Monday, March 16, 2009

a family classic

lately, i've had the persistent
urge
to make cookies.
not to eat them,
just to make them.

it started weeks ago,
when i was visiting my
family and felt
like i should show
up with something
other than,
well, us.

but i didn't.

then, a week later,
i was unexpectedly
seeing them again,
and more determined
this time.

so i looked over
cookbook
after cookbook
and picked several
potential recipes,
but none felt right.
none called out to me,
made me feel i
knew exactly what i was
getting into,
or that they would
possibly be the cookie
my not-yet-born
grandchildren
of my not-yet-born
children
will ask for when
they come to visit.

yes, i take recipe
choosing very seriously.

so again, i didn't
make any.

then this weekend,
in spite of the fact that
we had nowhere to
go and nobody to
entertain or to bestow
a gift upon, i finally
made cookies.

the winning recipe,
it turns out,
was not from any of
my cookbooks - although
in fairness to my cookbooks,
i didn't make my way through
all of them, so there could still
be a spectacular
sweet something hiding
out on those shelves -
but from the january
issue of gourmet.

the chewy amaretti sandwich cookies
just looked so delicate
and crackly
and pretty.
i was up for a challenge,
but these only had three
ingredients -
almond paste,
sugar
egg whites -
and i realized immediately,
i didn't need a challenge.

please don't panic.
i'm pretty sure that i may
have lost half of you
at the mention of
almond paste -
my best friend included -
but it is almond paste,
not marzipan.

oh, marzipan -
gives a
bad name to all things
almond.
you often see it
rolled into little colorful
fruits or other shapes
and used to garnish
cakes or tarts.
in order to make the
mixture so moldable,
they add a ton of sugar.
the flavor and grainy texture
is a turnoff
to most people.
almond paste, though,
is really
designed to be
edible and has a
much smaller sugar
content, so that
the almond flavor
can really shine.

anyway, back to
my grandchildren's
favorite cookie.
they couldn't be
easier to make:
you simply toss
all of the ingredients
into the food processor,
pulse until smooth
and transfer to
a piping bag.
it's a lot easier to fill the pastry bag if you place it, once you've cut the end and inserted the tip, upside down inside a cup.
they bake
until they're golden
brown and cracked,
and your kitchen
smells of a corner
bakery.

but, then,
it does get a little
complicated.
let me rephrase.
it gets complicated if:
you're uncoordinated
(like me),
are without assistance
(like i was)
or find out that you
have an abnormally
large sink
(like i apparently do).
otherwise, you'll
be fine.

you see, what happens
next is that you take
the hot pans,
with the baked
cookies still on them,
and rest the metal on an
angle in your sink.
then,
you lift the corner
of parchment paper,
upon which,
the cookies have been
resting,
and you pour water
in between.
i'm sure pictures
of me trying to
do this
would be
priceless.

somehow, i got
my act together with only
two casualties (it was
quick - they didn't know
what hit 'em).
for the rest of the batch,
the water did its trick,
slightly steaming
their bottoms
and making
them sticky.
this helped later,
when they were cool,
pulled off the
parchment and
sandwiched
together.

one final note,
i made them waaaay
too big.
they're meant to be piped
into 3/4-inch rounds,
which is quite small.
i would have bet you
a nickle mine were
the right size
(ok, maybe 7/8-inch),
but when i ran out
of batter early,
i pulled out a ruler
and learned
that my dollops
ranged from 1 to 1 1/2
inches.
oh, and did i mention,
they spread?
eek.

no matter,
really. they still baked
in the required time
and were
really yummy
and
very special.
but next time -
because there
will absolutely
be a next time -
i will try my darnedest
to make them the
mini,
delicate,
pop-in-your-mouth
and savor
spheres
i believe
they are meant to be.

this way,
they're sized for
kids,
creatively gourmet
for adults,
easy enough
for you
to whip up
and bake -
and the perfect
family cookie,
now, or...
whenever.

chewy amaretti sandwich cookies
from gourmet magazine
while most recipes, including this one, have the best results when prepared with room temperature eggs, they are much easier to separate cold. so i always separate straight from the fridge and then let them come up to temp on their own. by the time i found the hard-copy of the recipe, located my piping bags, preheated the oven and drank the rest of my sunday morning coffee, the whites were ready. this recipe calls for two whites, but who knows, your next recipe could call for two yolks - simply store in the fridge for a few days or keep for a couple months in the freezer.

1 tube (7 oz.) pure almond paste (3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature for 30 minutes

arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. heat oven to 300˚F. line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

in food processor, pulse almond paste and sugar until broken up and combined. add egg whites and pulse until smooth. transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 3/8" plain tip. pipe 3/4" rounds, 3/4" apart on baking sheets. bake 15-18 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back midway through, or until tops are puffed and golden brown.

wearing an oven mitt, rest pan at an angle in the sink. gently lift one corner of parchment paper and slowly pour 1/4 cup water between paper and pan so that all of the paper is moistened. let cookies cool completely on cooling rack. sandwich pairs of cookies together. let cookies dry at least 20 minutes before eating.

store in airtight container for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to 1 month.

5 comments:

Stephanie said...

Are you saying there are no pictures of you pulling off this feat? Or, are you only showing them to the highest bidder?

brooke herman said...

funny, steph. but, i'm very sorry -- there are no pictures. had someone been there to take the picture, i probably would have made them jump in and help. not as much fun this way, i know.

Col said...

I've never heard of this trick! What a great way to get the bottoms (middles?) nice and chewy and sticky.

The Bean said...

This sounds like the recipe for the French macaroons I tried to make... chewy, almondy, etc. Save me some!

brooke herman said...

col - i didn't know either. when i made them so big, i debated about not sandwiching them, but then i wasn't sure if the steam is what helps get them off the paper, so i just did it anyway.

yes, they remind me of macarons, but not as delicate or finicky or trying on your patience to pull off. they're very yummy though.