Melia Marden’s Almond Cookies
I don’t like to bake. We’ve been over this before.
But I’m practicing a new approach to things: I say yes when I used to say no. I say no when I used to say yes. Instead of shying away from an opportunity that intimidates me, I am giving things the old college try.
I’ve been pouring over Melia Marden’s new cookbook Modern Mediterranean, my mouth watering with every turn of the page, and though baking isn’t really my thing (to put it mildly), I elected to try out The Smile chef’s recipe for almond cookies with a bitter orange glaze as a gift for my Easter hosts.
I can’t tell you the number of times I cursed myself for doing so because…
I also tend to make things as complicated for myself as possible, so I attempted the recipe with only two hours to buy the ingredients, cook the recipe, get dolled up and make it to Easter lunch. With my tiny oven theoretically pre-heating to somewhere in the vicinity of the required 350°F, I realized that my measuring spoons were nowhere to be found, but forged ahead, eye-balling it, just as one is absolutely-not-supposed-to-do when one bakes.
Despite my characteristic lack of precision, a combination of Melia’s genius and a lot of luck made for delicious results. And in another fortuitous twist of fate, even my friends who were celebrating Passover could indulge in these wheat-free cookies that resembled almond macaroons in their chewy sweetness. Fresh blood orange made for a rosy glaze. I even gave up feeling self-conscious about my irregular, misshapen slightly fibrous cookies until I tasted Melia’s perfectly round and smooth ones at her book launch. When I told her this story, she intimated a truth about her baking that I already knew: “My desserts are foolproof,” which means that even a fool like me can’t screw them up.
2 cups whole blanched almonds
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ ground nutmeg
3 large egg whites
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
1 teaspoon orange zest (from 1 large orange)
1/4 teaspoon orange-blossom water
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
Place the almonds and almond extract in a food processor and process until they resemble bread crumbs, about 40 seconds. In a large bowl, combine the almond mixture and stir until well combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk until well combined. Pour the egg-white mixture in to the almond mixture and stir until well combined.
Roll the mixture into roughly 1½-inch balls (ping-pong ball size) and place them in rows on the baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between cookies. using the bottom of a glass, press down lightly on each cookie so that it is about 2 inches in diameter and ½ inch think.
Bake on the middle of the rack of the oven until the bottom and edges are just slightly golden, about 10 minutes (14 minutes if your oven functions anything like mine). They should still be a bit chewy in the center. Let the cookies cool completely while you make the glaze.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1 teaspoon glaze on top of each cookie and spread evenly. Let the glaze sit untouched until it sets. Store in a cool dry place for up to 2 days.
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