Friday, January 15, 2010

Recipe Review: Almond Crescents

Recipe: Almond Crescents
Source: Good Housekeeping Best-Loved Desserts
Rating out of 5:

Makes about 72 cookies
1 cup blanched whole almonds, lightly toasted (this was my first time blanching almonds, I put the almonds in a shallow dish like the one pictured, and covered them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Then I rubbed the skin off with my fingers. Tedious, but it works)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks softened butter (NOT margarine)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 confectioners sugar

In a food processor with a knife blade attached, pulse the almonds, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt till almonds are very finely ground (if you don't have a food processor, putting all the ingredients in a zip-lock bag and smashing them with a hammer seems to work just fine).
With your mixer on low speed, beat butter and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar till blended, occasionally scraping the bowl with a spatula. Increase speed to high, beating till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour, ground almond mixture, almond extract, and vanilla and beat till blended. Divide dough in half, wrap each piece and refrigerate till dough is firm enough handle, about 1 hour, or freeze about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Working with one piece of dough at a time, with lightly floured hands, shape rounded teaspoons of dough into 2-inch by 1/2-inch crescents. Place crescents, 1-inch apart, on two un-greased cookie sheets (I googled which "side", so to speak, the crescents should be baked on, and the consensus seemed to be that they get placed pointed side down)
Bake till edges are lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower over racks halfway through. With a spatula transfer the cookies to wire racks set over wax paper (I skipped this and put them straight into the confectioners sugar). Immediately dust cookies with confectioners sugar until well coated; cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. (I roll my cookies in a shallow bowl filled with confectioners sugar, so I get a sweeter, less elegant looking cookie, which I'm fine with).

I know some of you are thinking, "Those don't look like crescents!", and your right, they're not. This was my first time making crescent shaped anythings, and it was during my Christmas baking rush, so time was not something I had to spare. I did the best I could, this is how they came out, if you can do better I would love to be told how ;)

Being misshapen doesn't make them any less delicious though, these are some seriously good cookies. Definitely a new favorite, and something that will be added as a standard to my Christmas baking routine.
The double-almond flavor is intense but no where near over-powering. Some people find that anything covered in confectioners sugar tastes somewhat dry, I think this is why in Good Housekeeping's book they are pictured next to a cup of tea. Its a good idea to have a beverage of some kind on hand when serving them.

One great thing about this recipe is that it can be easily adapted to include other nuts, the book gives three suggestions:
Walnut or pecan crescents:
Substitute 1 cup walnuts or pecans (not toasted) for almonds and omit almond extract.
Hazelnut crescents:
Substitute 1 cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts (filberts) for almonds and omit almond extract.

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