My favorite Christmas gifts are always the foods that friends give our family.
One of my cooking students in Ohio sends us an irresistible brandy-drenched fruitcake each December along with homemade caramels and delectable almond meringue cookies. Another friend brings us jams and a scrumptious coffeecake, both of which he prepares himself.
Home-produced peanut brittle, chutneys and relishes are other treasures we often receive. We enjoy these treats at family meals and when entertaining throughout the holidays.
I, too, love cooking something to share with others at this time.
This year I wanted to reproduce some delicious chocolate cookies that I had sampled many times in a now-closed New York City restaurant. Since I had no way of getting the recipe for the confections from the restaurant, I spent most of a Sunday afternoon experimenting until I had a close facsimile of the originals.
The cookies, crispy outside with rich, dark, chewy interiors, are made with a buttery chocolate dough into which chocolate chips and walnuts are incorporated. They can be baked several days ahead, then stored at room temperature.
Wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon, these decadent morsels make thoughtful presents, or you could serve them along with a bowl of fruit as dessert for a casual holiday meal or with eggnog or mulled wine at a trim-the-tree party.
Chocolate Heaven Cookies
Makes about three dozen cookies
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into chunks
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Have ready two nonstick baking sheets or line two regular baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Place 6 ounces chocolate chunks and butter in top of double boiler set over, but not touching, simmering water. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth and shiny, 2 to 3 minutes or less. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat eggs in electric mixer on medium speed, gradually adding sugar. Beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is thick and pale yellow in color, about 2 minutes. On very low speed, beat in coffee, then chocolate mixture, and finally dry ingredients.
Remove from mixer. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts by hand with rubber spatula. Drop batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets, leaving enough space around each for cookies to spread.
Bake one baking sheet at a time on lower rack at 325 degrees 9 to 10 minutes. (Cookies will look cracked and shiny on outside but will not appear to be cooked through.) Remove from oven and let cookies cool to room temperature on baking sheet about 30 minutes. Repeat until all cookies are baked. Using metal spatula, carefully remove cookies to cooling rack and cool 1 hour until firm enough to handle easily.
Store cookies in airtight container at cool room temperature up ,, to five days. (Cookies can also be frozen. Pack carefully in self-seal plastic bags and defrost at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes.)
Pub Date: 12/06/98