Christmas countdown is under way. Advent calendars are being ticked off (and chocolates eaten) daily; the Elf on the Shelf (Elfie McJingles, in our house) is keeping an eye on the girls sometimes from a new place each morning, sometimes not – I tried explaining to the girls that he broke his leg in a horrible accident and therefore must remain in one place the entire Christmas season but they didn’t buy it:); decorations are up (since we’re going back to the States there’s no tree, so decorating took a record 30 minutes!); and holiday baking has begun.
Last year I posted a longtime favorite cookie, Double Chocolate Mint Meltaways. This year I’m back with a new favorite – Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs. They are like little bites of rich, chocolatey brownies!! They’re chock full of ground pecans plus a hint of coffee really accentuates the chocolate flavor (it’s the secret ingredient in my brownies), enough to transport any chocolate lover to their happy place.
Kids can easily help out with this recipe as well by measuring flour or sugar, grinding the nuts and/or dipping the snowballs in powdered sugar. My girls especially like grinding the nuts with my Grandma Hallie’s nut grinder from the 1940’s and it makes me so happy. She would love seeing us baking together.
Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs make really nice Christmas gifts as well; they look a bit like truffles. Put a dozen in a small cellophane bag tied with a decorative ribbon and you’ve got a lovely gift for a teacher, neighbor or hostess. So crank up the holiday tunes, turn on the twinkling lights and bake something delicious.
Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs (makes 4 dozen)
2 sticks (225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) plain, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso/coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (200 grams) finely chopped pecans
Powdered/icing sugar for coating
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in the flour, cocoa, espresso powder and salt until most flour has been incorporated. Mix in the pecans and continue mixing until all ingredients have been incorporated. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days (if refrigerating for more than an hour, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly before proceeding).
Preheat oven to 325º F (160º C). Roll dough into small balls about 1″/2.5cm in diameter, using about 1 tablespoon of dough (if you have a scale and are as anal as I am, 12 grams is a good size per cookie). Place the balls about 2″/5cm apart on a greased cookie sheet or alternately line it with baking (parchment) paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are dry and have cracked slightly. Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the tray, then remove to a wire rack or a piece of baking paper on a flat surface.
Once cookies have fully cooled, roll them in the powdered/icing sugar, then gently shake off excess.
Adapted from Food & Wine