I consider myself a cook, not a baker. I can get in the kitchen with absolutely no ideas and in no time at all come up with something tasty for dinner. J. says I do some of my best work when I’m under duress, hungry and clueless about what we should have! As much as I enjoy collecting and reading cookbooks, most of my meals are done without recipes. Baking is another story. I need that recipe right there before me. I would love to get to the point some day where I really understand the science of baking and can whip up a batch of cookies or a cake without a recipe.
Over the past year or so I have been baking a lot. I’ve considered taking a pastry class, but haven’t gotten to that yet. I have a real sweet tooth, but besides ice cream and candy bars, I never purchase desserts at the grocery store. I’d much rather bake something myself. We can only eat so much of what I bake and so our neighbors and my mother in law have been the recipients of my attempts.
I have a new best friend-Gina De Palma. Well, I don’t actually know Gina but I’ve been immersing myself in her book Dolce Italiano and am loving it. I’m not sure why I didn’t buy this book last year when it came out. I did bake a few things from it when other bloggers were featuring her recipes, but I tend not to buy books by restaurant chefs. So many times they are complicated and require ingredients that are not on hand. Not so with this book. Everything I’ve baked has been delicious and the recipes straightforward. This may be the first book that I actually cook my way through every recipe.
This week I tried “Ditti di Mandorle”-Almond Fingers and they are perfect with my morning cappuccino.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups blanched, sliced almonds
In a bowl whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, followed by the lemon zest and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed to make a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until it is firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment (or butter them). Place the almonds in a bowl. In another shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg white with a fork until frothy.
Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the others wrapped and refrigerated. Roll the piece of dough into a narrow log 1/2″ in diameter. Cut the log into cylinders about 1-1/2 ” long. Roll each cylinder into egg white and then into sliced almonds to coat. Place on prepared sheets, spacing them about 1/2″ apart. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake the cookies until they are firm and the almonds are lightly golden brown, 14-16 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Allow the cookies to cool on sheets for 1-2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust the cookies generously with confectioners sugar.
Store between layers of parchment in airtight container.
Yield: about 4 dozen