November is a month that always makes my head spin. I feel like I’m barreling full force into the holidays, into the end of the year, into planning my life for the next year, into trying to keep my act together and my sore throat at bay.
I only wish November came with a tally of the year… just a little list that could tell me what has gone down in my year so far.
I don’t need an update on my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012… we all know those were shot to hell somewhere around January 18, 2012. I want a tally more along the lines of: How many times I used the word ‘bonkers’. How many cookies I stress ate in my car. How many times I’ve walked around town with either a pound of butter, or a bag of brown sugar in my purse. How many times I’ve Googled the same word to spell check it. You know… the important things. The things that really tell you how you’re living in your everyday. Quirky, cosmopolitan, and resourceful… right?
The November days are ticking away quickly. December will come and go in a blur of cranberries and Mariah Carey Christmas CDs. Before we know it we’ll be pushing someone in the frigid pool at the New Year’s Eve party.
For now… while we have this simple and quiet November 13th… let’s just enjoy these (or really any) cookies, close our eyes and tally the year’s ridiculousness.
When it comes to these (gluten-free!!) Vanilla Almond Orange Cloud Cookies, I feel like I have some explaining to do.
Some explaining beyond an enthusiastic ‘they’re amazing!’ (which they totally are).
These cookies are made with almond paste. Almond paste is a thick mixture of ground almonds, sugar, and almond flavoring. It’s an all-almond situation. Because almond paste is the main ingredient of these cookies, we’re talking about an intensely almond extravaganza.
Almond flavor is paired with orange zest and vanilla bean. I think the three are pretty, fragrant, and well deserving of one another.
We’ll need two egg whites.
And we’ll need to beat those egg whites until they’re a bit frothy.
The almond paste is beaten with the fragrant orange and vanilla sugar.
It’s crumbly and that’s totally cool. The egg whites will be mixed in, and smooth out our cookie world.
No flour. No butter. No baking powder or baking soda. Just almond, lovely sugar, and eggs (ok… there’s salt and almond extract too).
It’s like being on the almond flavor train.
The flavor train is dusted generously with powdered sugar.
Three finger indentations are made in each cookie and they’re off to meet the oven.
These are among the most dreamy cookies imaginable. Taste and texture are supreme! The cookies bake up with a lightly golden, crisp exterior. They’re covered in powdered sugar so there’s no mouth breathing while ingesting. The inside is impossibly soft and tender… and so beautifully flavored with almond, orange, and vanilla, your brain will find its happy place. Chewy meets crunchy. Pavlova meets macaroon (minus the coconut) meets edible cloud.
This recipe is inspired by a cookie I enjoyed at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont this weekend. I need to tell you more about that trip! Suffice it to say, I made a ton of pie, I baked with some lovely (and super talented) students, and I was genuinely surrounded by people who love good flour and respect good baguette as much as I do. Basically… heaven.
Vanilla Almond Orange Cloud Cookies
recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 18 to 21 cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon orange zest
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
10 ounces almond paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Place two racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together granulated sugar, orange zest, and scraped vanilla seeds. Use your fingers to works the zest and vanilla into the sugar, creating a fragrant, moist sugar.
Place sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the almond paste and salt. Beat on medium speed creating a crumbly sugar and almond mixture.
While almond mixture is combining in the mixer, place two egg whites in a small bowl. Whisk with a fork until loose and frothy. This will help in pouring the egg whites into the mixer. If the eggs are unbeaten, they’ll just plop into the mixing bowl and not pour in.
With the mixer on medium speed, gradually pour the egg whites in to the crumbly almond and sugar mixture. Beat until a smooth paste is formed. Add the almond extract and beat to combine.
Spoon or scoop batter by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Using the tips of three of your fingers, make indentations in each cookie.
Bake cookies for 20 to 25 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.