Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lemon-Almond Refrigerator Cookies

It took me three days to get from start to finish on these cookies. I started the dough on Sunday night, reworked it on Monday night, and baked it on Tuesday night. I don't believe that so much work is really necessary: it is probably easier to work with room temperature ingredients and to make drop cookies, but I started out with refrigerator cookies in mind, and that's how I saw it through to the decidedly not bitter end.

The recipe is entirely mine. Almost all of my baked goods are derived from someone else's recipe, but this is derived only from another recipe of my own and my years of cooking experience. The universe being what it is, however, it is not to be doubted that someone else has come up with a similar or identical recipe. I'm still proud of mine.

There are a lot of reasons not to bother with these cookies. They are not especially handsome. They are so delicate that you could never really think about transporting, let alone mailing, them farther than from the kitchen to the dining room. The recipe doesn't fit neatly into many food processors. And they require some fairly accurate timing, though no particular skill, to make them come out right.

On the plus side, they're delicious. Here's how I made them.

Lemon-Almond Refrigerator Cookies

1.5 cups whole almonds
1.5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
2 lemons
1/2 pound butter
1 egg
Lemon-almond glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toast the almonds thoroughly without burning them. Let the almonds cool completely. Zest the lemons and reserve the zest. Juice the lemons and strain and reserve the juice. Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces. If you are using the food processor for the entire recipe, put the butter in the freezer.

Put the almonds in the bowl of your food processor and process until they are finely ground but not oily. Add the flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and baking powder and grind some more.

If you have a large food processor, continue in the food processor. If not, transfer the ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer. If you are using the food processor, add the frozen butter chunks to the bowl and process until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal. Add the egg and lemon juice and process until the mixture forms a ball. If it is still cold enough to handle, roll the dough into a log about two inches in diameter. Otherwise, refrigerate the dough until you can handle it, and then form it into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

If you are using the stand mixer, add the butter a piece or two at a time until it is well incorporated, then add the egg and lemon juice, mixing until it looks like cookie dough. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and refrigerate until you can handle it, then roll it into a log. Wrap and refrigerate as above.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease some cookie sheets.

Cut the log in half, returning half to the refrigerator to keep cold. Slice the log thinly (about five or six slices to the inch) and lay the slices on your cookie sheets, giving them a little space to grow in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately fourteen minutes, or until the edges are nicely browned. Remove from the oven. Let sit for a minute, then brush the cookies with the lemon-almond glaze. Carefully remove the cookies from their pans to racks. Let cool completely before storing.

Lemon-Almond Glaze

2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. amaretto
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Put the liquids in a small bowl. Add the sugar, and stir well with a fork.

My goal with these cookies was to create a balance of lemon and almond such that neither flavor dominated the other, and I don't think I really accomplished that. The lemon flavor is decidedly stronger, but it's also very good. You may find, if you're making refrigerator cookies, that your dough is a bit wet if you add all the juice from both lemons, so you can add a bit less, which will, one presumes, tilt the flavor balance back towards the almonds. You could also, of course, add a teaspoon of almond extract. If you did that and added all the lemon juice and perhaps another egg, your dough would be fairly liquid, especially if you didn't freeze the butter, and you could drop it by teaspoonsful onto greased cookie sheets, and you would have something very like traditional butter cookies, which -- given the high proportion of butter in this recipe -- these cookies very nearly are anyway.

With the recipe as I made it, greasing the cookie sheets is not really necessary, but it does provide you with a little wiggle room if, say, you have to run upstairs and get freshly recharged batteries for your camera right after you've glazed a batch so that you can't remove them from the pan right away. As I noted, these cookies are somewhat delicate, so timing is a real issue. It's best if you can glaze them after one minute and remove them to a rack after two, but a lightly greased cookie sheet is a good insurance policy. Do glaze them right away, though, the glaze sets better when the cookies are still hot, and the heat takes away any uncooked flavor from the cornstarch in the confectioners' sugar.

If you prefer, you can add more confectioners' sugar so that you have an icing instead. It would be a very good icing, though I would probably prefer it on a cookie of more substance, such as a sugar cookie.

If you make this recipe, you will have to accept that some of the cookies are going to break. Just mutter to yourself about how very much you suffer for your art and eat the evidence.


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