Showing posts with label almond paste. Show all posts
Showing posts with label almond paste. Show all posts

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Almond Cloud Cookies from Lucy Burdette

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm so happy when the farmer's market opens up on our town green each spring. And I know what you're thinking--greens and tomatoes and sheep's feta and grass-fed beef. That's all there and it's great, but there's also a booth with homemade chicken pot pies plus regular pies and cookies. Fortunately or unfortunately, I've gotten addicted to their Almond Cloud Cookies. I didn't start buying these because they have no fat or gluten in them, I bought them because they looked irresistible, all snuggled into their beds of confectioner's sugar.

This week, with the draft of my fourth Key West mystery, MURDER WITH GANACHE, delivered to the publisher (yay!), I decided to see if I could produce something similar. There are many recipes that come up if you Google almond cloud cookies, most of them based on a King Arthur bakery recipe. There are some minor deviations--almond oil added, a vanilla bean scraped into the batter, an orange, zested. Here's how I made them. 

My taste-tester said: WOW!

Almond Cloud Cookies

10 oz almond paste (this comes in a block--I found it in the cheese specialty department of my local grocery store)

1 cup sugar

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 vanilla bean (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)

confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the extracts or the extract plus the seeds from the vanilla bean. (I've never tried a vanilla bean before--it's expensive and a little strange. I'm not sure whether the taste makes a huge difference--I'd have to make and sample a second version. Sigh.)

Add the almond paste to the sugar and mix until the ingredients are crumbly. Many of the recipes suggested making the cookies in a stand mixer, which I don't own. (This I'm going to rectify, along with learning to use my camera so my photos are better!) 

But meanwhile, I broke the paste up using a pastry cutter and then attacked it with my electric mixer.

Whip the egg whites until frothy, and add them slowly to the sugar etc, mixing until a smooth paste is formed. 

Scoop the dough onto the prepared pans about a tablespoon at a time. 

You should end up with about 20 cookies laid out on two pans. Sprinkle the cookies heavily with confectioners sugar, and use your fingers to make indentations on the top of each.

Bake 20-25 minutes until tops begin to turn golden. (Mine took about 22.) They are fabulous warm--chewy and sweet--and they freeze well.

The Key West food critic mysteries can be found wherever books are sold! Follow Lucy on Twitter and "like" her on Facebook.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Almond Macaroons

by Sheila Connolly

One morning recently I woke up with an odd thought in my head:  I have more early memories of food than I do of my sister, who was born when I was four. What does that say about my priorities? I do remember my mother boiling glass bottles for her formula (aren't we glad those days are gone?), and wearing a medical mask when she had a cold, but I don't remember my sister as a baby.  Go figure.

But I do remember food, and I realize that most of those food memories had to do with sweets (I'm sure there's some scientific reason for that, but I don't know what it is).  My absolute earliest memory, from when I was around three, was of our next-door neighbor handing me a homemade grape ice-cube pop, and I remember how intense the grape flavor was.  The second? My father feeding me pistachio ice cream.

I had a mild chocolate allergy when I was very young, which didn't stop me from tracking down those supposedly hidden chocolate bunnies at Easter and consuming them, bit by bit (yeah, like my mother wouldn't notice that the ears were missing).

I'm not going to fight it.  Sugar/flour/butter in all their lovely permutations are still my favorite foods, although I get along better with my sister now than I did when I was four, and I think she's forgiven me for liking cookies better than her. Anyway, cookies still top my list, and I have the cookie cookbooks to prove it.  I've mentioned Robert Day-Dean's ginger cookies before, but they also made wonderful almond macaroons that my grandmother would bring when she visited (she never learned to cook, but she knew where to find good food!). 

In this world there are two kinds of macaroons:  coconut and almond.  I have no patience with the coconut ones, and they don't deserve the name—just call them coconut cookies and be done with it.  But I love the almond ones, and they're ridiculously simple to make.


This recipe is about as basic as it gets, with all of four ingredients:  almond paste (do not confuse this with marzipan, which has more sugar added), sugar, egg white and almond extract.  Amazing what combining these things in the right way can do!

1 can (8 oz.) almond paste

1 cup sugar

2 egg whites (from large eggs)

½ tsp. almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Break up the almond paste into 1-inch chunks.  In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the almond paste and the sugar and blend on very slow speed until the mixture is reduced to coarse crumbs, at least three minutes.

Add the egg whites in three or four installments, beating well in between and scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add the almond extract and mix until blended.

Transfer the mixture (it will be stiff) into a pastry bag with a ½" to ¾" opening. Pipe the macaroons onto the cookie sheets.  They should be about 1½ inch across, and spaced at least 2 inches apart (they will spread during baking).

Pat them down a bit.  I found one recipe that gives a very elaborate method of folding a linen towel and laying it gently upon the cookies, but really, you can use your fingers (clean, of course).  A spatula won't work because these are sticky.

Bake until the macaroons are puffed and golden.  It will take about 20 minutes, but check regularly for the last ten minutes to make sure they don't overcook.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets on a rack, then peel carefully from the parchment paper.  These are best if  eaten quickly, while the outside is still crisp and the inside chewy. If they don't all disappear immediately, store them in a sealed container.

Out of curiosity I looked up the origin of the name, which was not terribly satisfying.  According to the Online Etymology dictionary, in the 1610s it meant a "small sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds," from Fr. macaron (16c.), from dialectal It. maccarone.  Doesn't explain much of anything, does it?  Wikipedia is more helpful: "This word is itself derived from ammaccare, meaning crush or beat, used here in reference to the almond paste which is the principal ingredient."