Have you ever have one of those moments? The ones where a thought that was so rote and imbedded in your psyche that it’s practically instinct suddenly disappears from your brainpan. There you are, left gazing blankly as you search in vain for clues in the now vacant space between your ears. Last week I not only had a moment, I had nearly a solid week of this temporary amnesia. It was as though I had suddenly stepped into an episode loop of a soap opera, playing the long-lost amnesiac wife of Brent, or Morgan, or Trevor (why aren’t any leading men on soap operas named Ralph or Herb…) who, naturally, was just about to say “I do” to his beloved Skylar (yeah, the girls aren’t named Mary or Helen either.) I still looked like Karin, my heels still fit, but the cooking part of my brain had left the building. Or rather, I still cooked, but badly. REALLY badly.
We’ve all had moments of selective amnesia every once in a while. Like forgetting your phone number just as someone asks you for it. Or losing the name of someone you’ve known for years at the precise moment you are asked to introduce them. I attribute these things to the little old man in my head tripping over a file cabinet drawer he left open. You’re thinking, “she’s really gone around the bend this time,” aren’t you? Old man and filing cabinets? What tha..? I’ve always had the belief that brains, and the information collected within are like a great big depository of card catalogues. Rows and rows of cabinets filled with index cards containing gobs of useful and useless information, all managed by a little old man in crepe-soled shoes and suspenders. O.K., maybe it’s just my brain. Then again, how else do you explain forgetting your phone number but remembering your eighth-grade locker combination? The little old man was in the ‘numbers’ section and pulled the wrong card. Hey, it happens. Brain fart? He was racing so fast to get the info you needed he tripped over an open drawer, and is flying through the air on route to being flat on his face. See, works well, doesn’t it?
Now where was I? Oh yes, my total inability to create anything even remotely palatable in my kitchen last week. Using the "Little Old Man" theory, my only explanation was he decided to go on spring break. It’s dusty up there in the stacks, and obviously he needed to put on a bad Hawaiian shirt and get a little sun and one of those cocktails served in coconuts with little paper fans. It just would have been nice if he had let me know before he left. I had a blog to write after all, and we usually try to schedule our mental vacations at the same time. So there I was, many many attempts behind me, and piles of slop not worthy of a second spoonful in the trash can. To add insult to ego-deflating injury, not only did my creative skills fail, so did my hand-eye coordination. Picture multiple episodes of mopping up ingredients from the floor, counters, stove, and under cabinets (blender top was a tad askew….) Obviously the old man had left the “Three Stooges” cabinet wide open when he left.
By week’s end, I had finally thrown in the towel, ordered a pizza, and took a well-earned mental vacation myself. And luckily the little guy eventually returned. But I’m going to have to talk to him about that loud Hawaiian shirt.
This week’s recipe, Almond Sandwich Cookies with Mocha Ganache is based on my old reliable sugar cookie recipe — I wasn’t taking any chances. The recipe is pretty versatile, so this time around I decided to add in some almond paste, and sandwich some ganache or jam between two cookies. The results, I’m happy to remember, were very tasty too.
Almond Sandwich Cookies with Mocha Ganache or Jam filling
Makes about 2 ½ dozen 2-inch sandwich cookies
½ cup softened butter
2 ounces almond paste
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp almond extract
1 ¾ cups flour
½ tsp salt
Mocha ganache (see recipe below)
Apricot jam (or your favorite flavor)
Confectioner sugar and cocoa powder for dusting finished cookies
Cream the butter by hand or in a mixer. Add the almond paste and beat for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined. Add egg and almond extract and beat well. Sift the dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture (if you are using an electric mixer, add slowly on low speed). Once the flour is all in, beat the mixture for a minute or two until dough is formed. Knead the dough two or three turns, then wrap in cling film and chill thoroughly for an hour or two (it’s a sticky dough and chilling until firm will make it easier to roll out and cut). If you are using it, prepare the ganache while the dough chills.
The amount listed makes enough ganache to fill about half to two-thirds of the sandwiches, depending upon how generous you are. You could also double the recipe to fill them all. I like these with jam too, so I made the lesser amount.
2 ounces dark chocolate (semisweet, bittersweet or a combination)
3 TBSP plus 1 tsp heavy cream
1 tsp instant espresso powder
A pinch of salt
½ tsp sugar
Heat the cream and espresso powder together in the microwave for 30-40 seconds to dissolve the coffee. Mix well and add in the rest of the ingredients. Heat again for 15-30 seconds and them mix thoroughly until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside and let cool and thicken at room temperature.
To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out to about 1/8th inch thickness on a well-floured board. Cut out 2” circles re-rolling the scraps. Place cookies on parchment lined sheet (they can be close together since they don’t spread) and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms are just starting to get color.
Cool the cookies on a rack for 5 minutes. Put about a teaspoon of the ganache or jam in the center of a cookie (on underside, or side that was touching the cookie sheet), cover with a second cookie and gently press just until the ganache or jam spreads to the edge. Repeat with the rest of the cookies. Sprinkle the jam-filled cookies with powdered sugar, and the ganache-filled ones with a little cocoa powder mixed with a little powered sugar. Chill until the filling firms up. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Bring to room temperature before serving. Calories: about 90 per sandwich cookie.