By Rose McAvoy
Our social calendar is wall-to-wall Christmas parties this month. Each invitation came with a request to bring a dish. To keep myself from getting bored I have volunteered to bring something different to all of them. In retrospect, I probably should have tried to make the same thing across the board. I probably won’t next time either.
I treated myself to a cookie from the Whole Foods bakery a while back. It was about the size of my palm, crackly out the outside, chewy on the inside and stuffed with almond slices. I liked it a whole heck of a lot, but at Whole Foods prices I figured I could probably make an entire batch for the cost of a single cookie. In the weeks since I have been on the look out for a recipe to duplicate the delicate flavor and textures. This one comes pretty close.
A calendar full of parties is the perfect excuse to do some extra baking. I earmarked this recipe and couldn’t wait to get busy making these little guys. When they came out of the oven The Little Helping and I dubbed them Almond Snowballs and declared them to be more than acceptable. It’s a good thing we all taste-tested one before heading out the door because our friends gobbled them up at the party. They have a thin crispy exterior with a very chewy center similar to nougat. Toasty almonds provide a third tasty texture and, while smaller than my palm, there are several delightful bites per confection.
We’ve got a full schedule of festivities between now and Boxing Day and, though I am on the hook for mostly savory offerings, I just might whip up another batch of these sweet treats to contribute a little more sugary cheer to the dessert tables.
Prep time: 25 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes; Yield: 24 cookies.
- 1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the sliced almonds on an unlined baking sheet in one layer for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the almonds from the hot pan as soon as they are golden to stop the cooking process.
Prepare the batter:
1. Leave the oven at 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Use a heat safe mixing bowl large enough to hold the finished batter – at least 5 cups.
3. Warm about 2 inches of water in sauce pan. When it reaches a simmer place the bowl over the pot to create the effect of a double boiler.
4. Whisk the egg whites, confectioners sugar and salt in the bowl until the mixture is hot to touch (120 degrees F). Should take 3 to 5 minute.
5. Use an electric mixer and begin whisking at medium high speed. Sprinkle over the cream of tarter and add the vanilla and almond extracts. Continue mixing on high until the batter becomes glossy and holds stiff peaks when the whisk is removed.
6. Gently fold in the almonds.
7. Drop the batter by generous in generous tablespoons onto your prepared baking sheet. Space the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart and use a spatula to lightly smooth the mounds.
8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar. Create a vent by propping the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. They will puff up a bit in the oven and still be soft after baking. Turn the oven off and let them hang out for another 30 minutes then finish the cooling outside of the oven. Remove sooner if the tops begin to yellow (No one wants yellow snowballs!). The outer shell will form as they cool.
- Assemble all the ingredients before beginning. It is difficult to interrupt the process once you get going.
- Store in a sealed container at room temperature.