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    Entries in nutty (7)

    Tuesday
    Mar062012

    Variations on a Theme

    So, we’re getting close to the end of the semester; midterms are done. I’m really looking forward to the end of this year. I’ve had just about enough of school already and being done this year means I’ve only got (hopefully) two more to go.

    It also means that the guys at work are going to get their weekly dose of cookies.

    The new cubes we have at work (yes, I’m in a cube; I can’t wait until summer when I can work on site again – I much prefer a construction trailer to a spot in a cube farm) each have their own whiteboards, and mine of course has a “Cookie Requests” spot. The estimators have been hounding me for peanut butter, and the accountants have been begging for creamsicle cookies.

    I don’t know what it is about peanut butter cookies, but people seem to want them more than other kind of cookie. Whenever I ask for suggestions on what to make, I’m bound to have at least 2 people tell me “peanut butter.”

    I don’t like peanut butter cookies. At all. Never have, never will. I conceded last summer and made a peanut butter oatmeal no-bake cookie for them (I’m not fond of oatmeal either and thought I’d kill two birds with one stone), and while they were well received, I was getting requests for more peanut butter the next week! These people are insatiable.

    So, I know I’m just going to keep getting hassled by these peabutt nutters, and I’m hoping I can hold them off for a while with a variation.

    Almond Butter Cookies

    What you need:

    • ¾ c butter
    • ¾ c almond butter
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla/almond extract/amaretto liqueur
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 ¾ c flour
    • ¾ c dried cherries

    Oh yeah, the sliced almonds... I didn't bother using them. You can try adding them if you'd like.

    What you gotta do:

    WARNING: I'm totally winging it here and taking you along for the ride as I make up a new cookie recipe.

    So, I had about ¾ of a cup of butter and didn’t want to bother actually measuring half a cup (the usual amount I use for cookies) so I just dumped it all into the bowl. I’d been thinking I’d use a full cup of almond butter, but as I was pouring it into the measuring cup I realized that 1 cup would probably be too much.

    Plus, I like recipes where all of the ingredients have similar or proportional measurements. It’s a bit of an OCD thing for me, but I don’t mind because I find that it usually simplifies recipes nicely. (Go look, you’ll see, I rarely mix halves and thirds)

    Once the butters are combined, add the eggs

    and then the extract. I’ve been soaking dried cherries in amaretto liqueur for a while now,

    and used some of the cherry tinted liqueur.

    Since I was totally winging this, and not entirely sure how much flour I’d need, I added it half a cup at a time, starting with a full cup. And sprinkled the baking powder on top of the flour, rather than sifting them together. I know sifting is considered very important by some people, but I rarely bother and things usually work out just fine.

    Okay, so, one cup is not enough.

    One and a half, not quite either.

    I was really hoping to make a drop cookie, with a dough as soft as something like a chocolate chip cookie… um, I have no recipe that I can link back to! WTF. How did we make it through an entire year without making brownies or chocolate chip cookies?? ah ha! Taneasha kinda did chocolate chip... still, I think we're going to have to do a chips only post.

    Anyway, drop cookie. That’s what I was going for. But that last half a cup…

    Really should have been only a quarter cup.

    Huh. That means that rather than 2 cups of flour, I need 1 ¾. Awesome.

    So, I chopped up the ¾ c dried cherries and stirred them in.

    But since I used 2 cups, I had a firmer dough that didn’t “drop” well onto the cookie sheet. I really didn’t want to go with the shaped ball pressed down with a crisscross of forks, so I just “dropped” the balls onto the sheet.

    Yeah, totally dropped the ball on this one. They didn’t spread at all. And 12 minutes at 375 was too long.

    Yes, 375 degrees. Preheat your oven now.

    So, the next set, I rolled into balls and then flattened a bit with my hand, and baked them for only 10 minutes.

    Better.

    By the end of the dough, I’d given in and was rolling and flattening the cookies into symmetrical discs before baking them.

