Yesterday we began our week of cookie recipes from Fany Gerson's My Sweet Mexico with Anise Cookies, a recipe adapted from monjas or nuns. According to Gerson, these religious ladies do more than their fair share of baking, and in fact, most of the cookie recipes that we are going to be sharing this week were born in convents.
While the women who came up with these Convent Cookies live fairly austere lives, the recipe is far from light. The cookies begin by caramelizing almonds in a sugar syrup. Once the almonds have cooled, they are ground into a crunchy, sugary base. Butter, flour, and egg yolks are mixed into the nuts to make an almondy dough that requires a bit of patience to roll out (perhaps that's a virtue learned at the convent?). Once the little cookies have been cut out of the chilled dough they are brushed with egg white and topped with sugar and slivered almonds.
The finished cookies are crumbly, sweet, and bursting with deep almond flavor.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of My Sweet Mexico to give away this week.
Reprinted with permission from My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats. Copyright © 2010 by Fany Gerson, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.
- 1 cup whole almonds, skins on
- 1 cup sugar, plus extra for topping
- 1/4 cup water
- 7 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 egg whites
- Sliced or slivered almonds, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Place a nonstick mat on a baking sheet or lightly grease the pan.
Combine the 1 cup sugar and the water in a small saucepan, wiping the edges with a wet brush or your wet hands so no crystals form, and cook until it turns a golden caramel color. Add the almonds and stir quickly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet. Let cool, and then grind in a food processor until the consistency resembles little sugar rocks but not powder.
Cream the butter in a mixer until pale and fluffy, and then add the egg yolks, one at a time. In a small bowl, combine the salt and flour and add gradually to the batter, scraping the sides as needed. Add the ground caramelized almonds until just combined.
Put about one-fourth of the mixture between two pieces of parchment paper (the size of your baking sheet) and roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Keeping the rolled-out mixture between the parchment sheets, transfer to the baking sheet then place in the freezer for 10 minutes; repeat the process with the rest of the dough. Remove the baking sheets from the freezer, one at a time, beginning with the one that has been in the freezer the longest. Carefully peel off one of the parchment pieces to expose the cookie dough, and then put it back lightly, flip over the cookie dough, and peel off the other sheet. (This step makes the cookies easier to handle.)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut out 21/2-inch circles of dough (or whatever shape you desire) and place on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough and gather the scraps to roll again. The scraps can be rerolled up to three times. If the dough starts to feel sticky, refrigerate or freeze it briefly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Beat the egg whites lightly and brush the tops of the cookies. Decorate with sliced or slivered almonds and a bit of sugar. Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.