Sunday, February 12, 2012

♥ Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread Hearts ♥

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and aside from offering an opportunity to express romantic love, it’s also an ideal time to break out those heart-shaped cake pans and cookie molds that have been gathering dust throughout the year. There’s something about the heart shape 

that makes a sweet taste so much better, c’est pas vrai? This year I decided to make a simple, delicious pistachio shortbread cookie and, because chocolate is the favored flavor for Valentine’s Day, dipped them in a little tempered dark chocolate. The recipe for this 

cookie comes from my old friend Chris Broberg (old relating not to his age, to clarify, but the duration of our acquaintance), the super-talented pastry chef of the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. It’s a classic shortbread cookie made with ground pistachios, but you can 

certainly substitute almonds or hazelnuts for the pistachios, if you like. The nice thing about this dough is that it doesn’t require chilling before you roll it out, so you can spring into action, rolling, cutting and baking, right after the dough comes together in the 

mixer. So you can show your love without spending all day on it. I know, I don’t sound very romantic, but I actually am – the proof is that I still cry at the end of Wuthering Heights, even though I’ve probably seen it 25 times. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends! ♥♥♥

Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread Hearts

Makes 46 cookies
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Special Equipment: 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter

1/3 cup (50 grams) shelled unsalted pistachio nuts*
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 2/3 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (170 grams/1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1 lb (454 grams) bittersweet chocolate, tempered (directions are below)

*Note: If you can only find salted nuts, place the shelled nuts in a sieve and rinse them in running water. Dry the nuts thoroughly with absorbent paper towels.

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
2. Place the pistachios and 1/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt and pulse until blended. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar at medium-high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolk at low speed and mix until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the dry ingredients at low speed, mixing until combined.
4. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead it a few times until it is smooth. Divide it in half and shape each half into a disc. Place one of the discs on a large piece of waxed paper. Place another piece of waxed paper over it and, using a rolling pin, roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Carefully peel off the top piece of waxed paper. Replace it loosely and flip over the dough. Peel off the top piece of waxed paper. Using a 2-inch plain or fluted heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from the dough. Gather up the scraps and reroll them between sheets of waxed paper.
5. Arrange the cookies, 1/2 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 13 to 16 minutes, until just lightly colored around edges. (Watch the cookies carefully as their color changes very quickly.) Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. Dip one edge of the cookies in the tempered dark chocolate.

Tempered Chocolate

1. Wrap a heating pad (the kind you use for your back) in plastic wrap to protect it from chocolate stains and set the control dial to the lowest setting.
2. Set aside a whole chunk of the chocolate (about 2 1/2 inches square) you are tempering (this chocolate must be in good temper, shiny and without any white streaks on it). Chop the remaining chocolate and place it in a medium bowl (or a large bowl, depending on how much chocolate you are working with). Set the bowl over a saucepan of hot, but not quite simmering, water and heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and reaches a temperature of between 110°F and 120°F. Turn the heat off.
3. Remove the bowl from over the saucepan and add reserved chocolate chunk to the melted chocolate. Let the chocolate cool, stirring frequently, until it reaches a temperature in the low 80's (82°F to 84°F for dark chocolate and 80°F to 82°F for milk and white chocolate). Remove the unmelted portion of the chocolate chunk.
4. Return the bowl to its place over the saucepan (the heat should still be off) and raise the temperature of the chocolate to between 86°F and 91°F (for dark chocolate) or 84°F to 87°F (for milk and white chocolate). Be careful not to allow the chocolate to go above the maximum temperatures in the ranges. Maintain that temperature range while working with the chocolate by keeping the bowl on the wrapped heating pad.