Beyond flourless chocolate cake and macaroons: chewy almond cookies

So Monday is the first day of Passover. I’m sure you’ve got your seder meal all planned. Except maybe the dessert. Hmmm, what’ll it be this year? Same old, same old? How about something different, like almond cookies?

Almond cookies?! B-O-R-I-N-G…

Not if you like almond flavor – and certainly not these particular almond cookies, the likes of which you’ll never encounter in the cookie aisle at your local grocery store.

First of all, these aren’t the crumbly-textured almond cookies you’re served at the end of your American-Chinese restaurant meal, with chunks of pineapple and fortune cookies. Or fragile, lace-like Almond Crisps. Or dunkable almond biscotti.

No, these almond cookies are wonderfully chewy, and bursting with almond flavor – thanks to three types of almond: paste, extract, and oil.

Not only that, they’re flourless and unleavened, which makes them perfect for Passover – so long as you can work your way around the confectioners’ sugar and other possibly non-kosher ingredients.

They’re also just right for any of you craving a gluten-free sweet treat.

And finally, with only six ingredients, they go together in about 5 minutes flat. Plop the dough onto a pan, bake for 20 minutes, and you can have warm, intensely almond cookies – light and meringue-like outside, dense and chewy inside – on the table in well under 45 minutes.

That’s one of the reasons these cookies have become one of my go-to treats for the non-chocolate crowd.

Hmmm… speaking of chocolate, wonder what would happen if I added chocolate chips?

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WOW!

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Attention, almond lovers (you know who you are ) – this recipe demands almond paste, both for taste, and texture. And for over-the-top, pure almond flavor, bitter almond oil is key.

The bottle pictured above is labeled simply “almond,” as you can see. When we asked the manufacturer why their bitter almond oil was labeled just plain “almond,” the said it was because people these days don’t know what bitter almond oil is, and became confused.

So, what’s the difference between almond extract, and bitter almond oil? Almond extract comes from sweet almonds; bitter almond oil comes from bitter almonds. Or, it used to…

Bitter almond oil still comes from bitter almonds in other countries, but the United States has banned bitter almond products, due to their potential toxicity. The bitter almond oil we use here is manufactured, not extracted from almonds. So if you have some vague notion that bitter almond oil can be harmful, no worries; at least here in America.

Bitter almond oil is more potent and aggressive, while almond extract is smoother. When you use the two in combination, the bitter almond oil enhances the almond extract, ramping up almond flavor without the odd aftertaste you might get simply by increasing the amount of almond extract.

Let’s get started. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

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Put the following in a bowl:

10 ounces almond paste
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

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Beat until the mixture becomes crumbly; this is most easily done in a stand mixer, though an electric hand mixer will do the job, too.

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Put 2 large egg whites in a small bowl.

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Whisk till frothy. This makes them easier to drizzle into the almond mixture – which is the next step.

Unbeaten egg whites would simply PLOP into the bowl all at once; if you whisk them first, they become pourable.

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Add the egg whites gradually, while mixing, to make a smooth paste.

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Stir in 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and 1/8 teaspoon bitter almond oil.

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Here’s the stiff dough, ready to scoop.

Note: this is the point where you’d add 1 cup chocolate chips, if you’re a chocolate fan.

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Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons; a tablespoon cookie scoop is the ideal size.

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Deposit onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2” between the cookies.

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Hint: Want to make Italian pignoli cookies (above)? Dip tops of balls of dough in pine nuts, and flatten gently on the baking sheet. Skip the confectioners’ sugar and three-finger indentations in the following pictures, and bake as directed.

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Sprinkle heavily with confectioners’ sugar.

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Using two fingers and your thumb, make  three deep indentations in the top of each cookie.

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Here they are, ready to bake.

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Bake the cookies until they’re brown around the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes.

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Remove them from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan.

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Light and crisp and crunchy on the outside…

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…wonderfully chewy and almond-y inside.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Almond Cloud Cookies.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Paulette Wolff

    My husband is diabetic and cannot have many carbs. Is there a way to make these using a sugar substitute? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      While we haven’t tested this recipe using sugar substitutes, Paulette, experimentation can be one of the most fun parts of baking. If you’re down for a little adventure and are open to the unexpected, give it a try! We recommend starting with substitution instructions from the substitute’s package or the manufacturer’s website since a swap won’t always be 1-for-1. If you’re curious, we have a couple blog articles that we think you’ll find interesting. The first was one of our earliest articles and in it, we tested some of our favorite recipes using Splenda in place of sugar. The second shares sugar alternatives that we’d had a spread about in Sift Magazine. Happy experimenting! Annabelle@KAF

  2. tundrabttrfly

    Oh My !! This recipe is so wonderful !! It’s going into the keep recipe box at # 1 !!!
    I found this in the 2017 Holiday Gift Guide and tried it. to say the least its Fantastic !!
    I made three different batches(Lemon/ Orange/ Lime) flavoring. Using these flavored oil (which I purchased from King Arthur) for each, made the flavors stand out. By far the fave was the Orange with my family. My grand daughter who 13 helped me with making and eating them. LOL She took some to school the next day and got rave reviews from her friends. And you know how particular teenagers can be ! Next time I make these I am also going to order and try them with the Raspberry oil (raspberries are my favorite) Thank you King Arthur !! 😉

    Reply
  3. Jeanne Koz

    I literally did everything wrong in making these, and they still turned out amazing! My almond paste was more chunky/sandy than crumbly, I accidentally broke a yolk so my egg whites were a little yellow, only sort of listlessly whipped the egg whites (yellows) with a fork, glopped the paste all over my kitchen (and underfoot dog), and was sloppy as could be with the powdered sugar. So this is a VERY forgiving recipe. Next time, I’ll use the food processor instead of mixer for the almond paste and sugar, I’ll use less sugar, invest in the almond oil (I used all extract) and maybe add a drop of lemon extract or oil. But these are deliciously light and chewy. Yum!

    Reply
  4. ksegal

    I am definietly going to try this recipe as a variation of my pignoli cookies. I will add some chocolate chips to some of the cookies! Great add!
    I wish you would give the egg measurements in ounces or ml measurements. Eggs are not uniform in size regardless of the name on the carton and the amount of egg white can change the batter’s consistency and the success of the cookie.

    Happy holidays!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing this request with us! We typically recommend using large eggs to make our recipes; even if there is some slight variability within this size category, you should still get good results. For all intensive purposes, a large egg weighs a little over 2 ounces (about 2.125 ounces per egg). Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Kristina, these cookies freeze well before baking, but after baking they tend to lose their crisp texture. Store in a lid at room temperature for 3-4 days. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  5. Joyce

    Would these do well as a thumbprint cookie with a maraschino cherry in the center? I could only find 7oz. almond paste and was wondering how the measurements would look.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joyce, these cookies may spread a little more than a traditional thumbprints resulting in a slightly shallower indentation, but this technique could still be used. Another option would be to use our recipe for Gluten-Free Almond Shortbread Cookies (http://bit.ly/1KgSVVa), which are similarly flavored, gluten-free and work quite well as thumbprints. If using an amount of almond paste other than 10 oz, our article on Baker’s Percentages (http://bit.ly/1Taerjn) can help you do the math to adjust the other ingredient amounts accordingly. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  6. Marilou

    These cookies are marvelous! It is worth the extra effort to use the bitter almond oil and the almond flavoring. My second batch is in the oven!

    Reply

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