I’m not a true cookie baker. That’s always been my mother’s job.
For some reason, I can spend countless hours putting together an elaborate tart or a chocolate cake that is tortured past belief. I recently started whipping up cupcakes and frosting them with decadent buttercreams. But ask me to do a few dozen cookies, and not only do I lose interest, but I also seem to tense up. They take too much time, I say to myself, and call for too much equipment.
Overcoming that prejudice has been one of my resolutions this year. So, I have become repeating to myself that I will sharpen my cookie cutting skills this year, and I will use a cookie press more regularly. That’s all there is to it.
But maybe next month.
To get myself started, I decided to make a pair of cookies this past weekend. Both recipes had similar ingredients, yet the two ultimately could not have seemed more different.
They were alike in that they both had chocolate and almonds in them. And, of course, some sugar, flour and a touch of salt. But that’s as far as they got.
The first was a drop cookie from one of my mother’s recipes. The name was what drew me like a moth to a flame: Chocolate Almond Cookies. Except there was a problem when I looked at the recipe: The ingredients list called for 1 cup M&M’s, but made no mention of almonds whatsoever.
Rather than call her, I decided to fiddle with the recipe on my own. I substituted slivered almonds for the M&M’s and went to work. I added a touch of almond extract and ended up with a cookie that was comforting to the eye in its rustic appeal and pleasant to the palate because it wasn’t terribly sweet. What an old-fashioned treat. (I talked with Mom after making the batch, and she had no recollection of these whatsoever.)
The other recipe was for Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies, and it came from a new cookbook I recently picked up, Cindy Mushet’s “The Art & Soul of Baking.” In this recipe, the almonds are toasted and ground into a flour seasoned with cinnamon and achiote chile powder.
The chocolate, meanwhile, isn’t cocoa powder, but 70-percent bittersweet melted into butter with a touch of coffee liqueur for added richness.
The dough balls you form from these are rolled in sugar and then powdered sugar before baking. Yet the end result, while snowy white on the outside from the powdered sugar, wasn’t a sugar bomb, either. And the cookies managed to be both chewy and light at the same time.
These were the obvious winner with most, but the Chocolate Almond Cookies had their fans, too.
They’re both great for Valentine’s Day. Great for sharing. And great for someone who has to ease into this cookie-baking process.