Frozen-Inspired Almond Spritz

My goddaughter Maureen will turn 10 this week, and she and her sister Margo love all things Frozen. For her birthday, I wanted to bake a Frozen-inspired treat, but most options – like snowflake sugar cookies frosted with intricate details – weren’t good candidates for shipping. But spritz-style cookies, made with a cookie press, could certainly hold their own in shipping and would look enough like snowflakes to hopefully bring a smile to Mo’s adorable face.

My Grandma Zella always made her famous almond cookies in spritz fashion each Christmas, churning out tree and wreath shapes from her cookie press without batting an eyelash. But for me, the cookie press presented great challenges. Today though, I was determined to master it, and master it I did. Whether this dough counts as actual spritz dough, I’m not sure, but it worked very well for my purpose. Happy birthday, Mo!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Purple gel food coloring
  • Blue gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream shortening and sugar until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Scrape down your bowl, then add flour and almond extract, beating to combine into a smooth dough.

Divide dough in half; tint one portion purple and the other portion blue.

For purple wreath-shaped snowflakes, fit a cookie press with a wreath disc and fill with purple dough; press shapes onto an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Bake for 3 minutes, then rotate the pan halfway and bake for another 3 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For blue swirl snowflakes, fit a cookie press with a sunburst/swirl disc and fill with blue dough. Press shapes onto an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Bake for 3-4 minutes, then rotate the pan halfway and bake for another 3-4 minutes, being careful not to let the edges brown (which, in full disclosure, mine did). Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days; their flavor becomes stronger after a few days and they do last a while. These are a drier cookie, almost like a biscotti, and are best enjoyed with a nice cup of tea or coffee or glass of milk.

Makes several dozen, depending on which shapes you choose – the recipe can make about 5-6 dozen.

 

Almond Pennies

almond-penniesThese amazing cookies remind me of ones I’ve seen (and eaten, of course) in many bakeries and coffee shops: perfectly round, large enough so that one is all you need as a snack, with a crispy-chewy texture and delicious, delicate flavor. This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, a book that has forever changed my baking life. I used a 2-inch cookie scoop to scoop my dough, rather than rolling into table tennis-sized balls as the original instructed.

Although they’re called pennies, these cookies are very generously portioned, baking into 4-inch rounds – far larger than any penny I’ve ever seen. I’d like to try them as smaller cookies so they make a larger batch, and intend to use a 1-inch cookie scoop the next time I make these. The cookies spread a lot when baking, so make sure you leave ample room between them on your baking sheets.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 ounces (about 2/3 cup) almond flour
  • 4 1/4 ounces (about 1 cup) flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and add brown sugar, almond extract, salt, baking soda, and egg, beating very well to combine.

Add almond flour and flour, beating to combine.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, placing at least 2-3 inches apart on the baking sheets; I’d recommend no more than 6 cookies per sheet. Dip the bottom of a glass in sugar and press cookies to 1/4 inch thickness.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Makes 18.

Burnt Almond Cookies

burnt almond cookiesPittsburgh, for all its city claims, is essentially a small town. Everyone knows everyone, usually with two degrees of separation or fewer. One of my favorite Pittsburgh connection stories came recently, when I learned that my coworker, Josh, is married to a girl who went to my elementary school; that he and his wife were married in the church I attended as a kid; and, that his in-laws buy cakes for all of their family celebrations from Mrs. Mileski, who lives up the street from my childhood home (and whose cakes are renowned in the Verona/Penn Hills area).

Josh and I realized our uncanny connection during a conversation about Oakmont Bakery, a stellar establishment that offers a delicious alternative to the Prantl’s burnt almond torte (and happens to be the bakery that made my wedding cake). He’s a burnt almond torte fan, and because this is his last week in our office – he’s accepted a great opportunity in another part of our organization – I’ve baked these burnt almond torte-inspired cookies for him.  Farewell, Josh! Enjoy!

Almond Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add granulated sugar and almond extract and beat until combined.

Beat in flour.

Cover and chill dough for about one-half hour, until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls. Place on baking sheets about two inches apart, then flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass.

Bake 14 minutes, until bottoms are light golden brown.

Allow to cool before frosting.

Almond Frosting

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon almond extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute.

Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract; beat until fully combined.

