Sunday, February 14, 2010

Potluck 1/21 - The Happiest Potluck on Earth

The January 21st potluck was declared a Disney potluck by the host, Kristin. When we walked in, Beauty and the Beast was playing on the TV, and all of us college and graduate students stood transfixed, wine or beer in hand, listening to Gaston sing about how many raw eggs he eats every morning. Then we contemplated why Belle doesn't seem to actually eat anything during "Be Our Guest" (except for sticking her finger into a pudding or two). All that incredible food gone to waste! The gray pudding, though, I have always found a little off-putting. And because some of us are also musical theatre nerds (thanks Geoffrey), we imagined Angela Lansbury merging her Mrs. Potts character with her Mrs. Lovett character from Sweeney Todd ("here we are... hot out of the oven!"). It's not that much of a stretch, but it puts a whole new spin on things.

As for the food, we had a fine collection of Disney inspired dishes. There was jambalaya for Disney's new movie, The Princess and the Frog, frozen chocolate covered bananas for The Jungle Book, and my favorite, spaghetti and meatballs from The Lady and the Tramp. However, not all of the food was connected to a specific movie. I made crisp but tender chocolate almond cookies called Basler Brunsli (I figured that wearing Mickey ears was Disney enough for me). And, in the spirit of Disneyworld being the happiest place on earth, I cut my cookies into flower and heart shapes, since I didn't have mouse-ear cookie cutters.
Part of why I chose these cookies (besides that fact that they sounded delicious), is that they use the German cherry liquor Kirsch. I bought a rather large bottle of it for the cranberry cake I made for the previous potluck. I still have hardly made a dent, but I have made these cookies a second time since potluck, and I certainly plan on making them again. They were that good. And here's the recipe!

Basler Brunsli - Adapted from recipe at deliciousdays

5.3 oz dark chocolate*

2 1/2 cups almonds meal**

1/2 cup+2Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar***

a pinch of salt

1/2 cup+2Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

4 large egg whites

2 Tbsp Kirsch (cherry liquor)

*Trader Joe's carries a 3-pack of small 1.25 oz chocolate bars that is enough for this recipe (plus a little for snacking)

**Again, you can find this at Trader Joe's next to the nuts!

***The original recipe calls for a little over 3/4 of a cup. I made a mistake in my weight->volume conversions the first time and used 1/4 cup. They tasted so good, that when I made them later, I used 1/2 cup and it was perfect.

1. Break up the chocolate and put it in a small glass bowl set over simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Let the chocolate melt slowly as your prepare the other ingredients, stirring occaisionally.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the almond meal, cocoa, sugar, salt, and flour.

3. In a seperate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then fold them into the almond mixture.

4. Finally, add the chocolate and the kirsch. If you plan on saving the dough to bake up later, put in a little extra kirsch, since the cherry flavor seems to fade the longer you keep it in the fridge.

5. Knead until everything is incorporated, then separate the dough into 2 or 3 sections, and form them into disks. Wrap this in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

6. Preheat oven to 450˚, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

7. On a lightly floured surface (I used my new Silpat for this!) roll out the dough to 5mm (~0.2 inches) thick. It may take a few minutes sitting out of the fridge before it is malleable enough to roll. Cut into desired shapes. Place cookies on cookie sheet. They can be pretty close together, since these cookies don't expand.

8. Bake for 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookies, and how crisp you want them. They should be crisp on the outside, and tender and crumbly on the inside.

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