Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Taking the flavors of a Christmas candy and turning them into an exciting cookie...

So, we had to push the Weekly Treat Day back a day this week, but I don't think anyone will complain once they get their hands on these Almond Roca Cookies.

This recipe takes the flavor of that decadent candy (which we always make around Christmas time) and turns it into a delicious cookie. To give you that rich, sweet taste you get when eating the candy, we bumped up the flavor by using a combination of moist dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. The higher proportion of brown sugar aids in their chewy quality, while the white sugar brought a nice crispness around the edges.

In the candy version, the combination of butter and brown sugar that boils and caramelizes away to a fairly high temperature creates that delicious toffee flavor you may remember. However, in these cookies, this is made a little more accessible by using plain ol' toffee bits. The dough for the cookies was fairly soft when combined, so we decided to stick the mixing bowl into the refrigerator for a couple hours. After chilling out, we could easily handle it without any issue. Now, I bet you're wondering... where are the almonds? Well, rather than mixing them in, the dough is portioned out into balls and then rolled in coarsely ground almonds!

I'm not the biggest fan of milk chocolate, but I do appreciate that slick layer of milky sweetness commonly found on almond roca. To add that element, we chopped up a small piece from one of our favorite hunks of chocolate (Callebaut), melted it in a double boiler and then drizzled it over the baked and cooled cookies. While you may not get the same airy, crunchy texture like that buttery candy has, these cookies are bursting with a satisfying roca flavor that captivated my attention into eating more than a couple quality control pieces!

Tonight's dinner, Turkey and Chipotle Black Bean Tamale Pie, would probably be more appropriately served on a chilly winter's evening, but I've been wanting to make this recipe for too long and decided I couldn't wait anymore. So, after turning the AC up a notch or two, I forged ahead... hey, the oven was already heated up from the cookies!

A very hearty and saucy mixture forms the base of this tamale pie. Onions, a seeded jalapeƱo (you just want the flavor, not the heat as you get enough from the chipotle) and minced garlic start off the sauce. Flour is added to thicken and a couple generous tablespoons of chili powder start the layering of flavors. Broth, tomato sauce and minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are whisked into the pot - add chiles to taste, if you want it especially spicy, add two. If you want this dish to be on the milder side, but still get that smoky aspect, you could scrape out the seeds from one before adding it. Once the sauce thickens up, cooked turkey, tender black beans and a cup of corn kernels are added to come up to temperature.

The process of preparing the cornmeal topping was a little unusual (to me anyway), but I followed the directions and it ended up working just fine! Coarse stone-ground cornmeal is whisked with cold water before being added to the pot of boiling water. I'm guessing this has something to do with making sure the grains don't clump up, but I'm not sure. Since the ratio of grain to water is less than I would usually use, the mixture thickens up fairly quick and was able to be poured on top of the turkey filling. I was afraid the cornmeal would just sink down, but it was light enough to sit right on top! Extra-sharp cheese is then scattered on top and the assembled dish bakes until the cornmeal is cooked through and the turkey mixture is bubbling away.

You'll want to set aside enough time for this to cool down before you cut into it - I would suggest up to 15 minutes or so to give the sauce a chance to set up (we waited about 5 minutes and it could have used the additional 10). Well-seasoned with a nice kick and a cheesy crust on top, I know I can't wait until fall rolls around and those cool winds start to blow in to make this dish again! If you're tired of black beans, I've made a note on the recipe that we should try swapping them out with hominy when we make this again for a different taste.


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  2. That looks seriously yummy. I have been having a very un-seasonal craving for casseroles lately, so I copying that into my files...

  3. Laura - I know what you mean! I usually enjoy them more in the cooler months, but for some reason they have been calling my name!

  4. I had to Google almond roca. No clue what it was! And also callebaut chocolate. Where do you buy it - mailorder?

  5. Quinn - I buy the chocolate at a local shop!