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Chef’s Corner: Louis Venditti’s Almond Cookies

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Louis Venditti, former pastry chef at Hyatt Hill Country Resort & Spa

From Louis Venditti, the former pastry chef at Hyatt Hill Country Resort & Spa come these utterly delectable Almond Cookies. We had them on our dessert plates during a visit to Antlers during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week. I was determined to get the recipe.

Venditti was kind enough to share it. And, to my surprise, it called for a half-pound of lard. “That’s what makes them so delicious,” says Venditti.

Apparently the use of lard, whether in pastry, pizzas or pasta, has become trendy.

Regina Schrambling in “Slate” predicted this in a posting in 2009, “I’m convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter. ”

The “bacon butter” terminology works for me. Though, I’m thinking that butter and/or shortening could be substituted for the lard in this recipe.

Also, note that Venditti’s recipe indicates weight, not cup measurements for the flour and sugar. The first time I tested this recipe I used a conversion chart to turn ounces into cups and the results were not good. The second time I weighed the flour and sugar out on my kitchen scale (once used for Weight Watchers, and the irony did not escape me) and discovered I’d put extra flour into the first batch.

The results were much better the second time, and the measurements in parentheses below will work.

Almond Cookies from Louis Venditti’s recipe.

Almond Cookies

15-1/2 ounces flour (3-1/4 cups)
7- 3/4 ounces sugar (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound lard
1-1/4 ounces butter
1  egg
1  egg yolk
1-1/3 tablespoons almond extract
2 tablespoons half-and-half, for brushing
3/4 cup sliced almonds

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in the lard and butter.  Whisk the egg, egg yolk and almond extract together, then and mix into the dry ingredients until combined. Roll dough into 1- inch balls, flatten between your palms and put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten them a bit more, then brush with the half-and-half.  Top each cookie with slivered almonds.  Bake in 350 degree oven until just golden brown around the bottom edges and just starting to brown lightly up the outer sides of the cookies.  (In my oven this was 13- 14 minutes.) Let them cool on a rack.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

From Louis Venditti, pastry chef at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort & Spa

These were from the first batch of cookies. Not like Venditti’s, but good enough to eat.










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2 Responses to “Chef’s Corner: Louis Venditti’s Almond Cookies”

  1. I can’t find fresh lard and the stuff at the super market is ghastly. May I use all butter or a mix of shortening and butter? I’d love to make the almond cookies for our weekly potluck. Thanks

    • Hi Marianne – I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute shortening and/or butter. The texture might not be quite as tender, but really, these are going to be tender either way.

      If you did want to find better lard, you could ask the meat department for leaf lard. This is fat taken from around the kidney and loin areas and has the least “porky” flavor. Wikipedia says, “As the demand for lard grows in the high end restaurant industry, small farmers have begun to specialize in heritage hog breeds with higher body fat contents than the leaner, modern hog. Breeds such as the Mangalitsa hog of Hungary or Large Black of Great Britain are experiencing an enormous resurgence to the point that breeders are unable to keep up with demand.”