Whether you're gluten-free or just experimenting in the kitchen, almond meal is a great flour substitute. These simple cookies are flexible, stick with just three ingredients for a quick bake, or jazz them up with a few extras.
The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook
Last month, I wrote a story on building a gluten-free pantry and I was intrigued by all the alternative flours available for baking. Almond meal in particular caught my eye. I love almond-flavored anything. I can still remember little-girl-me at weddings scraping off the marzipan frosting from the cake slices we were served (yes, I attacked my family’s share as well) and leaving the (yucky) fruitcake behind.
In adulthood, my almond obsession continues: I swoon for sweet frangipane tarts and I can devour a dozen delicate amaretti cookies at one sitting. And then there are Chinese almond cookies. I don’t remember having them in Singapore but as a college student in Seattle, I’d often buy them a the bakery in Chinatown in addition to the barbecued pork buns and egg tarts that offered a taste of home. When I was researching "The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook," I saw many recipes in old cookbooks but it never occurred to me to make them at home. Until now.
The almond cookie I came up with tastes similar to Chinese almond cookies but are softer and chewier, lacking the crunch of the true specimen (visit HapaMama.com for Grace’s version of a more traditional Chinese almond cookie). But I’m not complaining: This cookie is mighty tasty considering it’s gluten-free, has no refined sugars, and takes barely 10 minutes of active time. Plus, it's just three ingredients!
Gluten-free almond cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies
This is a basic, basic gluten-free cookie recipe made with almond meal. If you want to get fancy add vanilla, baking soda (1/4 teaspoon) to give it more rise, and some almond extract (1/4 teaspoon) for a more almond flavor. Oh, and crown each cookie with an almond sliver to pretty them up some more! Almond meal is basically ground blanched almonds. It’s a pricy package – $8.99 per pound but it’s very useful in gluten-free baking. Even if you’re not gluten-free, try replacing some of the wheat flour with almond meal in a favorite cake or muffin recipe.
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
2-1/2 cups almond meal
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling (OK, a fourth ingredient, but it’s only for decoration!)
1. In a medium bowl, mix the butter and honey until well blended. Add the almond meal and mix until a soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or so until the dough firms up a little.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. Take dough out of the fridge and roll into 1-inch balls with damp hands. Place them on the parchment and flatten with the back of a wet spoon. Sprinkle turbinado sugar with or without abandon!
4. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. The cookies will be soft so handle with care. If you refrigerate the baked cookies, they’ll be firmer and in my opinion, taste even better! Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container.