12.07.2011

What the cookie tin wants

All right, enough with the parsnip and cabbage. Let’s have dessert.


Around this time every year, I go cookie hunting. (In fact, I just noticed that it was exactly one year ago to the day that I posted last year’s find. What are the chances of that?) I know I’m not the only one. We all have our tried and trues, but the cookie tin wants what the cookie tin wants, and come December, what it wants is something new. So we take to our cookbooks, our magazines, our piles of recipes, printed and clipped, and armed with sticky tabs, off we go. We’re never sure exactly what we’re looking for. We’ll know it when we see it.

The December cookie once traveled in packs (sometimes, it still does). Today, it most often flies solo, like the one I spotted yesterday among the beasts and fowl, vegetation, and other edibles of a new, already-beloved cookbook. There, in the glorious habitat of Dorie Greenspan’s Paris kitchen, I discovered a whole new species.


It’s called a croquant, and its identifying characteristics are difficult to describe. Imagine a cross between a macaroon (this variety) and a meringue. It’s sort of like that. Croquant means crunchy, and crunchy it is, though not in the typical way. To me, crunchy cookies mean sugar cookies, buttery slabs that snap when you bite in. The croquant takes crunchy in a different direction. “Airy” is not a word that I usually associate with cookies, especially not the crisp kind, but here, it works. That’s because of the way this cookie crumbles, which is not like a cookie at all. It crumbles more like a cracker, specifically, like those rice crackers with practically no ingredients. You know the ones. Croquants are similarly simple, with just four ingredients to speak of. When I was chopping the nuts, then stirring them in with the sugar, then the egg whites, then the flour, I had trouble picturing what a cookie empty of butter, and oil, and extracts, and leavening, would even look like. Well, it looks like this, people:


And it’s worth every bit of its nonexistent salt. The croquant is a rare bird, indeed.

::

p.s. If you're reading this via RSS or e-mail, I hope you'll click over to the site today. I've made some changes that I'm excited to share with you.

Croquants
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table

One teaspoon of dough per cookie will look like a pitifully small amount, but don’t be alarmed. The dough spreads and puffs into a perfect two-to-three-bite cookie as it bakes. As you might imagine from the ingredient list, these cookies are quite sweet. That makes them very nice with a cup of unsweetened coffee or tea or, my favorite, warm milk.

About the nuts: I used a combination of unskinned hazelnuts and almonds, which Dorie Greenspan says is the most popular in these croquants. She also notes that the version she makes with salted cashews is her "house favorite." I'm thinking of making a batch with pecans or walnuts the next time around.

3½ ounces (about a cup) of nuts, barely chopped
1¼ c. sugar
2 large egg whites
½ c. plus 1 Tbsp. flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the nuts and the sugar in a medium mixing bowl and stir together with a rubber spatula. Stir in the egg whites, then the flour, to form a loose dough. Don’t worry if it looks more like a grainy batter than any cookie dough you’ve ever seen. It’s supposed to look that way.

Drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. The dough will spread, so be sure to leave about 2 inches between each mound of dough. You can use your finger to round the edges of each one.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until they puff up, and the tops crackle and brown. I baked these cookies one sheet at a time. If you want to bake two sheets at once, swap the upper and lower sheets after the first 4-5 minutes so that your cookies will brown evenly.

Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, and let the cookies stand for about 10 minutes, until you can easily peel them away from the parchment. Transfer the cookies to the cooling rack, and allow them to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough. Use a cool baking sheet each time, or your dough will start to melt and spread before you even make it to the oven.

Store in a dry, covered container – not in a plastic bag or plastic wrap – or they will lose their crunch.

Dorie Greenspan says that this recipe makes 34 cookies. Using a level teaspoon of dough for each cookie and rather large bits of nuts, I had closer to 50.

33 comments:

Dad said...

Congrats on the new design of your site! xoxo, Dad

squirrelbread said...

Nutty, crunchy meringues... delightful. I've done a meringue cookie with finely chopped walnuts before, but I like this croquant even more. A definite tin-filler this season.

Cheers,

*Heather*

jacqui said...

These cookies are so cute! I don't think I've ever had a cookie like this before, but I totally know what you mean about finding a new recipe each year for the holidays. Love the new look too!

Jen said...

Love the new header with the photos! I can't believe you've had time to spruce up the blog with a new baby in the house. You must have a good napper!

linda said...

hi jess,
your new header is quite elegant & lovely…& i really enjoy the image changes!
as for these cookies…the little nut pillows look delicious & i am baking them tomorrow & freezing for xmas day!! nice compliment to all the butter & sugar in the cakes i am baking for that day!

isaac said...

What kind of nuts taste best? Almonds? Hazelnuts?

Sally said...

LOVELY cookies and photos - and a perfect recipe for my lactose-free sister.

