Saturday, February 14, 2009

A salt kick

Now, I know I was just mooning over rice pudding a few days ago and crunchy coffee bars before that...but I actually have another dessert for you.

And it's one of the most addicting cookies I've ever eaten.

I'm really not trying to make you curse me for forcing you to run out to the store to grab almonds and another carton of butter (though you really should, you really truly should). It's just all of the baking recipes I've tagged over, oh, the last hundred years that have been waiting patiently to be baked, tasted and devoured are finally getting their day in the sun (and snow).

This past Christmas was the first time in four (4!) years that my entire family had gotten together. While I was and will remain eternally grateful for it, the situation meant quite a lot of compromises and very little elbow room...oh, and a whole heck of a lot of cocktails.

Once Christmas, New Year's and a slew of wine bottles had come and gone, my dad got a little stir-crazy and decided that he wanted to take my little sister and I to Disney World. Great idea, right? Yes, except that he decided this on a Sunday, we would have to leave on a Monday to drive the 18 hour trip, do the parks on Tuesday and Wednesday in order to drive 18 hours back on Thursday so that I could catch my flight back to Chicago on Friday around noon.

Exhausting, I know.

We went ahead with the plan and I found myself just a few days later wandering around Epcot, and heading straight for the English pub where it was rumored that they had Strongbow on tap! I sipped my way through my beloved pint while my dad and sister dined on fish and chips.

We continued to wander around "the world", taking in the movies, cute shops and remaining Christmas decorations in each country.

I'd been drooling over Dorie Greenspan's classic Paris Sweets for quite a while. It seemed that all of my favorite food bloggers had included a recipe from her on their sites, and from this tome in particular. So imagine my delight when I found the book in one of the shops in Epcot's France and my dad offered to buy it for me. I spent that evening happily, annoying my sister, by burying my nose in yet another cookbook.

I brought the book with me when I came back up to Chicago from Houston, determined to make something, anything, out of it before I head off to Paris for real (!!!).

However, I was rather limited by the supplies that Jimmy has in his apartment. I just finally bought a cake pan for him (well, for me, really) the other day, so the delicious tarts that Dorie describes were absolutely out of the picture. Plus, my KitchenAid is in storage, so anything that involved an inordinate amount of egg-white whipping was also not in the cards.

I finally settled on some amusing-sounding cookies called Croq-Télé (essentially "crunchy TV") that required a food processor (which he has!) and a cookie sheet, nothing more nor less.

While not on the show-stopping gorgeous side of the cookie spectrum, these cookies absolutely make up for it in taste. The simple combination of almonds, sugar, flour and butter is elevated by the addition of a fair amount of salt, making them downright addictive.

The dough is made in 3 steps in the food processor, first making a nut-sugar, then combining the flour and butter in typical pastry dough fashion before throwing in the nut-sugar again. It creates a sandy mixture that you free-form into shapes and throw in the oven. Easy peasy.

Once they emerge, looking suspiciously similar to how they looked when they went in the oven, you allow them to cool which in turns lets the edges crisp up a bit. The lovely almond flavor and buttery texture gets a little kick by the salt, turning an otherwise delicious but maybe slightly ordinary butter cookie into something altogether unforgettable.

In all honesty, I may never have made these cookies if I wasn't limited by my baking supplies. While they sounded good in the book, they didn't quite have the draw that so many of the other selections do. And what a near miss that was! These cookies will be made in my house for many years as an addicting tea time snack or a perfect movie-watching treat, as Dorie suggests.

I think Jimmy said it best: "These cookies taste SO much better than they look! Wait, not that they look bad, but...they just taste so good!"

Croq-Télé Cookies
Adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 cup sliced almonds (she calls for whole blanched)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (just a smidge under)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
7 Tbs. cold unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse in 3 second intervals until the nuts are finely ground, about 1-2 minutes (depending on if you use whole or sliced almonds). Scrape down the sides periodically.

Turn out the nut/sugar mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Cut the cold butter into 7 equal pieces and keep nearby.

Put the flour and one piece of the butter into the bowl of the food processor (still fitted with the metal blade) and start the motor running. Drop in the other pieces of butter as each previous piece gets incorporated. Switch to pulsing in 3 second intervals once all of the butter is in, and pulse until the mixture looks sandy and there are no visible chunks of butter.

Add in the nut/sugar mixture and pulse in 3 second intervals until the dough starts to clump, about 1-2 minutes. When squeezed, the dough should stick together.

Turn out the dough into a bowl.

Pull off small pieces of dough about the size of a cherry or walnut half and squeeze them in your hand to form bite-sized pieces (they will look irregular, don't worry). Place the pieces on a lined baking sheet (aluminum foil, silpat or parchment paper works here), leaving about 1/2 inch in between.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, rotating the sheets from front to back to ensure even browning, until the cookies are set. They won't look brown on top, but when gently pushed, won't yield to your finger.

Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a metal rack to cool.

Makes approximately 32 cookies.

*Dorie notes that the cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month...but Jimmy and I are already way over halfway through them and it's the 2nd day.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oh Emily, after reading your blog I think I'm feeling a domestic feeling coming over me- which doesn't happen very often. I don't know which recipe to try out first! They sounds amazing! I hope you're having an amazing time in France! Selfishly though, I can't wait til you come back so you can cook for me again!