Friday, March 13, 2009

Cookies for Molly: Ricciarelli

Wow, it's been over a month since my last post. It is really easy to get out of the habit of posting. I was sick for 2 weeks, but I think I was just really uninspired to write. I've always said that I hate writing, and it's true most of the time. I never thought that I would want to have a blog because of this. Unlike some of the most stunning blogs out there, I don't want to be a photographer or a writer. In the end, I just want to share with you some of my creations and experiences with food. I thought that some new and unexpected connections could be made through having this blog. Through the belief that shared experiences through food can bring us closer and touch us in ways that little else can.

The blog that has made the biggest impact on me is Orangette written by Molly. She has such an effortless way of writing. Molly has the gift of really making you feel like you are part of her world. She makes you feel like you could just crawl through your computer screen to sit at her table. I think her prose centered around food will be remembered in history with the likes of M.F.K. Fisher and Laurie Colwin. And she has just come out with her first book! It is truly a beautiful thing to behold and so is Molly.

I went to her book signing in San Francisco last week. I had never been to a book signing before, but I was not shocked to see the place packed with people winding through the rows of shelves. I think the store owner was caught a little off guard. It is just a testament to Molly's writing and the way that she touches people. I desperately wanted to be able to sit and chat with her, but I knew she was going to be swarmed. So I made her a little care package of treats. Three types of cookies and some tea cakes. Perhaps overkill, but I wanted to cover my bases.

I would be hard pressed to describe my perfect cookie. I don't know if I could decide between a tender dark chocolate shortbread, nubbly with cocoa nibs and a lingering hint of sea salt or a dense, chewy almond macaroon. Thankfully, Molly doesn't have to choose because I made both for her.

The almond macaroons, also called ricciarelli, are incredibly easy to make. The hardest part may be finding almond paste. I buy mine in bulk from Berkeley Bowl. It comes in pliable blocks, but I've also seen it packaged in cans or tubes although I can't attest as to how those would work in this recipe. I'm sure it would be fine, so if that is all you can find, go ahead and use them. And let me know how they turn out.

Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies)
(The measurements for this recipe are given in weight. If you bake on a regular basis, a kitchen scale is a worthwhile investment, especially if you use chocolate. It's also much easier to dump ingredients into a bowl to weigh out rather than carefully chopping or measuring by cups.)

In the bowl of a food processor, finely grind the following:
1 pound almond paste
1/2 pound slivered or sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl.

Add the following and mix well.
2 egg whites from extra large eggs, slightly beaten (about 70grams)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Measure out tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls. Roll the balls in powdered sugar and place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Press lightly to flatten the balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cookies start to turn lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container.

yield: 3-4 dozen

These cookies are pretty moist and I think would keep easily for a week. I haven't been able to find out because they're usually gone within 3 days in my house. I gave some to Keri and she says that they are also great straight from the freezer.

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