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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bird's Nest Cookies

I've been holding onto this recipe for over a year, waiting for Easter to come around again. In my opinion, it is the perfect treat for this time of year - pastel-y, springy, but still nice and chocolatey. Plus it's the only time of year you can get those heavenly creations, Cadbury mini eggs.

These cookies seem a bit labor intensive but the steps can easily be broken down. I made the dough one afternoon and let it chill over dinner time. Then after dinner I made the cookies and ganache and sealed them up overnight. The next afternoon I toasted the coconut and put them all together. Actually quite simple. And the result, with crispy chocolate cookies, creamy ganache, toasty coconut and the chocolate eggs on top, is even better than it looks!

Bird's Nest Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (I get mine at Penzeys)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp instant espresso powder, optional (I left out but used chili-spiced chocolate, for fun)
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
About 108 candy-coated chocolate eggs
Gel-paste food coloring, optional

1. Heat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and cocoa powder. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; mix on low speed just until a stiff dough forms, about 2 minutes. Transfer dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Form into two disks; stack, wrap tightly and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

3. To make ganache, place chocolate, heavy cream and espresso powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted. Remove bowl from heat, and set the chocolate ganache aside to cool, stirring occasionally. (I put it in the fridge overnight to set up nice and stiff.)

4. When oven is heated, scatter coconut on an ungreased cookie sheet and place in oven. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes at a time, stirring in between, until about half the coconut is golden and toasty. Watch closely. In my oven it takes about 6 to 7 minutes total. Remove and set aside to cool. (If you want to make colored coconut, combine a few drops food coloring with 3 T water in a medium bowl. Stir in coconut; mix until evenly colored. Spread on an ungreased cookie sheet; bake just until dry, about 12 minutes, being careful not to brown. Let coconut cool; transfer to a small bowl.)
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 24 cookies; place them on lined baking sheets. Chill cookies until firm, about 20 minutes.

6. Bake cookies until set, about 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. When the ganache has cooled to room temperature, whisk until it becomes stiff enough to pipe. Transfer ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip (whatever - I put it in a small Ziploc and cut one corner off), and pipe around perimeters of cookies. Make sure the piping is nice and thick, not flat. Dip each cookie, ganache-side down, into plain, toasted or colored coconut. (Instead of dipping, I found I could get more coconut to stick if I held the cookie over the bowl, took a handful of coconut, and dumped/sprinkled it onto the cookie and ganache. Then I gently pressed it in and tipped the cookie for extra to fall back into the bowl.) Fill "nests" with candy-coated chocolate eggs, 2 or 3 eggs per nest. Store cookies in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 3 days. Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

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