I savor weekend mornings. It is so lovely to sleep in, loll out of bed to be handed a hot, freshly brewed cup of coffee, and then collapse again on the couch to leisurely read the paper. It gets better: eating these cookies. Before a bigger brunch production, weekend mornings allow for a treat over coffee. It depends on the weekend, and what I've been able to bake during the week (sometimes we have a slice of this). But these cookies are a favorite, both for their taste and texture and because the dough freezes so well. I take a log of dough out of the freezer, slice it up, and 15 minutes later have another round of the crisp, caramel-y, nutty goodness ready to munch. These are wonderful with coffee as well as with ice cream (these are a good choice, too).
A couple weeks ago I found an undersized cookbook at the library that I almost passed by: Biscotti. I almost passed by it because I didn't immediately notice the smaller print: Recipes from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, Rome Sustainable Food Project. Hmm -- what was this all about? Well, this is a very sweet little book from a cool program in Italy. It has a surprising number of recipes for its size, an introduction by Alice Waters, good photos, and overall thoughtfulness. The title 'biscotti' refers to a collection of Italian (or Italian-inspired) cookies, not just the super-crunchy, 'biscotti' slices served at every coffee shop everywhere. The ingredients and recipes reflect the seasons, sustainability, and simplicity. The cookies are smaller and less sweet than typical 'cookies' -- and that is a good thing. These cookies are delicious and memorable.
I certainly have not made all the recipes in the book, but of the ones I've baked, these are my favorites so far:
Pain D'Amande: Italian Almond Cookies
5 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar (a coarse sugar works well)
4 1/2 ounces sliced almonds (about 1 cup)
2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of salt
1. Melt the butter in a small/medium saucepan over low heat with the water and cinnamon. Do not boil. Once butter is melted, remove from the heat and cool at room temperature.
2. While the liquid mixture cools, get the dry ingredients together: sift the flour, baking soda and salt together into a medium-sized bowl.
3. Once the liquid mixture is cool, pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and almonds, stirring gently to combine.
4. Add the flour mixture to the liquid, sugar/almond mixture gradually, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine. The dough will be very stiff.
5. Shape the dough into two rectangular tiles, about 8 inches long, 4 1/2 inches wide, and just under an inch thick. It may seem like the dough won't come together, but flattening and shaping it with your hands will help bring it together (see photo below).
|The cookie dough: stages of forming it into the two tiles|
6. Wrap each tile in parchment paper and then in plastic. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Or place one in the fridge and one in the freezer in a sealed freezer bag for another time (it will keep in the freezer for about 2 months).
7. If you plan to bake your cookies soon, heat the oven now to 325 degrees F.
8. Once the dough is chilled, remove it from the fridge and slice across the short side, creating 1/4-inch wide (thin) cookies. Each tile of dough will make about 40 cookies.
9. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart.
|cookies ready to bake|
10. Bake for 12 - 17 minutes or until the cookies are a nice golden color, alternating the baking sheets half-way through if you are using more than one,
11. Cool on cookie racks. The cookies will crisp as they cool.
Enjoy with coffee or ice cream... or on their own!