September 3, 2009

Preview of fall

Some cookie recipes should be filed under the "to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon" file, if I ever organize my recipes by such headings. If I did, these almond cookies with a touch of aniseed would certainly find their place in that file. They could also find another place in a "to be eaten with brown sugar flavored ice cream" file, or even coffee ice cream. The tea, though, is the best idea, especially an afternoon tea, like an Earl Grey with bergamot. It's such a comforting combination -- tea and cookies on a quiet afternoon, watching an old film or reading a classic novel. And, since fall is almost upon us, it's a good time to start thinking about those brisk afternoons when a hot cup of tea is very welcome, especially when accompanied by simple yet tasty cookies.

Although the aroma wafting from the oven while they bake is tempting, these cookies taste best after they've completely cooled. The anise flavor is much more pronounced at room temperature, and the texture is better, too -- crunchy and crispy with a slight softness in the middle. Both qualities of flavor and texture are lost when eaten warm because they each haven't had time to completely develop yet. Of course, some of the cookies turned out crispier than others, and some chewier, depending on how thick or thin I sliced them. It wasn't easy to make each one perfectly even.

I would suggest making the dough the night before you plan on baking, because it has to refrigerate for at least four hours, then freeze briefly, to be ready for the oven. That way, you can just pop the dough in the freezer in the morning and have cookies cooling less than an hour later.

Almond Brown Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2008

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Heaping ½ tsp aniseed, ground
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup whole blanched almonds (2 ½ oz)*

Whisk together the flour, aniseed, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in egg and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until a dough just forms. Stir in whole almonds.

Divide dough in half. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log 2-inch in diameter, flattening off edges. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. Freeze 30 minutes to facilitate slicing.

Preheat oven to 350° F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. If using only 1 baking sheet at a time, place rack in middle of oven.

Cut 1 log of dough crosswise into slices ¼-inch thick with a thin sharp knife, rotating log after each slice to help keep round shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice through nuts easily, freeze briefly.) Arrange cookies about ½-inch apart on baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through, until golden brown all over, about 14 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to racks to cool.

Repeat with remaining dough (cool baking sheets and line with fresh parchment).

Makes around 32-34 cookies.

*Or you could try using ½ cup sliced almonds. I'm curious as to whethor or not sliced almonds might make the cookies a bit more crunchy.

No comments:

Post a Comment