Tartine Bakery on the corner of Guerrero and 18th in San Francisco used to be my neighborhood bakery when I lived there a few years ago. Tartine has so many delicious baked goods, lunch choices, goodies and strong espresso, plus an awesome location near Delores Park -- it's no wonder the line is usually out the door and around the corner.
While many tout the joys of the pressed sandwiches and (amazing) bread, bread pudding and chocolate mousse, I LOVE their tiny, underplayed Almond Rochers. These little meringue cookies may be the least expensive choice on the menu, but they are so so good. Meringue-y, yet crumbly, chewy and crunchy, a little marshmallow-y, nutty. They are sweet, unassuming and absolutely delicious. And they keep their integrity for a long time: up to two weeks! Enjoy these with tea, with coffee, in the morning, afternoon or evening. They can be crumbled on top of ice cream. But, seriously, they are perfect all on their own. Despite needing to have a few things organized, they are also simple to make.
This recipe, as with other meringue, calls for egg whites. I have our three lovely egg-laying chickens (Jackie, Rosalynn and Betty) to thank for the egg whites I used in this recipe (I used three whites instead of two because they were smaller). I can't resist a shout out here to our newest chick addition (she'll lay eggs one day, too). She's too cute not to share with you:
|Melissa, the Splash Silkie chick (thanks for the photo, Anne!)|
Almond Rochers, adapted from Tartine
Note: be sure to read through entire recipe first to make sure you have everything ready to go.
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Get things ready: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F; prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
2. Bake the sliced almonds on an unlined baking sheet in one layer for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. When they have cooled, break the almonds up into small pieces (use your hands, or crush under a glass ball jar or rolling pin). Large almond pieces will get stuck if you plan to use a pastry bag to pipe the mixture out later.
3. Prepare an improvised double boiler: you'll want to use the bowl of your stand mixer (or a heat-proof bowl that you plan to use with a hand mixer). You'll need about 2 inches of simmering water in your pot and the mixing bowl will need to sit above the simmering water without touching the water.
4. Heat the water to simmering in the pot and place your mixing bowl on top. Whisk together the egg whites, confectioners sugar and salt in the bowl until the mixture is hot to touch (120 degrees F). In the book it says this should take about 5 minutes, but it took me half that time.
5. Place the mixing bowl on the mixer stand. Add the vanilla. Mix on high using the whisk attachment. The mixture will thicken and take on a glossy sheen. It's ready when it holds stiff peaks when you lift up the whisk.
6. Fold in the broken almond pieces.
7. It's time to mound the cookie batter onto your prepared baking sheet. You can either spoon the mixture into small mounds, or scoop it into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip and pipe it out. Space the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart. I ran into a little trouble with the pastry bag -- I think my almond pieces were a bit too big and clogged the tip. I simply removed the tip and piped the mixture out slowly without it. I think the pointed tops on the Rochers would have been nicer and more pronounced with a tip, but they still tasted perfect.
8. Prop the door open a tiny bit with the handle of a wooden spoon the whole time these bake to allow the moisture to escape. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. The Rochers will be slightly puffed, crackly cookies that still feel slightly soft to the touch. They harden more as they cool.
9. Cool the Rochers on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long!).