’m not going to bother spending the money just like I wouldn’t spend the money on meatless pre-made meatballs for a vegetarian spaghetti and meatballs. If I was making it for someone who couldn’t have gluten it would be another story. The next recipe, for Colorado, tells me to make a flax-based egg substitute to make it vegan. Like hell; I’ll be using real eggs. But I will use coconut oil because I already have that. See how it works?
I do the same thing with “makeover” recipes where someone just subbed in the fat free versions of all the dairy. You can reverse engineer healthy recipes to be “unhealthy” too. It works both ways.
Yesterday was a crappy rainy day, so I decided to tackle these because I didn’t get to over the weekend. That meant I had to set Gabe up to watch the cooking show because the alternative was him either dragging himself over to the cookbook shelf to poke at the books (he favors my textbook Professional Baking, good lad) or dragging himself across the in-need-of-a-mopping kitchen floor and I have to worry about him poking at the ant cups.
Turns out they don’t really sell chopped almonds. Slivered, yes. Sliced, sure. So I had to break this guy out again:
Gabe did not like that. I had to go into the bathroom and put the fan on to use the processor. It was loud. I think I didn’t chop them finely enough partly because of that and partly because it seems like by the time you get the large bits smaller, the rest is dust.
They tell you to chop a cup of almonds, and then you only mix 1/3 of a cup into the dough! Where do the rest go? Sprinkled atop the cookies before baking and sprinkled on the chocolate after doing. Jesus, California, really? I know you’re known for your almonds but sheesh.
This is what it looks like when you mix until it starts to come together. In true shortbread fashion, working with it is like packing wet sand.
Tablespoon balls, which I dipped into the nuts on only one side, then pressed flat with the bottom of a mug, thereby embedding the nuts into the dough.
Lovely and done but not yet done, because they need to be dipped in melted dark chocolate after they cool.
They said to put chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals but I hate doing that because it’s too easy to overheat the chocolate and let it seize. So I’m using a double boiler (which BTW isn’t special equipment, just a metal bowl over simmering water. No need to buy a “double boiler.”)
Here’s where I start to go wrong. The thing about dipping into chocolate is the chocolate always seems thicker than I think it should be. So I always let it get hotter thinking it will thin out. And I break it’s temper. When you do that, if you don’t temper it again, it’ll be dull as well as soft and easy to smear at room temperature. You should never have to put tempered chocolate into the fridge to set it.
They tell you when you’re doing actual candy making not to use chocolate chips because most of them contain some kind of wax or other stabilizer. But couverture (super high quality chocolate with extra cocoa butter for gloss) is expensive, guys. So chocolate chips it is.
It did occur to me if I did the microwave method it actually might have turned out better. Instead I heated the chocolate way too much.
Then I thought I’d try to temper the chocolate but it is a pain in the butt process. You have to heat it to a certain temperature range, cool it to a lower range, and raise it again while stirring to get the cocoa butter to crystalize properly. Professional chocolatiers have machines that do this, BTW.
There’s a cheat way I usually do it that’s worked almost every time: melt the chocolate, add more chocolate and stir off the heat to melt that in. It’s the seeding method and the idea is that the melted chocolate will take it’s crystallization pattern from the “seed” chocolate. Another method involves scraping it back and forth across a cold marble slab. As you can imagine, this requires a marble slab. How many people with fancy marble countertops actually use them for this sort of thing, I wonder? Pro tip: if you want to try it, get some surplus scrap marble from a countertop supplier. I’m told it’s cheaper than, say, buying a specialty marble chocolate tempering slab from a kitchen store or similar.
They also said I could sprinkle the chocolate with sea salt, so I broke out the grinder again.
As always, I had leftover chocolate. What to do? I had no pretzels to dip (one Christmas I was dipping pretzels for gifts, ran out, and dipped some Oreos I happened to have). But you know what I do have? Lots of leftover chopped almonds and…
None of that Arrow crap: this is the real deal, with the label all in German. You can’t get this here or at least not in NH where the state runs the liquor distribution and dictates the stock each store can carry. This was my special request to a friend who went to Germany on business. And it makes the Arrow brand cherry brandy taste like cough syrup in comparison.
I tried to spread the mixture into a mini loaf pan but it was very sticky. I had to refrigerate it to set it because, again, not properly tempered. It won’t have a nice snap either, but it’s chocolate, who cares?
Overall impression: I never thought I’d say this, but too many nuts? I should’ve chopped them finer too. Maybe in two smaller batches.
I really liked the cinnamon with the chocolate. In fact, I’d probably enjoy just cinnamon shortbread with mini chocolate chips and no nuts. Is that blasphemy? Or still dip in chocolate and sprinkle finely chopped almonds on the chocolate.
The cookies themselves had a true sandy shortbread texture too, which I appreciated.
Next time: Peanut butter oatmeal cookies from Colorado, drizzled in chocolate, and supposed to be gluten free and vegan but again I’ll just be making them full of gluten and animal products. ;P