Almond Cloud Cookies…Delightful

Sometimes you feel like you gotta have a cookie and nothing store made will do.  This basic recipe from the King Arthur website will show you how easy it is to make scrumptious gluten free cookies; these are flour free; made with almond paste, sugar, egg whites, almond extract and some powdered sugar.  So simple even a 7 year old can make them.  No fancy molding, shaping or rolling out.  No tricky flours to mix, no meringue to whip.  Simple blending, measure it with your tablespoon; shape quickly by pressing with three finger tips and bake. The cookie dough spreads out as it bakes so don’t worry if it looks like an artless clump on your baking sheet.  It will flatten and round into an attractive cookie.

Almond cloud cookies have a delicate crunch to them, deeply almond in flavor.  They look very pretty with the powdered sugar on top.  I find them somewhat addictive; can’t eat just one cookie. Yes….an almond cloud is a very descriptive name for these delightful treats.

I used ¾ cup white sugar and they were quite sweet enough for me. I also sprinkled the baked cookies with sifted powdered sugar after they came out and cooled a minute or two right on the baking sheet. Don’t leave them there more than a couple more minutes or they will be hard to lift off the baking sheet. If you are more cautious in  your use of sugar leave that stop off. I cut the sugar down in the dough to 3/4 cup but did sift some powdered sugar on top; makes the cookies even more attractive.

Great recipe; definitely planning to make it again for company and maybe for Christmas. No flour needed; just lots of almond paste! I measured mine on a small kitchen scale to make sure I had the right amount of that pricey ingredient.  You can make your own you know: l did last holiday season – very easy and I loved the fresh flavor of my very own batch: https://myworldwithoutwheat.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/almond-paste-holiday-joy/

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Almond cloud cookies  makes about 21 cookies.

INGREDIENTS

10 ounces almond paste

¾-1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon gluten-free almond extract

1/8 teaspoon extra-strong bitter almond oil

Confectioners’ sugar for topping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two rimmed baking sheets.

Blend the almond paste, sugar, and salt until the mixture becomes uniformly crumbly; this is best done in a stand mixer.

Add the egg whites gradually, while mixing, to make a smooth paste.

Stir in the flavorings. I left out the almond oil; didn’t have any; fine without it.

Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared pans. I did eight to a pan. Sprinkle the cookies heavily with confectioners’ sugar, then use three fingers to press an indentation into the center of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan for 4-5 minutes. I froze some and stored some in my cookie jar.  They stayed a bit soft making them easy to enjoy a couple days later…I was afraid that they would become tooth breakers upon sitting a while.  Nope…still perfect. Get your cookie with these charmers…you won’t regret it.seafood pasta and swordfish 027

Almond Paste Holiday Joy

Sometimes I find that it is just easier to make an ingredient yourself when you can’t easily locate it.  Case in point the venerable item of almond paste, found in many old school baking projects.  When I was a kid my mom used it to create marzipan fruit which she painted with delicate colors to resemble the real deal.  These dainty tasty treats were displayed on a crystal plate and served to company. I was lucky to get one itsy bitsy peach which was gone in one small bite of deliciousness. Don’t ask me how a woman with seven children found time and energy to make marzipan fruit.  Maybe because she didn’t have a computer or cell phone?

marzipan fruit

Not my mom’s marzipan fruit but still lovely.

Anyway, I wanted to make almond crescent cookies; had baked some last Christmas to much acclaim.  Forgot to get the paste and I was kinda busy cooking up a storm, so I texted my sisters to get some.  They brought almond filling, not the same, not even close. Bummer as we didn’t have time to shop again that day. I returned to the grocery store for the umpteenth time later this past week to get the right stuff and found no plain almond paste, only coconut or chocolate almond paste; weird.  I bought some marzipan, thinking it would do.  Nope.  Not the same; too sweet for a replacement in my recipe. So I googled almond paste and came up with a recipe to make my own.  Back to the store for plain almonds. I bought whole ones, they were out of blanched ones.

almonds

To blanch you heat a big saucepan half full of water to a boil; dump in the almonds and let them cook a couple minutes until they float.  Skim off and lay on a rimmed baking sheet, let cool a bit and then peel the skins off, your nails come in handy for that part. That can take a few minutes, maybe do it while you watch a Christmas movie or special.  Then bake those damp almonds on that rimmed cookie sheet at 170 degrees for 20 or 30 minutes to dry them out.  Do not brown.  Let cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.  FYI: rimmed baking sheets are the best; they bake things more evenly with less burning than plain un-rimmed sheets.  I found two old ones that are sturdy and with 1/3 inch rims, perfect.

blanched almonds

This recipe went together in just 5 minutes once I had the blanched almonds ready.  It makes really great tasting almond paste; better than the redi-made stuff. Good to know, just in case you can’t find any at the store.  FYI: I will post the almond crescent recipe but not today, one post at a time!

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This was a cool experience because I learned something. Before, I just took almond paste for granted; now I know that it isn’t too difficult to make my own and it is really yummy homemade!  A bonus is that I got to use my ancient Hamilton Beach 2 speed processor, a faded refugee from the 1980’s.  It seldom comes out to play except when I make a big batch of carrot soup as I have a mini one that is perfect for most blending jobs.  This time it was the right size, got the job done and that is what counts!

Almond paste

INGREDIENTS

1.5 cups whole blanched almonds

1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 large egg white, lightly beaten, room temp

1/2 tsp almond extract

Yield: 1 lb (2.5 cups) almond paste

Directions:

  1. Place the whole blanched almonds and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar in a large food processor (at least 7 cups in volume) fitted with a steel blade. Process the nuts and sugar until the nuts are very finely ground, stopping periodically to scrape the sides of the processor bowl. The sugar will help prevent the nuts from turning into almond butter, but done over process.
  1. Once the almonds are very finely ground, add the rest of the powdered sugar and blend until it is completely mixed into the ground almonds.
  1. Stop the processor and add the egg white and the almond extract. Turn the processor back on and process the almond paste until it comes together in a clump in the food processor.
  1. If it seems very sticky, add a little more powdered sugar, a spoonful at a time, until it is smooth. I didn’t need to do this.
  1. You can use the almond paste at once or wrap it to use at a later date. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it in a zip-top bag. Wrapped this way, the almond paste can be kept for up to 3 months in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer. Make sure to bring the almond paste to room temperature before using it in recipes.

PS: I forget exactly where I found this recipe, It is by Alton Brown, (my hero) just google almond paste and it should come up!