These cookies are tempting and aromatic spheres that contain a central surprise: smooth-textured chocolate that resonates beautifully with their crunchy, nut-and-cocoa shells. Attention to detail makes the difference here, so take the extra few minutes to toast the nuts and chop them very fine. Watch your oven carefully, since they are easy to over-bake. And keep an eagle eye on the finished product, too, since guests and spouses are known to empty a serving tray while your back is momentarily turned.
Yield: About sixteen, 1-ounce spherical cookies.
Time to Make: 60 minutes active. Overnight dough refrigeration. 5 minutes oven dwell.
Tools needed: Two medium bowls. Hand-held mixer. Heavy skillet. Sharp knife and cutting board. Aluminum foil. Measuring cups and spoons, or scale. Cookie sheet or sheet pan. Bakers parchment.
1) Place the pecans in a heavy skillet and turn the heat to medium. As skillet heats, toss the pecans, sniffing occasionally and watching for a subtle change in color. When they begin to smell roasted and they darken, remove immediately from heat and transfer to a piece of aluminum foil on a cool counter top.
2) As pecans cool, place the flour, the xanthan gum, the cocoa and the salt in a medium bowl. Stir with the mixer or use a hand whisk to thoroughly blend. When pecans are cool, chop finely. This is most easily done with a very sharp chef's knife, holding both the handle and top of the blade to move the knife in vertical chopping strokes.
3) In a separate medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat until integrated. Add the flour blend and beat to integrate. Add the pecans and beat until integrated. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and refrigerate, at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
4) Heat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment. Place a cooling rack on the counter. Unwrap and have ready 20 chocolate kisses.
5) Remove a 2-Tablespoon portion of the chocolate-pecan dough from the bowl (it will be quite stiff) and press into a flat disc in your hands. Working at a speed that softens the dough slightly but does not melt it, wrap this around a chocolate kiss, then roll into an even sphere. It's best if the kiss's point does not protrude, but OK if it does. The first one or two are tricky, but you'll soon get the hang of it. Place the sphere on the parchment. Continue scooping and rolling, placing the spheres on the parchment at least 1 once apart. When all the cookies are shaped, place the laden sheet pan into the freezer for 5 minutes.
6) Bake for 5 minutes, or until the spheres are shiny. They should remain round - not at all flattened - but won't taste any different if they are misshapen. Do not over-bake. Remove immediately to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool for five minutes before removing from the pan to the rack. Optional: When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners sugar.