Add heavy cream about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition to reach a fluffy, buttercream consistency.

Burnt Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine almonds, sugar, and water; stir to combine.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place half of the almond mixture in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 4-5 minutes until almonds turn a light golden brown. Almonds will start out looking wet and will appear dry when they are almost done.

Remove to the parchment paper to cool and repeat with the second half of the almonds. Allow to cool completely before using.

Note: you’ll only need about 3/4 cup for this recipe, so you can reserve your burnt almonds for another use or just keep them around for snacks. They’re delicious on their own!

To assemble:

Roughly chop burnt almonds; set aside.

Frost cookies, then dip tops into burnt almonds, pressing gently so the almonds will stick.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Almond Crinkles

almond crinkles

 

 

 

 

 

Almond paste and marzipan are both confections made of ground almonds and sugar, with some recipes including egg whites as a stabilizer. Throughout the world, almond paste and marzipan are interchangeable, but here in the US, they’re different products for different purposes.

According to American Almond Products Co., almond paste contains equal parts ground almonds and sugar. It is commonly used in fillings for tarts, pastries, and cakes and can be used to make marzipan, which has a higher sugar to ground almond ratio. The higher quantity of sugar in marzipan makes it more pliable and suitable for molding, which explains why cake decorators use it to fashion tiny fruits, vegetables, animals, and all manner of objects.

I had six ounces of almond paste left over from my Christmas baking and had to scour the internet to find a recipe that called for this amount, fortunately finding the simple cookie below. The end result is a buttery, almondy, sugar-type cookie that would welcome a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 6 ounces almond paste
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, almond paste, and sugar until very fluffy.

Add egg and beat until combined.

Add baking soda and flour, beating until combined.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Place two inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until tops are just golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.

 

Almond Clouds (gluten-free)

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend Mike and I are off to the Clarksville Picnic in my mom’s hometown of Clarksville, Maryland.  The picnic is one of the highlights of my year; it features the white elephant rummage sale, bingo, pony rides, games for kids, a bake sale, a quilt raffle (which my mom won three years ago, and that quilt is now on my bed) and a family-style fried chicken and baked ham dinner.

I love the picnic because it gives me a chance to hang out with my Maryland family, the descendants of the Feaga-O’Donnell clan.  The lynchpin is Aunt Liz, my mom’s twin sister. Yes, my mom has a twin.  And no, you cannot get a word in edgewise when they’re together.

Anyway…Aunt Liz is the youngest of the six O’Donnell kids, and her home, Glyndon, is the center of my Maryland universe.  Tucked into a corner of Montgomery County that hasn’t been developed to death, Glyndon is a classic white colonial with black shutters, a wood stove, and a dog pen that’s been home to many faithful mutts over the years.

Aunt Liz puts on meals like nobody’s business.  Her Thanksgiving dinners are legendary, her breakfasts the stuff of myths.  She’s an excellent cook and baker, but she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a few years ago.  After mentioning some almond cookies she liked that she’d gotten at an allergy-free store, I decided to go on the hunt for a gluten-free almond cookie that I could make on my own, and I found this one.

Aunt Liz proclaimed it the best cookie she’d ever eaten in her life.  The highest of praise, indeed.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325.

Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Break up almond paste into pieces.

In a mixing bowl, combine almond paste, sugar, and salt until uniformly crumbly.

Gradually add egg whites until dough is smooth and paste-like.

Add almond extract and beat well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared sheets, leaving ample room in between; I bake six cookies per sheet.

Using a small sieve, generously dust each cookie with powdered sugar.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.

Cool for several minutes on baking sheets, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Dust with more powdered sugar if desired.

Almond Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

Meet my favorite cookie ever.  All I need is a cup of tea, a plate of these, and I’m in heaven.

This recipe is another gem from my grandma Zella; it is simple, with only five ingredients, and the cookies have a slightly crumbly texture reminiscent of biscotti.  They pair very well with coffee or tea, and yes…I have eaten them for breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 ¼ cups flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Measure out flour into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Add half the flour, along with the almond extract, and beat to combine.

Add the remaining flour and beat until well combined.  The dough should be soft, but easy to roll into balls.  If your dough is too soft or sticky, add one to two tablespoons of additional flour to achieve a firmer texture.

Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.