Maida Heatter's Maxines
Some people think this is the best Christmas cookie ever. That's really saying something, even considering it's a Maida Heatter recipe...she's the queen cookie baker in my book, or books, as I have all of hers. I think the best thing about her cookbooks are her instructions. Very detailed, which might put people off, but it's worth reading every word. The veriest novice cook can't mess up a Maida Heatter recipe.
I tried this recipe for the first time when my daughter was home last summer. She loves chocolate and I knew would give me a constructive opinion, chocolate-wise. (She gave it a win.) It's a refrigerator cookie, which you all know I love, and has a dark chocolate center studded with almonds, surrounded by a lovely brown sugary cookie batter. And guess what's mixed in with the chocolate? Condensed milk. Honestly, how can this cookie miss?
Cooks note: I froze my first batch after baking them and my daughter ate them out of the freezer with just a little thawing. I promise, they will disappear from your cookie tray.
Maida Heatter's Maxines
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies
Chocolate Log Mixture
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)
1 tablespoon crisco
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup blanched almonds, coarsely cut (each in 4 or 5 pieces)
Brown Sugar Dough
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
For the log:
Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a medium-sized double boiler over hot water on medium heat, cover, and cook until partially melted. (I did this in the microwave at first for 30 seconds and then in 15 second increments...don't wait until they are all melted...take out of microwave and stir.) Remove from heat. If using milk chocolate (I used semi sweet morsels), the mixture will be very stiff. Don't worry, but work quickly no matter which chocolate you use. Stir in the condensed milk and the vanilla, then the almonds. The mixture will become somewhat stiff.
Tear off a piece of wax paper about 15 inches long. Place the dough by large spoonfuls the long way down the middle of the paper, forming a heavy strip about 10 inches long. Fold the sides of the paper up against the chocolate mixture. With your hands, press against the paper and shape the mixture into an even round or square roll 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Squeeze while you wrap to get all the air out. Wrap in the wax paper. Slide a cookie sheet under the paper and transfer to the freezer or refrigerator until firm.
For the cookie:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the small bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat well. Beat in the egg yolk, and then, gradually, begin adding the sifted dry ingredients. Add until the batter begins to be crumbly. Beat only until thoroughly mixed, but not dry. It will look crumbly, remove dough form the mixer and press it together with our hands and it will form into a ball.
Place dough on a piece of wax paper a little more than 12 inches long. With your hands, shape it into a flattened oblong. Cover with another long piece of wax paper. Roll a rolling pin over the top piece of paper to form the dough into an oblong 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. While rolling, occasionally remove and then replace top wax paper; then invert and do the same with bottom wax paper, in order to keep both pieces of paper smooth and unwrinkled.
Remove the top piece of wax paper. Unwrap the chocolate roll and center it on the brown sugar dough. Using the wax paper, lift one long side of the brown sugar dough and press it firmly against the chocolate. Then lift the other side so that the sides of dough overlap slightly. If the dough does not fit perfectly, the excess may be cut off and pressed into place where needed.
Enclose the roll in the wax paper, then run your hands firmly over the roll to remove any air trapped between the dough and chocolate mixture.
Rechill the dough only until it is firm enough to slice. If the dough is frozen firm, it will crack when sliced.
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Unwrap the roll of dough and place it on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut slices 1/2 inch thick — no thinner! Place the slices flat, 1 inch apart, on parchment paper. Bake about 12 minutes, until cookies are lightly colored. Reverse sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking to insure even browning.
Let the cookies stand on sheets for a minute or so until firm enough to transfer, then with a wide metal spatula transfer to racks to cool.