Dec 27, 2007

Tis' the season of Holiday Cookies!

Ya, okaaay Christmas is over, however baking-holiday-cookies-season isn't! But before I move to the food ramblings bit of my post, I would just like to say that in 3 days I'm off to Dubai for the second half of my winter vacation...although I am quite sure it will feel like anything but winter over there!! Hurrah for sunny weather! I do hope that I will be able to take some interesting photos, even though I'm guessing that most of it might involve tall buildings, extravagant shopping malls, a lot of palm trees and hopefully I'll get to go to the desert again. Here are some pictures from my last trip to Dubai... (May 2006, 45 degrees celsius, and a tan in less then 30 mins!)

Now to the food part. Yum!

I don't know if I've said this before, but I'm not so much of a follow-recipes-in-a-book type of person. Sure I follow recipes, but only the ABC's and then I try to add a twist to the basics. I don't have that many cooking books, and I find more pleasure in creating then in following recipes. Anywhoo, to my surprise, as I was drooling at some delicious food photos on one of my favourite sites, my eyes stopped on a "holiday cookies" themed image that was linked to There was a compilation of holiday cookies recipes, and one of them I found very appealing: almond buttons, which I then read was adapted from "New Almond Cookery," by Michelle Schmidt (Simon and Schuster, 1984).
The recipe did not look too complicated, so that reassured me as I have cookiephobia (I've always found cookies harder to bake then cakes... don't ask). With a deep breath, after months of not having made cookies, I decided to face my fear: almond buttons it was. After having tried to figure out how much a "stick" of butter was (sorry, I work in much is a stick of butter?!), I went ahead and started toasting the almonds, weighing the flour, melting chocolate, etc etc...

One thing however- initially I really wanted to replace the almonds by pistachio...therefore making "pistachio buttons" I guess. But not enough pistachios there was in the kitchen that day- they were outnumbered by almonds, and I had no choice then to go with the original recipe. Aargh, frustration!!

I used half the amounts indicated in the recipe, and it still made more then enough for a first trial- approximately 40-45 cookies! The result was fantastic, they taste scrumptious and are super easy to make! Ever since, I've made these cookies four times in less then a month, as I gave many away to friends and family. For the recipe, continue reading...

Recipe for almond buttons (my half-recipe from the original one, I omit some ingredients too):

  • 1 cup whole, skin-on almonds, toasted (explained below)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100gr butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100gr semisweet chocolate
  • Skin on almonds for decoration (about 45 pieces)

How to make it:

  1. Toast the skin-on almonds: cook them in a heavy, dry skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are lightly browned and begin to smell toasty. Watch carefully; nuts can burn quickly. Transfer to a dish to cool.
  2. Finely grind the almonds in a food processor or blender and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Then add the flour, sugar and pinch of salt. Personally, I put all these powdering ingredients again in a food processor.
  4. Melt the butter, and add with the vanilla extract to the flour, almonds and sugar.
  5. Use your hands to work the dough, until it becomes soft and non-sticky.
  6. Transfer dough to fridge for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to th5, and pull dough out of fridge
  8. Form small cookie dough balls, and with your thumb make a little "hole" in the middle. The original recipe calls for a melon baller, but if you don't have one, then your thumb works out just as well!
  9. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Pull out, do not touch (they crumble!!) and let cool.
  11. In the meantime, melt chocolate in a bain marie. Then drizzle a small amount of the chocolate into the indentation of each cookie. Top off with an almond. Let cool, and enjoy!

P.S: these cookies keep their crunch extremely well for days, as long as they are kept in an air-tight container!

Original recipe can be found here:

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