Taste and See: Chokladbiskvier
Nothing splits the inky darkness of a Scandinavian December like a slew of candles shining over a platter of Christmas cookies. Seven is the traditional number of confections required to grace a proper cookie platter, ever since the 1800s when wheat production increased in Sweden. Supposedly, a hostess who offered more than seven kinds was showing off, but to offer less than seven sorts was seen as stingy.
Over today’s cookie platter, excited eaters hunt for favorites such as spritz wreaths and spicy pepparkakor, shaped into pigs and hearts. Like steady old friends, these delicate cookies calm our nerves and remind us that Christmas will come and everything is going to be okay. They evoke memories of warm gatherings and of our blessed “mormors” and “farmors” who baked for us with precision and love.
One very special cookie is the chokladbiskvier, an almond macaroon, flipped upside-down and mounded with chocolate buttercream, which is swiftly dipped into a bowl of melted chocolate. When kept in the refrigerator, as these cookies must be, the slight snap of the chocolate plays nicely with the smooth buttercream and the gentle chewiness of the almond macaroon. Ethereal, celebrative, rich and satisfying, these beautiful concoctions beg for a strong cup of coffee or perhaps a steaming shot of glögg.
In Sweden, chokladbiskvier can be found in most bakeries, ranging in size from that of a Ritz cracker to roughly the size of your face. I recommend somewhere in between, perhaps a two and a half inch diameter. Keep in mind; these cookies are more pastry than cookie.
Once, I received an excited email from my brother who was skiing in Sweden. He didn’t wax on about the snow or the ski conditions, but about an incredible almond chocolate pastry that fueled his team the night before the Vasalöppet, an annual, long-distance cross-country ski race. He described a flying saucer with a snug bundle of chocolate buttercream nestled between a thin layer of chocolate and a light almond macaroon. I knew at once he had found a Swedish treasure, the chokladbiskvier. When one plans to ski 90 km, a few chokladbiskvier is just the thing! The rest of us, however, had better stick to one, and perhaps a smaller one at that.
Yield: l8 to 20 cookies
l ½ cups whole blanched almonds, skins removed, or slivered skinless almonds
l ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring
3 egg whites (save yolks for buttercream)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place almonds in blender or food processor fitted with blade. Whirl until almonds are finely ground. Add confectioners’ sugar and whirl again. With electric mixer, beat egg whites until moist peaks form. Sprinkle almond mixture over egg whites, a third at a time, folding in each addition until blended.
Drop mixture by rounded tablespoonsful onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing cookies about one inch apart. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheets. Gently peel parchment from macaroons.
Classic Chocolate Buttercream
7 T. sugar
7 T. water
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup butter, softened, cut into lT. size pieces
4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla extract or liquor such as Grand Marnier
6 oz. dark chocolate pieces (60-70% cacao)
Place egg yolks in bowl of electric mixer fitted with wire whip. In a small pan, stir together sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. While sugar and water are boiling begin to beat egg yolks on highest speed until they are light and lemon colored. When syrup reaches 232 degrees, stop the mixer and add syrup to egg yolks quickly, all at once. Avoid hitting the sides of the bowl. Immediately beat on highest setting. Continue beating until mixture is thick and has cooled to room temperature. Add butter one tablespoon at a time beating between each addition. Add cocoa and extract or liquor and beat until completely smooth and silky. Refrigerate.
Mound l T. of buttercream on the bottom of each macaroon. Place cookies, buttercream side up, in a single layer on a pan and refrigerate until buttercream is firm, at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile place 6 ounces of chocolate in a stainless bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, but not touching the water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Hold each cookie buttercream side down and dip into chocolate to coat buttercream. Place cookies on a pan chocolate side up and refrigerate until chocolate is set. When chocolate is firm, store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage.