For at about the last year, I have been drinking coffee every morning at work. That jolt of caffeine gets my engines revving and makes me feel so much more productive. Most of the time I set our espresso machine for a ‘mild’ Americano; unless I am desperate I won’t stoop to drinking drip coffee from the break room since it tastes like old tires and has waaaay to much caffeine for me to handle. Even still, there are times when I overdose on my drug of choice and it feels like my little heart is just racing away.
On the weekends, however, I have a very different experience with coffee and caffeine. To get my fix, I often make myself some tea at home, where I can put my feet up and languish over my breakfast. Or, later in the day I might stop at Starbucks to relax with some java (don’t hate me, I am a loyal patron). I thoroughly enjoy savoring the coffee, and it is time for me to be alone with my thoughts, to people watch, or to read a book. A coffeehouse is also one of my favorite places to meet up with friends. It is like a home away from home where we can gripe about work, laugh over embarrassing moments, and recount our daily adventures.
It is this second type of relaxing coffeehouse experience that initially drew me to these tiny little "dimples" from food blogger One Hungry Chef. These adorable cookies were served en masse with every espresso at a restaurant where he worked. And by en masse, apparently they served more than 500 of these cookies on a daily basis! I don’t know if it was the market-appeal, or the association with coffee, or maybe just the simplicity of the recipe, but after reading this post I knew I just had to make them.
Oh, how I yearned to bake these cookies week after week after long week. Time went on and I thought about these dimples literally every day (what, don’t you think about cookies all the time?). You might be asking yourself, "Come on lady, what’s the hold up?" Well, the recipe calls for almond meal or almond flour. Admittedly, not a super exotic ingredient, but also not always found next to all-purpose flour in the baking aisle. I had bought organic almond meal from my local Henry’s before, so imagine my disappointment when there was every other type of Bob’s Red Mill flour except for almond flour. I had previously noted only a meager 3 types of gourmet flours (one being almond flour), and overnight they were replaced with as many as 15 different specialty varieties (and you guessed it, none were almond flour). Seriously Henry’s, do you really think your customers are more likely to purchase Quinoa Flour, or Sorghum Flour, or Fava Bean Flour??? What does one even bake with Fava Bean Flour? Apparently delicious gluten free banana bread.
In any case, I finally found the almond meal at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 a bag; compared to the $11.99 I had paid for Bob’s Red Mill Organic almond meal, I was almost grateful Henry’s had not stocked it! The almond meal I used had a perfect taste, although it differed slightly in color as you can see in the photos. Trader Joe’s almond meal is made from almonds with skins, whereas other almond meals are made from blanched nuts, giving the meal a creamy white color. I think the flecks of brown make the cookies more interesting. My cookies also didn’t really retain their "dimples" after baking, but my disappointment over these aesthetic differences was only momentary: after one bite into this chewy morsel I was immediately thrilled with the outcome. The texture is truly amazing; imagine a perfect meringue + soft cookie biscuit = chewy almond goodness. This cookie truly exceeded my expectations, which was fortunate considering this recipe makes a lot of these little guys. I shared these cookies with my lab mates and a few friends, and I had no trouble finding people to take them off my hands. They are phenomenal enjoyed with a cup of coffee, and I warn you, it is impossible to eat just one.
Almond Amaretto Cookies
Adapted from One Hungry Chef
4 egg whites
1/2-3/4 vanilla bean, scraped
4 tbsp amaretto
1 tsp baking powder
500g almond meal (1 bag from Trader Joe's)
Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, egg whites and scrapings from the vanilla bean. Whisk until the mixture forms soft peaks. This may take a little time since you have 4 egg whites, so if you have a whisk attachment on your electric mixer I suggest you use it. Gently mix in the amaretto. In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder and almond meal, then gently fold this mixture into the egg white mixture.
Next, roll the cookies into small balls (mine were about 4cm or more). This is easiest done with wet hands. I put a small bowl of water next to the dough bowl, and every few cookies I would dip both hands in the water before rolling more cookies. As you roll the cookies, place them 4cm apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Indent each cookie with your thumb to make a "dimple." Dust thoroughly with powdered sugar, and bake for approximately 11-13 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack. The cookies should be just browned when they are done, with solid edges. Do not overbake or the cookies will be too crunchy and not soft and chewy.