Saturday, September 25, 2010

Regrouping

Sometimes when I am baking or cooking things go wrong for no apparent reason at all.  Recently this happened while I was preparing for my baby sister's wedding.  My cousin and I decided to make an elaborate cookie table as a special gift for my sissy.  This required hours and hours of cookie baking days before the wedding.  In the end, I was to bake 10 different types of cookies (10 dozen each).  Needlessly to say, this was a big task.  I was so fortunate to have an army of helpers that made the whole endeavor a great experience.  So what does this have to do with regrouping you ask.... well, while I was preparing the dough for a marzipan pine nut cookie, the dough decided to liquefy and there was no way on earth that I could have rolled it into little horns as the recipe said.  I quickly decided to change course and make a Chinese almond cookie in its place (this is not the kind of regrouping I am talking about).  Now I had a dilemma.  I had a liquid mess that I spent a fortune on (almond paste is not cheap).  I had to employ all my baking know-how to fix this one.  I knew that adding powdered sugar would only sweeten the dough and there was no guarantee that it would firm it up.  I also knew that freezing egg whites dries them.  So I decided to freeze the dough (loosely wrapped in cling film) with the hope that the dough would "dry" and then I would be able to mold it.  Plan B worked!!  The result was a tasty cookie that looked pretty fancy to me.
I should say, regrouping does not always work.  Sometimes things just don't work out and the only place for the dough is the garbage.  So, next time things don't work out, try regrouping.  The worst thing that will happen  is you will find out what doesn't work.


Chocolate-Dipped Pignoli Crescent    -from Great Cookies by Carole Walters

16 oz. almond paste, room temp.
3/4 c. sifted confectioners' sugar, spooned in and leveled
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 large egg whites, at room temp.
3 c. pine nuts

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the almond paste and sugars.  Mix for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture forms a crumb consistency.  Add the salt to the egg whites and whisk.  Add the egg whites to the almond paste in four additions.  Continue to mix until it starts to liquefy and stick to the bottom of the bowl.  This should take about 15 to 20 seconds.  Cover lightly with cling film and chill for 1 hour. 
Position the shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Heat the oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly butter two parchment lined baking sheets.
Place the pine nuts in a shallow bowl.  Have ready a bowl of ice water.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into 1 1/4-inch balls, moistening your palms with the ice water to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll the balls in the pine nuts, pressing gently to adhere, then shape into crescents.  Place about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for about 28 minutes, or until lightly brown on the bottom.  Take care not to over bake.  If needed rotate the sheets half way through.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooking rack.
When the cookies are cool enough to handle, dip half into the ganache (recipe below) and place on a cooking rack set over a sheet of wax paper.  Let stand for 1 hour or until the ganache sets. 

Chocolate Ganache

6 oz. bittersweet Chocolate, cut into 1 inch chunks 
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Place the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until finely chopped. 
In a small saucepan, over low heat, heat the cream and corn syrup until it is simmering.  Immediately pour the hot cream into the processor bowl.  Let stand for 1 minute so that the chocolate starts to melt.  Pulse three or four times, then let rest 1 additional minute.  Add the vanilla and pulse three or four more times. 
If the ganache's surface appears oily,  add the hot water, a few drops at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Ganache thickens as it stands.


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