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When you happen to own rare and special cookbooks, you occasionally run into some rare and special recipes. Case in point: While flipping through my grandmother’s Serbian cookbook from the 1930s, I could not help but notice a recipe for tiny hazelnut-chocolate marzipans with tipsy cherries in the center. Although it sounded positively divine and no-effort, it was not the recipe that grabbed my attention, it was the name: Greta Garbo’s Kisses.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, how can one miss with a name like that? I’m grateful to the spirit of St. Valentine for showing me the way, and I concur happily with the spirit’s suggestion: Greta Garbo’s Kisses will be in the air and on the plate this February 14!
As to the origin of the name, one can only speculate. Perhaps it is due to the bright red center, or maybe the sweet and slightly tipsy feeling that hits you after experiencing the “kiss.” Perhaps these tiny chocolates were meant to commemorate Greta’s 1929 movie The Kiss? We will never know. I kind of feel that’s exactly how the spirit wants it to be: a great and mysterious chocolate recipe honoring the great and mysterious Garbo.
Greta Garbo’s Kisses
Makes about 28 pieces
28 Maraschino cherries, or candied cherries soaked overnight in rum, brandy or Cognac
6 ounces hazelnuts
7 ounces good-quality dark (semisweet) chocolate
4 ounces powdered sugar
5 to 6 tablespoons milk
5 to 6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate or chocolate couverture, for glazing
White chocolate, chopped nuts, sprinkles, dried fruits, sugar icing or colored sugar crystals (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the hazelnuts onto a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing occasionally to make sure they roast evenly. When the hazelnut skins begin to crack and the nuts are fragrant and golden, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely, rub them with your hands, or between two kitchen towels, to remove the skins. In a food processor grind the nuts into a fine meal.
2. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in a double boiler or over a hot water bath. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat. Add the hazelnuts, powdered sugar and milk. Mix well until all of the ingredients are incorporated into a uniform paste. Refrigerate the mixture for about two hours to cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, drain the cherries from the alcohol and dry them with paper towels. 4. Take a tablespoon of the chilled chocolate-hazelnut mixture and form it into a ball. Press the ball between your hands to make a patty large enough to completely wrap one cherry. Place the cherry in the center of the patty, wrap the patty around it and smooth it with your hands into a ball. Repeat with the remaining cherries.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop the chocolate or couverture for the glaze into small pieces and melt it in a double boiler or over a hot water bath. Dip each kiss into the chocolate and place on the parchment-covered baking sheet to dry. You can further embellish the kisses with drips of white chocolate, or chopped nuts, sprinkles, dried fruits, sugar icing or colored sugar crystals.