What kind of nuts did you use?

ps - how goes bringing the baby to hi-rise? I've got six weeks left in my pregnancy, and after an initial nesting period, cannot wait to head to Cambridge for coffee shop and pastry visits!

charlotte au chocolat said...

These cookies sound wonderful. Love the new banner!

jacqui | happyjackeats said...

Love the new look, Jess! Your photos never cease to make me pause and think, "Wow. Damn." And then want to go pick up my camera.

Michele | Cooking At Home said...

These croquants are a must-try for me. My new cookie to try this year is also one from Dorie Greenspan--"Chocolate-Cayenne Cocktail Cookies". Can't wait. I love the new header.

Jess said...

Thanks, Dad!

Hi, Heather. I was actually thinking that I might try walnuts in these cookies the next time around. Happy tin filling!

Jacqui - These were my first croquants, too. So glad you like the new look.

Thanks, Jen! Yep, Mia takes her naps quite seriously. She's cool like that.

Hi, Linda, and thank you! Do let us know how the croquants do frozen and thawed.

Isaac - Pffft... Whoops! I meant to say something about that in the recipe notes. Thanks for catching that. I used a combination of almonds and hazelnuts in mine, which Dorie says is the classic combination. (I'll make a note in the recipe at once.)

Thanks, Sally. (Re: the nuts, see above) You know, the couple of times I've brought Mia to Hi-Rise over the last few weeks, she's been fast asleep in her carrier. That thing is like magic. Slide her in, and she's out like a light.

Thanks so much, Charlotte.

Hey, Jacqui. That means a lot, friend. Thank you.

Michele - Those cookies sound amazing. I don't think I've seen that recipe. Is it in Baking? I'll have to check...

Anonymous said...

I love the new look! These croquants don't quite seem to be my thing (I'm not a meringue person) but how did I miss those beauties from last year?!? Must make those soon.

Amy said...

Nice!! Love the revolving photos.

A Plum By Any Other Name said...

Love the new design. Love this new take on a cookie, too. Also, made your Teddie's cake Monday night. (The PS version.) Smashing.

Jess said...

Anonymous - I hear you about the meringues. If you're on the fence about them, this cookie might be just un-meringue-ish enough to work for you. But maybe not. As for those sesame cookies - yes! I love those. Hope you will, too.

Thanks, Amy!

A Plum By Any Other Name - Thank you. I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed the Teddie's! We had family staying with us last weekend, and we took one of those suckers down in record time.

Amy Nell said...

The new look is most excellent, the variety of photos astonishingly beautiful. good choices.

Elishag said...

Beautiful changes Jess!

Jess said...

Thanks, Amy and Elisha. I loved hitting that publish button today! xo.

Bookdwarf said...

Love the redesign. I'm going to have to make the cookies from last year as well as this year's. Sesame coins sound too delicious to pass up.

Kasey said...

Cookie time. My favorite. Beautiful redesign, Jess. A beautiful canvas for beautiful words.

A Day That is Dessert said...

Love the new heading! Made it hard for me to want to scroll down and read your post. And that is saying something.

Jess said...

Thanks, Bookdwarf. All this talk of those sesame coins has made me miss them. I think I'll make a batch this weekend.

Thank you, Kasey. Such a nice thing to say.

Lecia - Ha! Thanks, friend.

Rachel G. said...

These look great, and so easy, too, for the non-bakers among us. Embarrassing question: just put the egg whites in straight -- don't beat them first? This may be just the recipe for my office cookie swap. Love the pictures, too!

Jess said...

Yep, Rachel, just put the egg whites straight in. No beating required. A beautiful thing, right?

darbyoshea said...

Love - but LOVE - the new header. Also, I'm going to make these cookies.

la domestique said...

I love the simplicity of this recipe! It's always great to have something quick in your cookie repertoire where you can just toss together a few pantry ingredients and end up with a special sweet treat. Just discovered your blog and I think you've created a wonderful space here!

Jess said...

Thanks, Em!

Welcome, la domestique. I'm so glad you found me here. Hope to see you again, soon.

Rachel G. said...

Must report back: I made them this morning, and they couldn't have been simpler. Yum! My family (and Anna and Matya, whom I'm cooking for), are going to enjoy them tonight :)

Jess said...

Thanks for reporting back, Rachel. What kind of nuts did you use? I think I'd like to try a cashew and sesame combination next.

Irene said...

This recipe looks easy and the cookies delicious!

Danae Gillespie said...

Just made these cookies, and they are delicious! I used walnuts and really love the flavor.

Ashley said...

The site looks great, Jess! (as do the cookies). Happy Holidays to you and your family. Enjoy your sweet baby's first!!

Culinary Collage said...

These look really easy to make and tasty too! I'll have to give them a try.