Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Almond Cookies

Ahhh almond cookies.  My memories of almond cookies come from a pink box from the Golden Phoenix Bakery (I think that's what they're called... don't quote me.  It's a pink box!) that were always such a delicious, crumbly treat. 

A food blog I follow daily is Food Gal by Carolyn Jung, who used to be the Food Writer at the SJ Mercury News.  She posted a recipe the other day for New Years - a roasted chicken with soy and whiskey.  I usually do not cook with alcohol, but as I salivated over her roast chicken picture, I noticed a link to almond cookie recipes.


I had a New Year's event coming up with a group I joined at work and we were to bring desserts.  Awesomer!  I could bring these cookies!

When I first glanced at the recipe, I was terrified of the word "shortening."  I hated the idea of having to buy another type of "fat" to make a batch of cookies.  Unlike beautiful butter, I can't use it in other recipes easily, or spread it on toast in a pinch.  However, after reading the results of the two types of cookies, I went with the shortening recipe since it achieved the type of cookie I wanted - fluffy.

Ok fine, not fluffy.  I'm not a perfect baker.

The cookies didn't zoom me back to my childhood - no crazy preservatives - but the taste was consistent with a great crumble.  There's something about almond extract that has that lingering aftertaste... but everyone at the event LOVED the cookies, so I think they may make a return appearance in the future.

I was initally concerned that this recipe didn't contain salt, but it wasn't needed.  The almond extract seriously takes care of everything.

Almond Cookies from Food Gal, from Blonder and Low's "Every Grain of Rice"

  • 1 cup shortening (or lard) (ew)  You can purchase shortening in packs of three sticks, which is definitely preferable if you don't use shortening often.  You can use the other sticks in pie dough ... or to make these cookies again.
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (it's VERY strong!)
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 36 blanched almonds

1.  Blanch your almonds!  Unless you purchase blanched almonds, almonds come with their skin still on (which is probably where most of the fiber of the almond comes from.)  I use Blue Diamond all natural almonds, as nothing is added to them - preferable for baking.  To blanch, boil water in a pot.  When the water comes to a boil, throw the almonds in and let it boil for 1 minute, and no more than 1 minute, 30 seconds.  (Anything longer than this, and the almond starts to cook.)  Remove from the heat and drain.  Rinse with cold water immediately! 

The almond should look shriveled.  You can easily peel the skin away, or pinch in one corner and the almond will pop right out, although it's very likely the almond will pop out across your kitchen, under your fridge.  Not like I have any experience...

Blot dry with paper towels once you remove the skin, and allow to rest on the paper towels.

2.  Preheat your oven to 375.

3.  In your mixer, cream together shortening and sugar until fluffy.  The nice thing about shortening is you don't have to bring it to room temperature, so you can start working with it right away.

4.  Add the egg, minus one tablespoon.  You will use this egg later as an egg wash on the cookies.

5.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Mix until well combined.

6.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add to the creamed mixture in no more than three additions and stir until just mixed together.  The dough will seem crumbly but when you squeeze it together, it holds up.

7.  Form 32-36 one inch diameter balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment.  Press one blanched almond into the middle of the ball, and brush with the reserved egg. 

Awaiting a trip to the oven...

8.  Bake 12-15 minutes (I did it for 13 minutes.)  I always let my cookies cool on the sheet first and then I remove it to a rack after five minutes to cool.

My cookie still wound up flat - I have no idea why - but they were still delicious beyond belief.  And gobbled up quickly.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you liked them. Yes, don't fear shortening. I know I went through a phase where I did, too. But really, it does add great texture to crusts and cookies that you can't really achieve otherwise. Happy New Year to you! ;)