Through and through

I want to tell you about a very special cookie today, but it being the week of Passover and all, I’m afraid you might get the wrong idea. So to put my mind at ease, please allow me the following disclaimer: The cookie that you are about to meet is NOT a Passover cookie. Yes, it’s flour-free (as per the holiday’s dietary laws), but to call it a Passover cookie would be like saying that ice cream is strictly a summertime treat, or that frosted layer cakes are only for birthdays. That would just be silly.

This not-a-Passover cookie is, more precisely, a not-a-Passover macaroon. Unlike some macaroons that are crowded with coconut and chocolate (not that I have a problem with that), these macaroons are pure almond, through and through. You begin by tossing a cup of blanched almonds and some sugar into a food processor, and grinding the mixture into a fine-grained meal. Then, you add a splash of almond extract, and an egg white to bring the dough together. I find that a pinch or two of salt plays up the nuttiness in this cookie, and encourages the sugar and almond flavors to mingle. As if blanched almonds and almond extract were not enough, you press a whole almond into the top of each cookie, and then bake the macaroons until they blush ever so slightly. Once cooled, these macaroons are just crisp enough on the outside to elicit a near-crunch between the teeth, and wonderfully chewy within. But it’s their flavor that almost kills me dead. I don’t think that I’ve ever eaten a cookie that tastes so deeply, so movingly of almond. That’s high praise coming from a serious almond-lover like me.

Make them for these last days of Passover, for Easter (Happy Easter!), or for Hey, it’s Sunday, and I’d Really Like a Cookie. These are worthy occasions, one and all.

Almond Macaroons
Adapted from Gourmet, June 1997

1 cup whole, blanched almonds
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg white
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1-2 pinches of sea salt
Whole almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the blanched almonds and the sugar until finely ground. Add the egg white, the almond extract, and a pinch or two of salt and pulse until combined. Roll the dough into about 16 balls, using 1 tablespoon of dough per macaroon. Arrange the dough balls about two inches apart on the lined baking sheet, and press a whole almond into the top of each one. The macaroons will flatten slightly as they bake, so I try to keep them as tall as possible when pressing in the almonds. My technique is to hold the cookie on the baking sheet between my thumb and index finger with one hand, and lightly press the almond into the dough with the other.

Bake the macaroons for 11-13 minutes, until they just begin to color. (As you can see from the pictures, they should remain mostly pale.) They will be pretty soft when you remove them from the oven, but they will stiffen up as they cool. Because the color that they take on is really so faint, I find that the best way to check for doneness is to peek at the bottom of one of the cookies on the tray. If the bottom is lightly – and I do mean lightly – golden, your macaroons are done. Take care not to over bake them. Leave them in the oven just a minute too long, and instead of soft and chewy, your macaroons will be rock solid. (Of course, it’s nothing that a dunk in a cup of Earl Grey can’t fix, but still.) Transfer the macaroons to a rack and cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

The macaroons are best eaten on the day that you bake them, or the day after, but will keep for four days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 16 cookies. (I usually double the recipe.)


borisandgracie said...

Long time lurker, first time poster: I love almond macaroons!

Having been raised in Italy, I tend to think of them as wedding cookies (as a kid, the only highlight of being stuck in a wedding reception was being able to have almond macaroons before I could finally go home!) more than anything. Aside for them being almond topped, they can also be topped with one half of a candied cherry. Yum.

Here in the US, they tend to be a lot harder to find, what with coconut macaroons being far more popular. :( Thank you for sharing the recipe, I will definitely try it next time I'm craving them. :)

linda said...

hi jess!

hope you had a nice holiday with eli's family.

these little gems look mighty good...

i always sigh when i see a gourmet adaptation...
as in your mini chocolate hazelnut cakes.


Jess said...

Hi, Boris and Gracie. I'm so glad that you spoke up! I love your story about the "wedding cookies" of your youth. After a boring old wedding you no doubt deserved a treat. If I were to promise myself an almond macaroon for every task completed that I'd rather avoid, I have a feeling that I would get a whole lot more done around here. You're right that the straight-up almond variety are harder to find here. I actually thought that coconut was part of what made a macaroon a macaroon, until I moved to Cambridge five years ago and discovered Hi-Rise Bakery. If ever you're in the area, you MUST go there and try their almond macaroons. They are extra-chewy (because they're made with almond paste, I think) and almost melt in your mouth.

Linda - We had a lovely time. Thank you! And today I have some family coming into town. I'm off to the kitchen to bake up a batch of these macaroons right now. Enjoy the day!

Grumpy & HoneyB said...

These macaroons I will be making. I am a total almond lover myself. I use almond flavoring in everything I possibly can. I'm really interested in some macaroons that use almond paste too, would love to find a recipe for that also! Thank you for sharing. :)

Rogue Unicorn said...

Jess, I have been making this exact recipe (which I got from a friend) all Passover! At this point I could probably make them in my sleep. I've been tweaking it a bit (put in a bit less sugar and added orange peel) and it's been a huge hit. We must be on the same Passover wavelength.
Hope your holiday has been nice.

Jada Ach said...

Thanks for this recipe! I've been curious about experimenting with nutty alternatives to flour lately. These are adorable! I love Rogue Unicorn's orange zest addition.

hannah | honey & jam said...

This recipe looks so tasty. I love little cookies like this.

Britt said...

These look beautiful! I'm an almond-lover as well and be putting these on my "Must Make Soon" list.

Jess said...

Grumpy and Honey B. - I'm also interested in finding a good recipe that uses almond paste. I tried a recipe a few years back, but I wasn't satisfied with it. I'll resume the hunt, and report back if - no, when - I find success.

Rogue Unicorn - Why does it not surprise me that we're on the same page? And more than you know: I also made a batch with a little less sugar and with citrus, only I used lemon zest instead of orange. Delicious.

Hi, Jada. I agree; they are adorable. I often find myself thinking that they look like coat buttons. If you decide to give them a try, I'd love to hear how you like them.

And hello, Hannah. It's so nice to hear from you. Enjoy the day!

Thanks, Britt. These cookies are on my Must Make Soon list, too. Nevermind the fact that we just finished off the last batch yesterday.

Anna said...

oh this sound delicious! even though passover is over, i am still excited to make these. and hopeful continue to make them until i can't have bread again next year. hope you had a lovely holiday!

Jess said...

Hi, Anna. I think that I made this recipe for the first time in the dead of winter one year. They're a year-round cookie in my book. (That just happen to work out for Passover, too.) Enjoy!

Amanda {Mocking Bird} said...

mm they look delicious.
lovely pictures. :)

Tracy said...

What perfect looking beauties. I love recipes as basic as this.

Jess said...

Hi, Amanda, and thank you. It's so nice to see you here.

Thanks, Tracy. Me too. I find that the best recipes are often the simplest.

deena said...

I've got a almond lover in the house, and these might just make it onto our must-bake list. They seem to have a high almond-to-egg-white ratio -- is the texture macaroonish, or more of a marzipan-type denseness?

Jess said...

Hi, Deena. Hmmm, let's see. This cookie is neither as smooth nor as dense as marzipan. It's slightly crumbly, but still wonderfully chewy (as long as you don't over bake them!), and not at all dry. Does that make it more "macaroonish?" You're right that they are mostly made of almond, ground into a fine meal. The function of the egg white in this recipe is mainly as a binder; it's not there to offer much in terms of texture. I hope that helps.

molly said...

Dang, I knew I should have subscribed to Gourmet before 1999. I dare say I'd best make up for lost time.

bluejeangourmet said...

mmmm these remind me of those Chinese almond cookies I used to covet as a kid! plus, there's something so satisfying about that wee almond plopped down into the middle.

also--only you could take such a good photograph of cookies INSIDE A PLASTIC BAG. seriously, you must be a witch.

paulina said...

hello jess, I stumbled across your blog and am so glad I did! mmhhhh... these remind me very much of the amaretti I had in liguria, soft but chewy and really seriously intense. I am putting the recipe on my list! also makes me think that maybe I should give hi-rise bakery another chance...at least for the macaroons!

Jess said...

Molly, yes! You have over a decade's worth of almond macaroons to bake and eat. You'd better get on that. (p.s. - I'm sure you know this, but just in case: Recipes from the Gourmet archives are available on Epicurious.)

Hi, Nishta. Okay, what are these "Chinese almond cookies" that everyone describes? And more importantly, why haven't I ever eaten one? (You're too kind about the photo, my dear. To tell you the truth, I have a thing for photographing food in plastic. Plastic bags, plastic wrap, Tupperware - I love it! Happy to hear that I'm not the only one who thinks food in plastic is pretty.)

Hello, Paulina, and welcome! I'm glad you found me. Your description of the amaretti is indeed a perfect fit for these macaroons, too. If you try the recipe, I'd be curious to hear how they compare. (Keeping in mind, of course, that everything probably tastes better in Liguria - oh, Cinque Terre! - so it's not exactly the fairest comparison.) Did you have a not-so-great experience at Hi-Rise? To be honest, they have some things that don't wow me. I find several of their cookies to be disappointing, for example. But you can't go wrong with their almond macaroons, the vanilla bean pound cake (quite rich and sweet, so it's best in small doses), and the crusty, pecan raisin rolls for something savory. And their breads are wonderful.

Have a great weekend, all!

suzi banks baum said...

Hi Jess, I just wrote a long story of my saga with this type of cookie. It was good. But lost. Short tale of woe? Cookies like this form one solid mass in my convection oven. Solstice time I baked hazelnut cocoa cookies that had to be removed from the baking sheet with a scraping tool. These were not so impenetrable, yet I had to cut them in to cookie shapes as they too were in a single mass. What am I doing wrong? Hope you are enjoying this sublime spring. Love, Suzi

a+ cbt training said...

this is a different macaroon. not the usual ones i see in bakeries. looks good. :)

gabi said...

Hi there! I was searching for an easy macaroon recipe and this sounds perfect. BUT, I wanted to use pistachios...do you think it would work?

Jess said...

Hi, Gabi. I've never tried them with pistachios, but yes, I think they would be great. If you try it, please report back!

And Suzi, for some reason, I'm just seeing your tale of woe! I have a hunch - though it's just a hunch - that your troubles might have something to do with baking them in a convection oven. Have you tried them in a regular oven?

gabi said...

I made them with pistachios and they were fantastic. I modified the recipe quite a bit - added rose water too. Check it out!

Anonymous said...

Made these an hour ago - they're delicious. A perfect passover dessert (and I'll make them when it isn't Passover too).
I didn't have enough almonds so I threw in some walnuts, and I added vanilla extract.

Thanks for the recipe!