February is the month to celebrate chocolate, due no doubt to Valentine's Day falling mid-month. I don't suppose anybody is surprised at the association between chocolate and expressions of love. Any serious chocoholic will tell you, it's the best gift. Well, ok, I wouldn't say no to a dozen red roses either. Roses and chocolates are the gifts most purchased by men for their loved ones in the U.S. (In Japan, February 14 is traditionally the day women give chocolates to men. Japanese men give chocolates to women on a different holiday on March 14 - great idea, that, TWO chocolate holidays!!)
For my February tea party, I wanted to serve some kind of chocolate cookie in a heart shape. I couldn't find just the right recipe, so I made up my own using my favorite things: chocolate, coffee, and almond. For lack of a more creative name, I'm just calling them Chocolate Almond Chewies (changed from Choco-Almond Crispies, since I was actually trying for something thin and crispy and ended up with something soft and chewy).
Chocolate Almond Chewies
12 oz can almond paste
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup espresso
2 1/4 cup flour
10-12 chocolate graham crackers, crumbled / crushed
3-4 oz semi-sweet dark chocolate (I used Hershey's Special)
Cream together in a bowl: almond paste, butter, almond extract, espresso. Put 3 or so squares of the chocolate (depending on the size of the bar, estimate about 1.5 ounces) into a bowl and microwave for 1 - 1.5 minutes until melted. Add melted chocolate to bowl. Crush graham crackers (putting them in a bag and smashing with a rolling pin or jar works well), and add to mixture. Mix well. Slowly add flour.
If dough is too wet, add small amounts of flour until it's dry enough to handle. Take about 1/2 of the dough and roll out to 1/4 + thickness. Cut shapes using a cookie cutter. Bake for 10 minutes in 400° degree preheated oven. Allow to cool.
Although the cookies were tasty all by themselves, I decided I wanted frosting, and I wanted something REALLY chocolately.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 ounces of the dark semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 tbsp butter
1-3 tbsp half and half or heavy cream
In a saucepan, melt the chocolate with the cream and butter. Add nuts if desired. I stirred them into the melted chocolate, but for the next batch, I may leave them out, or add them as a separate topping.
When the chocolate is melted, drizzle & spread on top of the cookies. Allow to cool / dry thoroughly. Decorate with colored icing or candies if desired. For candies, press into the chocolate topping before it has dried and hardened.
For more on the origins of Valentine's Day: