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.
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 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