Friday, October 8, 2010
Apricot Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Slices
This is a glorified chocolate chip bar cookie chock full of toasted hazelnuts, dried apricots and crystallized ginger. There’s something about the co-mingling of all these elements that’s just so perfectly good. The apricots are a nice acidic foil for the sweetness and richness of the chocolate. The nuts provide another layer of texture and earthy flavor. The ginger perks up the whole mixture with bright spice and a very light note of heat. The result is a pastry that is moist and chewy with lots of gorgeous flavors dancing across your palate.
The idea for this recipe came from a delicious mendiant I made several Christmas seasons ago with these same chocolate, fruit and nut elements. I‘d been thinking about doing something more with that original flavor combination and I think it works out very well in this chunky configuration.
Once you chop the fruit, ginger and nuts, this whole mixture comes together very quickly. Part of the great appeal of bar cookies is that they don't require any scooping or rolling. The dough is baked into one large presentation and sliced into portions according to whim.
As you stock your pantry with dried fruit and nuts for this baking season, consider this pastry. It would be great for a potluck or impromptu party, a certain little indulgent treat for your table to take off the chill of fall.
- To toast hazelnuts, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned and the skins look cracked. Watch them carefully as hazelnuts can turn bitter if toasted too long. Remove from the oven and wrap the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to let steam for 1 minute. Then rub them together to loosen and remove as much of the skin as possible. Cool completely.
- A mendiant (“beggar” in French) is a simple confection that consists of small poured disks of chocolate topped with fruit and nuts. First made in the monasteries of France at Christmas, tradition originally dictated the use of almonds for the Carmelite order, hazelnuts for the Augustins, raisins for the Dominicans and dried figs for Franciscans. But now they are decorated with all sorts of other nuts, seeds and dried fruit, dictated only by personal preference.
- You might also enjoy Oatmeal Shortbread and Italian Sbrisolona, absolutely fantastic cookies baked in a similar fashion.
Apricot Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Slices
Makes about 16 slices
4 oz (1 stick) butter @ room temperature
3/4 C dark brown sugar
1 egg @ room temperature
1 t vanilla
1 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
scant 1 C semisweet chocolate chips (about 5 oz)
1/2 C dried apricots (about 3 oz)
1/2 C toasted hazelnuts (about 2 oz)
3 T crystallized ginger (about 1 oz)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper.
Coarsely chop the toasted hazelnuts and apricots. Finely chop the crystallized ginger.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Cream the butter and brown sugar until thoroughly combined, about 2 -3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and combine just until barely mixed and a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips, dried apricots, crystallized ginger and chopped hazelnuts until thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread into a smooth and even layer.
Bake until slightly golden, about 22 - 24 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Run a small spatula or a thin knife around the edge of the pan and release the springform ring. Use a platter to carefully invert the pastry and remove the bottom pan and the parchment paper. Invert again and transfer the pastry to a cutting board or a serving platter.