One of my favorite things to do every year is make holiday food baskets for our parents and the nieces and nephews. It started after my husband and I first got married. At that time, we lived within driving distance of his parent’s house, so I made a basket that I placed in front of their door. A simple gesture.
Soon after that, my husband received a job offer in another city and our traveling adventures began. However, every year I send a holiday day care package home. I have, over the years, come up with some standard items that I have to send in every basket, for the tradition of it. Having also had some dismal failures, while trying to evolve the basket, the bar is set pretty high for any new recipe.
Learning that a recipe must have a test run, before it is a candidate for the basket, I look for new and interesting recipes all year long. With that said, the following recipe will be a candidate for the next box. This Alice Medrich recipe included cocoa nibs, which I had never used before. Intrigued, I set the recipe aside until yesterday. Outstanding! The cocoa nibs have a delicate chocolate and roasted coffee nuttiness that really enhances the not too sweet biscotti like cookie.
Almond Cocoa Nibs Sticks
Makes about 30, 6-inch sticks
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) whole blanched almonds
1 cup plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 T. water
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/8 t. pure almond extract
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
Combine the almonds, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse until the almonds are reduced to a fine meal. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like a mass of crumbs. Combine the water, vanilla, and almond extract, drizzle them into the processor bowl and pulse just until the dough looks damp. Add the cocoa nibs and pulse only until evenly dispersed.
The dough will not form a smooth cohesive mass – it will be crumbly, but it will stick together when you press it. Turn it out on a large sheet of foil and form it into a 6 x 9 inch rectangle a scant 1/2 inch thick. fold the foil over the dough and press firmly with your hands to compress it, then wrap it airtight. Slide a cookie sheet under the package and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper.
Use a long sharp knife to trim one short edge of the dough rectangle to even it. Then cut a slice a scant 3/8 inch wide and use the knife to transfer the delicate slice to the cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough, transferring each slice as it is cut and placing them at least 1 inch apart. If some break, just push them back together, or bake them broken – they will look and taste great anyway.
Bake, rotating the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back half way through the baking time, 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are golden at the edges. Set the pans on the racks to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored, airtight, for several days).