My friend I., in aid of my recent babka obsession, recommended a wonderful cookbook, with the longish title of Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins and More, by Carole Walter. This is a woman who clearly knows what she is talking about and writes a mean recipe to boot.
She even explains how to make real strudel dough so clearly that I almost feel as if I could do it. I intend to follow several trails , including the babka road, in this excellent book. The first thing I had to try, though, was totally off-topic. And these chocolate pistachio thumbprint cookies are awfully good.
They are a little bit of a pain in the neck, in terms of multiple steps, dirty pans, and fiddle. Her instructions, however are so detailed that you pretty much cannot fail. No paraphrasing I can do will be nearly as good as the original- if you are a cookie monster who loves coffee cake, you should just get the book. Really. Plus, there's just so much detail a person can transcribe before they just don't want to anymore. Especially those of us who were never such great typists to begin with.
However, as I think it is unfair to show a picture and give no recipe, this is what I am going to do. I am going to provide the cookie recipe, and suggest that you use whatever chocolate glaze, or ganache suits you to fill the thumbprints. I think any nice one will work, though I am partial to Ms. Walter's, and have a bit left for a coffee cake to follow. I followed her instructions very closely, and the cookies are special. She's in a class with Dorie Greenspan and Maida Heatter for the writing of recipes for baking, folks.
You will need:
1 3/4 cups AP flour, spooned in and leveled
1/4 strained dutch process cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly firm
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsps real vanilla
1 cup pistachio nuts, toasted, and then medium chopped
3 tbsps sparkling sugar (I used sanding sugar in green- I have a personal weakness for colored sanding sugar)
sufficient chocolate glaze to fill 32 thumbprints
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle beater. Mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream, and stop when just incorporated. Blend in egg yolks and vanilla.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, and blend in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon. (It's a bit of work, but don't overmix, or it will get oily, she says).
Set out a sheet of waxed paper, and with your hands, roll out a walnut sized ball of dough, and set it on the waxed paper. Continue until the dough is all made into cookies.
In a small shallow bowl, beat the egg white with 2 tsps water, just until combined. In another bowl, mix the sparkling sugar and cooled, chopped nuts. Now take half of that mixture, and put it in a small shallow bowl. Dip each cookie in the egg white, and rollin the nut mixture to cover. Then set each on one of the cookie sheets. When the nut mixture gets low, add more. (This helps it stay drier, instead of being all sticky from the eggwhite.)
Once all the cookies are on the baking sheets, use the end of a wooden spoon (about 1/2"in diameter), to poke a deep hole in the center of each cookie. Put the cookie sheets in the oven, and bake for 12 minutes. Take them out, and re-poke all the holes with the spoon-end. Turn them round and exchange the top sheet for the bottom one. Bake another 3-5 minutes, until firm to the touch, then remove. Let the cookies sit on the sheets for 5 minutes or so, then move to a cooling rack. When they are tepid, fill with your glaze or ganache.
These will keep in an airtight container for a week, with waxed paper or foil between, if they last that long. I wonder if I could actually make a strudel, from other than frozen, store bought filo? I think the coffee cakes come first.