It’s Bars and Cookies time! A brand new chapter of Claire’s Saffitz’s Dessert Person, and we’re kicking it all off with our 39th bake from the book, the Marcona Almond Cookies.
Hello! With the feeling of fall and a new season in the air, so comes pending excitement of the holiday season and Christmas baking!
The very well-timed and completely unintentional benefits of baking this book in order is that we have started the “Cookies and Bars” chapter during the fall which means lots of already prepped Christmas baking! (I’ve already started to set aside some room in my freezer). My plan is to save about 6-8 cookies from each recipe for the holidays and have the most diverse and impressive spread my family has ever seen (until they go to Julia’s house which will have the same spread).
The chapter starts off with a simple, quick and familiar recipe—Almond Cookies! For the life of me, I could not find the Marcona almonds Claire asks for in the book, so I just chose to use regular almonds instead. These almond cookies, or at least a version of them, are a staple at any Italian holiday, ceremony or large gathering, so it was fun to make something I have such fond memories of.
It was so refreshing going from multi-step, multi-page, multi-freakout bakes, to a one-pager where you just mix everything and then bake. You simply put almonds, almond paste (which I made myself again), salt, sugar, vanilla, and eggs in the food processor and combine together. You then put the sticky mixture into a piping bag, and pipe out 24 1.5 inch diameter cookies on a baking sheet. The cookies are brushed over with egg yolk, and an almond is then placed in the centre of each. Then pop ‘em in the oven for 10-12 minutes (mine took 11 to be exact) and there ya have it!
These cookies are chewy and have a great almond flavour if that’s your thing. Simple, fast and delicious, but nothing over the top amazing about them. I give them a 3! (And yes, 6-8 of them are happily sitting in my freezer awaiting the holiday season).
After a pretty technical and challenging chapter working through Pies and Tarts and learning about so many different types of dough, pastry, mousses, creams, caramels, crumbles, and more, it feels nice to be moving on to this new chapter which, I’m sure will have its learning moments as well, but is sure to be a bit more straightforward and less time-consuming than the last few months have been!
We definitely got off on a very easy foot with the Marcona Almond Cookies. The whole process took maybe 40 minutes max, and that’s being generous. It’s also taking into account the fact that I made the almond paste myself, like I did for the Quince Tart a few weeks ago. If I hadn’t had to do that, these cookies could have probably been fully prepared and baked in 25 minutes or less.
Since the process was so simple, there isn’t a whole lot to say! Everything comes together in the food processor; I made the almond paste first—which is just a combination of almond flour, powdered sugar, salt, egg white, and almond extract—and since almond paste was just going right into the cookie dough, I didn’t even have to bother with cleaning the equipment before moving on to the next step. Less dishes is always a big win for me!
The dough is almost like more of a thick batter in my opinion, and is a combination of blitzed up almonds (the recipe clearly calls for the Marcona variety, which are supposed to be a bit richer and fattier, but I couldn’t find any so I went with regular blanched almonds to at least have a similar look), the almond paste, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. It blends up smoothly in the food processor within a couple of minutes, and then you can form your cookies. Claire says you can use a pastry bag to pipe them, or just use a regular scoop; again, I’m all about minimizing the clean up, and pastry bags can be such a pain, so since I was feeling particularly lazy when making these cookies, I just used a tablespoon and scooped out my cookies into relatively uniform little mounds.
Each cookie gets a bit of an egg wash on top, and then an almond is pressed into the centre before they bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Could literally not be easier. Part of me felt like I was cheating out of a bake and couldn’t possibly have done all I needed to because I’ve become so accustomed to long wait times, multiple techniques and components, and frantically checking the oven to see if something is going according to plan.
The cookies weren’t anything life-changing, and I didn’t expect them to be, but they were still a delicious little treat. They’re very similar to an Italian almond cookie called Amaretti which we grew up having in our family; they’re a staple at weddings, and our mom will often make them at Christmas or for other special occasions as well. They have a great chewy texture just like Claire’s cookies, and the almond flavour really comes through. Overall, I’d give this bake 3 stars and am excited to get going on this new chapter of the book!
Coming up next week: Salted Halvah Blondies!