Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Delishimous Almond Sandwich Cookies
So I completely meant to post these during Passover, the holiday during which we Jews may not consume regular baked goods. No leavened breads, cookies, cakes are allowed. Nor are beans, corn, rice... All we're left with are matzah products. Matzah with cream cheese, matzah with tomato sauce and melted cheese ("pizza", if you will), matzah soaked in water, drained, and beaten with egg as matzah brie... these are just a few of my Passover favorites. However, they get a little old. And no matter what I make out of matzah meal, it always has a bit of a funny taste. Bitter... not right.
So instead of going for food that emphasizes what Passover traditionally prohibits, trying to recreate dishes and snacks that are outlawed, I realized it's not as hard as it seems to adhere to Passover for eight days. Truly delicious foods can be made, still refraining from those ingredients not allowed. How come I had never thought of that? Why, I could spend the week and a day eating salads all the time. Fresh vegetables and fruits. Dried fruit. Some nuts. So many delicious foods that I don't consume enough of on a regular daily basis.
I won't say it wasn't a challenge... it was a challenge. But a challenge that strengthened my mindfulness. My awareness of what I was eating was almost unbearably heightened. In a way, it was quite wonderful!
Amidst my diet of scrumptious fruits and vegetables (by the way, I spent the past week and a half in San Francisco, on a steady diet of only the freshest local, seasonal farmers' market produce-- I was spoiled, to the max), I found time to experiment with the most delicious wheat-free cookies.
I'd tried to make these a year ago, from almond flour instead of paste, and it was a yummy failure. The finished product was edible yet not at all presentable. So I ended up eating an entire tray of this goopy gop, with nothing to show for my hard work at attempting french macaroons just like the ones they sell at La Boulange in San Francisco.
This year, I was much more careful with my mise en place. I actually drew circles on my parchment paper, creating neat boundaries into which my sweet almond-egg white paste would be squeezed from my homemade pastry bag (read: large ziplock bag with a small hole in one corner). I used my mother's food processor, in place of my previous tool for the job: an electric mixer. I made sure my jam filling was the right thickness; not too watery, not too thick. I even exerted the utmost patience and did not remove the cookies from the parchment until they were fully cooled.
When everyone tasted the cookies, faces lit up-- these were homemade? NO WAY!!
The next day, I was greeted with a request for another batch. And to the kitchen I went, to create the second round of yummy kosher for passover (at least by me) treats. The best thing is, unlike matzah with cream cheese, these cookies are actually suitable for year round eating--definitely not something you get sick of after eight days. I hope you can enjoy them, too.
1 7-oz tube of pure almond paste
1 c sugar
2 egg whites
1 large zip lock bag
your favorite jam (I used seedless raspberry)
Preheat oven to 350 on a convection oven (375 if no convection). Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you think you'll have a hard time making consistently similar sized cookies, you can trace a quarter, making circles on the parchment in neat rows, about an inch apart. I actually traced a teaspoon time and again to have my circles, then placed the parchment pen-side down on the baking sheet.
This type of dough works well out of a pastry bag. I, unfortunately do not own one *yet*. However, there is an easy way to make your own. Using a scissor, make a small hole in one corner of the zip lock bag. The end.
In a food processor, pulse paste and sugar. Add egg whites, and puree.
Scoop contents into your pastry bag, trying to get all the batter into that one corner, not all over the bag. I use the "hungry muppet" technique: turn the bag inside out and put my hand in it, as if making a hand puppet. Then I "feed" the bag the dough. This way, it goes right in where I want it, and I turn the bag back right side out. If you don't know what I mean, just spoon it in from the top. No worries.
Using your filled pastry bag, "draw" circles of batter, filling in your circles on the parchment.
Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes.
Allow cookies to cook before attempting to remove from the paper.
When TRULY cooled, you may eat them as single cookies OR spread a bit of jam in between two for sandwich cookies. The best.