Mexican Almond Cookies

Sometimes, I just get in that mood when I really have to bake something. Like really, really have to. Generally, these whims appear when there's almost nothing left in the house, so I've found it's best to have a couple of recipes that use only the basic ingredients. This cookie is a great twist on the shortbread cookie; the lower butter content and the addition of vanilla and a little water makes it really lacy and crisp.

The cookie itself is very light and crunchy, and would be pretty darn good to eat with a cup of coffee. They're also pretty delish by themselves!

Mexican Almond Cookies
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup raw almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, diced
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp water
Extra confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, sugar and kosher salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the almonds, the vanilla and butter, and combine with your fingertips until a loose dough forms. If the dough is not coming together, add the water a little at a time until the dough will clump together.

Form the dough into a ball and roll out to 1/4" thickness on parchment paper. Cut cookies out of the dough with a cookie cutter, and move them with a spatula to a nonstick cookie sheet, keeping the cookies about 3/4" apart. Repeat with the remaining scraps of dough until it's all used up.

Bake the cookies on the middle rack of the oven for about 15 minutes. They're ready when they're golden brown on top.

Move the cookies to a cooling rack, and dust with confectioner's sugar.

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Icebox Shortbread Cookies

Icebox cookies are a treat to have around; you simply keep them frozen in logs, and when your next cookie craving hits, it's a simple job to take them out of the freezer, slice them into round and pop them into the oven. This recipe isn't too traditional (most shortbread recipes call for flour, butter and sugar -- almost never do eggs enter the equation), but it makes for a nice crisp cookie. Don't be afraid to add the kosher salt, either -- the grains of salt make for a great contrast with the sweetness of the cookie.

Just before baking, you can press each cookie round into sugar, or a mixture of other spices. Ming Tsai recommends five spice, caramel and macadamia nuts, or chocolate and ginger.

Butter Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp vanilla extract
Interior scrapings of 1/2 split vanilla bean
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

In the bowl of a mixer, combine butter, sugar and salt. Cream on medium speed until blended, about 2 minutes. One by one, add the egg yolks, mixing until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and the scrapings of the vanilla bean. Scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer off and add the butter. Turn the machine to low and mix until the flour is completely incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl. Working on parchment or wax paper, form dough into 4 logs, 10 inches long and 1 1/4 inches in diameter; wrap and chill.

Slice each log into about 20 rounds. Dip one side of each round into turbinado sugar. Arrange rounds on a parchment-covered baking sheet, about 3" apart. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool on racks.

from Simply Ming.

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Corbo's Bakery in Little Italy

We get a lot of questions about where to eat in Little Italy. We haven't really gotten around to trying all the restaurants but, er, we can vouch for the quality of the baked goods! We go to Corbo's Bakery two or three times a week. It's on the corner of Mayfield and Murray Hill and we buy nearly all our bread there. The crust is always happily between crisp and chewy, the insides are soft, and it's only $1.50 a loaf. These loaves could feed us for a week, though they usually don't last longer than a day in our apartment.

But Corbo's bakery isn't known for their great bread - it's a dolceria. They're famous for cannolis, make lemon Italian ice, and you can buy their cookies by the pound. It's mix and match, and should you be so overwhelmed by their massive selection that you are unable to make a choice, they have prepackaged boxes of assorted cookies. To make it easier on you, of course.

These are photos of a couple favorites - their almond cookie and their amaretti pine nut cookie. But if (hypothetically) I had left my wallet at home, was forced to dip into parking meter quarters and only had change for a single sweet, I would choose the lemon bar. This is a rock star of a cookie and I would have taken a photo for you, but it didn't quite make it to the photo shoot. Maybe next time.

Corbo's Bakery | 12200 Mayfield Road | Cleveland Ohio | 44106

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Elise's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

We live in a four-story apartment building and the hallways here are unusually good at showcasing the smells of our floormates' dinners. It's a terrible thing to come home, starving, and be accosted by suggestions of pot roast or pie from a neighbor's kitchen. But trust me when I say, these cookies will make you the envy of your apartment building.

The recipe is from Elise at Simply Recipes. It is reprinted below, but you can read the original post here.

Elise's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Makes about 18 large chewy oatmeal raisin cookies.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats (We use Quaker Quick or Old Fashioned. Do NOT use instant.)
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or waxed paper.

2 Either by hand or with electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

3 Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together in medium bowl. Stir dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture. Stir in oats, raisins and optional walnuts.

4 Working with generous 2 tablespoons of dough each time, roll dough into 2-inch balls. Place balls on parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each ball.

5 Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool on cooling at least 30 minutes before peeling cookie from parchment.

If you prefer a less sweet cookie, you can reduce the white sugar by one-quarter cup, but you will lose some crispness. Do not overbake these cookies. The edges should be brown, but the rest of the cookie should be very light in color. The trick to making the cookies chewy is to make them large. Smaller cookies tend to get more dried out and crisp, and therefore not as chewy.

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