I bake right through the heat of summer, because I love the routines of baking and I love to eat and share the results of my endeavors. But there’s special pleasure in the return of autumn weather, which is increasingly evident in my part of North Carolina, day by day. Today’s the official First Day of Fall, so I’m celebrating with these wonderful little almond cookies, which you can make and bake, or make into cookie dough and freeze for sudden baking urges.
You can make these using a hand-held electric mixer, or stir them up with a big spoon. For stand mixers, make a double batch, since this basic recipe won’t really fill that mighty bowl. And there’s simply no such thing as Too Many Almond Cookies.
This batch shows off handsome whole almonds. I love using a little pile of thinly sliced almonds pressed into each cookie, or switching nuts and topping them with pecan halves, in which case I use vanilla instead of almond extract. And if tree nuts aren’t your friend, consider raisins, currants, or candied ginger, also known as crytallized ginger, with vanilla or rosewater as the flavoring. You can shape this cookie dough into little balls as I did for these photos, or form it into a log, chill or freeze till very firm and cold, and then slice into thick or thin rounds. Adjust time accordingly: Thinner cookies cook faster than thick ones.
Nancie’s Easy Almond Cookies
I love these little cookies, for their crisp-and-chewy texture, simple recipe, and intense almond flavor. They use everyday easy-to-find ingredients which I always have on hand in my pantry. Note that I call for a combination of butter and shortening or margarine, which delivers that distinctive texture. You could use all butter or all shortening and still have a great little cookie. Use whole almonds or thinly sliced almonds, pressed onto each cookie for a handsome and crunchy finishing touch. For a change of flavors, use vanilla instead of almond extract, and pecan halves instead of almonds. This recipe can be doubled, and it’s a great one to keep in the freezer for sudden cookie cravings.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter at room temperature, shortening, or margarine
6 tablespoons shortening or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
16 to 32 whole almonds, skinless or skin on (see Note)
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to mix them well.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, shortening, egg, sugar, and almond extract. Using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until all the ingredients are evenly combined, 1 to 2 minutes; or use a wooden spoon to mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just enough to bring everything together into a smooth dough. Stop as soon as all the flour disappears. (If you won’t be baking the cookies now, cover or wrap dough well and refrigerate it for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month.)
Heat the oven to 400° F. You can shape the cookies by rolling them into balls, or scooping them up using a small ice cream scoop, which is what you see in my cookie sheet photo in this post. Or make sliceable cookies this way: Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a cylinder. (*See note about size and number of cookies.) Cut each cylinder evenly into rounds, placing each round on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Press an almond firmly into the center of each cookie, flat side up.
Bake at 400° F for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are firm and lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets, and then transfer to a serving plate, or to a cookie tin or another airtight container.
Makes 16 large or 32 small cookies
For larger sliced cookies, shape each half of the dough into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter, and cut them into a total of 16 pieces. For smaller cookies, shape each half into a cylinder about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and cut them into a total of 32 pieces.