Almond crescent cookies
These delicate cookies have a delightful crescent shape and a subtly nutty taste.
Israelis have a special feeling about almond trees. They're the first to bloom after winter, and sometimes even before winter is quite over. Almond trees like high, chilly land, and they grow on the edges of the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Driving down, you'll see the the clouds of pink and white blossoms on either side, and you know that Israel's spring isn't far off.
To celebrate the almond trees with my grandchildren, I like to bake these almond crescents. It's an easy recipe, and the kids enjoy mixing and shaping the dough. Like me, they appreciate how the cookies melt on the tongue with subtle nuttiness, leaving a whisper of powdered sugar on the lips.
- 1/2 cup margarine or unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (I use vanilla)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cup finely ground almonds
- A pinch of salt
- More powdered sugar for covering the cookies
Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).
Beat the margarine or butter with the flavoring until it’s light and creamy.
Add the powdered sugar and beat again until the mass is light.
Add the rest of the ingredients, beating to mix thoroughly.
Knead the dough briefly. It should feel smooth and firm.
If it doesn’t hold together, add flour cautiously, by tablespoons, to achieve firmness.
Take pieces of dough about the size of a heaping teaspoon. Roll them into thick strands about 3" and shape them into crescents. Place each crescent on your baking pan as it’s finished, spacing them well apart.
The dough is delicate and will fall apart with too much handling. Use your fingertips to roll. It literally takes about 2 seconds per strand. If the raw crescent looks weird, just squash it up and start over. It takes a little practice to get regular crescents. The middle of the crescent will be fatter than the tips, and that’s fine.
Bake for 15 minutes. The cookies should still be pale, or only a little brown at the tips.
Sift the powdered sugar over the cookies while they’re still on the baking pan. Or let them cool for a few minutes, then drag them through the sugar. Either way, put them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
These cookies are almost irresistible fresh out of the oven, but the flavor improves over 24 hours.
A note about the almonds: If your ground almonds have been peeled, the cookies will be white. Also, the ground almonds I bought were too coarse, so I ran them through the food processor, watching carefully lest they grind up into almond butter.