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Bittersweet Chocolate and Almonds are a Great Combination in Cookies

November 5th, 2013 Cooking

Two ingredients that come together for a truly melt-in-your-mouth experience are bittersweet chocolate and almonds. They're an ideal pair when added to cookies made from a basic dough, but the results are anything but basic. Besides their tastiness, these ingredients make cookies a healthful treat.

Bittersweet chocolate is one of the best chocolates to use in baking, but it's also great by itself. The University of Michigan Health System recommended that people eat 1 ounce per day to gain the full benefit of dark chocolate's flavonoids, an antioxidant group that reduces "bad" LDL cholesterol, increases blood flow to the heart and may lower blood pressure and improve cognitive ability.

Almonds are also heart-healthy snacks that lower cholesterol, strengthen artery walls, build strong bones and teeth and nourish the nervous system.

Put these two foods together in easy cookie recipes and they will quickly become a family favorite. For a basic cookie dough, adapted from Health magazine, assemble these ingredients:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In a food processor , mix the sugars well, then add butter pieces and process until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg white and vanilla and process for a few seconds until the ingredients are well incorporated. Scrape the sides of the processor container, then pulse in the flour mixture until all ingredients are combined well.

Add to the dough: 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned and set around the edges.

Let the cookies cool for about 2 minutes on the baking pan until they are firm enough to lift with a flexible spatula. Then cool them completely on a rack.

For variations, add 1/2 cup of your favorite dried fruit along with the bittersweet chocolate and almonds. Some suggestions include raisins, chopped tart cherries or cranberry raisins.

Cocoa-based version Epicurious recommended this cocoa-infused cookie to make good use of the bittersweet chocolate and almond combination. You can use the basic cookie dough, but add only white granulated sugar instead of the white and brown sugar combination and substitute baking soda with baking powder. Or, follow the Epicurious proportions for a similar basic dough.

The biggest difference from other recipes is that 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder is added along with the chopped chocolate and almonds and mix well into the dough.

Chill the dough until firm, about 30 minutes. Roll tablespoon-size balls of dough, then flatten slightly and coat with confectioners sugar before placing them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes until the cookies puff up and the tops crack slightly.

When the cookies are completely cooled, finish them off with a dusting of confectioners sugar.

Double almond flavor Yet another way to team up the taste of almond with bittersweet chocolate is to add some almond paste to the cookie mix. Marzipan, which has almond paste as its base, can be used as a substitute, but the almond flavor won't be as strong.

An easy cookie recipe for this variation is to use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and substitute bittersweet chocolate for the chocolate morsels you usually include. Add chopped or sliced almonds in place of other types of nuts. Add enough almond paste to the dough - from 1/8 to 1/4 cup - until the dough has enough almond taste according to your preference.