    So much for drop cookies.

    Also, after tasting a few, I realized that it’s not just peanut butter cookies I don’t like. It must be something about the nut butter… it just doesn’t make sense. I like peanut butter on toast. I like using it in hoisin sauce. I even like almond butter on toast and in amarettis, which are a cookie… but they’re more of a meringue/macaroon than they are a cookie…

    Sigh. I’m so weird.

    Oh well, at least the guys at work liked them.


     What kind of cookie don't you like?

    Tuesday
    Feb072012

    Amaretti

    Not to be confused with amore.

    Amaro means bitter. So unless you're planning on some kind of bittersweet romance (bitter almonds contain hydrogen cyanide) I recommend not confusing love and poison.

    Amaretti cookies are named for the almond flavouring in them. Amaretto liqueur works well for this, but if you don't have any around you can easily replace it with a bit of almond extract. Amaretto is made from almonds and the pits of apricots (if you've never tasted them, I recommend it, the flavour is very reminiscent of an almond but has a very bitter note to it) and has a slight amount of bitterness under all that sugar, hence the name. But for the most part, it's a sticky sweet liqueur that works very well as a cough supressant.

    Pardon me while I deal with the lingering cough I've had for the last few weeks:

    It even tastes like most cherry flavoured cough syrups because "cherry" seems to have been conflated with "maraschino" which is a liqueur made from cherry pits and has same bitter sweet flavour that the apricot pits and almonds do.

    I will now stop geeking on food research and start telling you how to make cookies.

    Amaretti Cookies

    What you need:

    • 1 c almond butter
    • 1 c sugar
    • 1 tsp amaretto liqueur or almond extract
    • another 1 c sugar
    • 2 egg whites

    What you gotta do:

    Most amaretti recipes call for something called "almond paste". It's basically ground almonds with sugar added to it. Yes, they're usually blanched almonds and so the colour is quite pale, but if you don't have almond paste, and couldn't be bothered to blanch almonds, a good quality almond butter works just fine.

    You will have to stir it though.

    The first thing we're going to do is make our version of an almond paste. Put the almond butter and 1 cup of sugar into the food processor. 

    I can't really think of any other way to do this than in a food processor. Besides, everything else just gets added to it. This is all the dishes you'll have to wash.

    You will end up with something crumbly and pasty and lush with beautiful almond oil. I love almond oil and use it on my skin and hair in the shower when I need extra moisturizing.

    You should end up with just over a cup of almond paste.

    Back into the food processor it goes, along with the amaretto, the rest of the sugar and the egg whites.

    If you've never separated eggs before, you can check out my three-way method to separate eggs. It's pretty foolproof. Even I can manage it.

    And the food processor goes back on high until you have a lovely smooth goo. Give it at least 3 minutes, but as many as 5.

    Now, those of you who are familiar with beating egg whites are thinking I'm insane. Yes, oil of any kind will kill the beating of egg whites and they won't get all nice and fluffy.

    Nice and fluffy is not what we're going for here. This is a bittersweet romance, remember?

    And so when you spoon your cookie batter (about a teaspoon at a time) onto a parchment lined cookie sheet...

    Fuck. Preheat the oven. 375 degrees. (one of these days I'll learn)

    ...The blobs will spread quite a bit, but they will reach their maximum and you'll have a sheet full of flat, glossy puddles.

    But after about 15 minutes in the oven....

    poof!

    The puddles rise and crack and lose their glossy sheen.

    Give them some time to rest on the cookie sheet before you try removing them, or you'll lose the bottoms. I'm impatient; cookies laff at me. 

    These have a lovely bit of crunch on the outside and a gooey, chewy, marshmallowy inside. They're a nice light snacky cookie, but they also lend themselves well to being served on the side of other desserts (like grilled or roasted fruits) or as ingredients in other things (cheesecake crust, or a chocolate terrine).

     What's your favourite bittersweet romance story?