The other day I was looking for a cookie to make to pair alongside a compote of summer fruits and a batch of white nectarine sorbet I was churning up for dinner. The requirements for the cookie were it had be simple to put together (because I was super-busy that day), I had to have the ingredients on hand (because I was super-busy that day, and didn’t have time to go to the store), and it had to have cornmeal (for no particular reason, just because I was craving cornmeal.)
Results tagged cookie from David Lebovitz
It was a treat to spend a tasty afternoon in Tel Aviv with Natalie Levin, of the blog Oogio.net, who is a passionate baker. Upon meeting, one of the first things Natalie did was hand over a bag of homemade treats, which included a sack of these Tahini and Almond Cookies. Although I didn’t dive in right away (to be polite), after we visited the outdoor market, when I got back to my hotel, I opened the bag and found myself in love with the crumbly, buttery texture and the slightly exotic taste of smooth tahini (sesame paste) – which I’d never had in a cookie. There was also a bag of Sahlab Cookies, made from powdered orchid root, which were equally divine, as well as a few other goodies.
These are simple little cookies that would go perfect alongside a fresh fruit salad or a bowl of sorbet, or during tea-time. I asked Natalie if she would share the Tahini and Almond Cookie recipe here on the site, which she was happy to do.
Thanks Natalie! – David
Tahini and Almond Cookies
There’s something exciting about baking. Combining all kinds of tastes and textures, putting it in the oven, and waiting for that moment when the scent draws you back into the kitchen – is probably why I love it so much. This is my true passion in life, and ever since I began baking professionally, it felt as if I found my destiny.
If I had to name one food that I couldn’t live without, chocolate would be right up there. Salted butter is on that short list, too. Seeded bagels, California dried apricots, black and white cookies, osetra caviar (if money, and sustainability, were no object), lobster rolls, French fries, and really good fried chicken would also be on that list. Not as fancy as some of those things, but just as good, another thing that I can never seem to get enough of is crunchy cornmeal.
And the good thing is that I live next to Italy, so whenever I pop over and visit my neighbors, I always bring back not only good coffee by the kilo, but as much polenta as I can jam into my suitcase as well.
A few years ago I was shamed into only using stone-ground cornmeal, but the locals seem to have taken to instant polenta, which I was told wasn’t bad by a well-respected chef. That’s what is widely available here, but I just couldn’t bring myself to agree when I tried it for myself.
For some reason, the world went a little nuts for Parisian macarons in the past year and everyone, from New York to New Delhi, seemed to be fascinated by these little sandwich cookies.
Notice that I said “Parisian” macarons, since you won’t find these too far outside of Paris. Folks in the rest of France make more traditional macarons, made from a simple meringue with sugar and nuts folded in, then baked until crispy. Parisian Macarons, as most of us know them, are said to have been invented at Ladurée, and they claim to sell 12,000 of them daily.
When I Love Macarons! came out this year, the first run sold out immediately and the publisher scrambled to print more copies. Solid proof of the popularity of macarons, for sure. The book is a translation from a Japanese edition, written by pastry chef Hisako Ogita. It’s a slender volume, but has plenty of full-color photos and takes us step-by-step through the process of making macarons.
Especially helpful is a great page with descriptions of troubleshooting tips, including pictures of common failures and how to avoid them. Bakers who’ve had a few ups and down making macarons would find this information of particular interest.
I am not exactly sure why so many people want to make macarons. I usually tell them—“Come to Paris!” and buy them here. They’re not really something people would consider making at home: like baguettes and croissants, you’ll find them at many neighborhood bakeries and pastry shops, and even in the frozen food department of the grocery store. It’s like making your own hot dog buns if you live in America. It’s just something most people don’t do.
This traditional Belgian cookie, known as almond bread (pain d’amande), is a favorite from my catering baking business in the early 1970s. The raw sugar’s light golden color and distinctly old-fashioned flavor, similar to that of turbinado-style sugar, gives this cookie its unique taste, texture, and appearance.
When you make desserts in a restaurant, the most important thing you can do is to smell anything made of plastic before you put anything in it. I remember someone made a big batch of crème anglaise one morning…and that evening, when I went to serve it, I opened the lid and the overpowering smell of garlic blasted forth, rendering the whole batch useless.
A few years Iater I worked as a pastry chef at a southeast Asian restaurant, which was great: I never had to sniff anything since I was using the same ingredients—ginger, chiles, galengal, and spices—as the regular cooks.
The pastry department is always the most popular part of the kitchen amongst the rest of the staff. (Unless I’m in it, though. Then that’s debatable.) For one thing, anytime there’s a staff birthday, you’re called into service to make the cake. And since everyone has a birthday, folks are usually nice to you the other 364 days of the year. Another thing is that regular cooks like…no, love to snack on anything sweet.
Whenever I made biscotti, the ends and broken bits would end up on a plate in the pastry department, and almost immediately the staff would swoop down for the kill the moment the rounded end hit the plate.
After chewing for a moment, invariably, someone would always say, “You know…(pause)…I like biscotti better only once-baked.”
I’m sure they were certain I was hanging on to their every word, and how I managed to resist the urge to say, “So what?”—I’ll never know…
But since biscotti refers to being twice-baked in Italian, you can’t have biscotti unless they are, indeed-twice baked. I believe truth-in-advertising extends to pastry professionals.
Another thing I found constantly annoying, since I’m on a roll, was that anytime I had to walk through the kitchen or staff area carrying a cake or tart, without fail, a cook (usually a new one who didn’t know me better) would say, “Hey! Is that for me?!” followed by a smug chuckle at their brilliant humor.
Little did they realize that each-and-every new cook said that, and while they’ve only said it once, it was hardly original and I’d heard at least 973 times prior. The first few times, I just smiled gamely and let them pretend they were actually amusing me.
But after a while, like nine years, I finally got to the point where I would say, “Sure! Here’s ya go…” hand them an entire cake or pie, and walk away.
I like to think of it as a lesson in be careful what you wish for. So if you want to only bake biscotti once, that’s fine with me. But crisp, twice-baked biscotti are the perfect dunking cookie for a shot of espresso or glasses of vin santo. I’m particularly attracted to these chocolate biscotti, which are slightly-sweet but pack a nice wallop of chocolate flavor. I make these a lot since it’s nice to have on hand something chocolaty to snack on, but isn’t rich, sweet, or loaded with butter.
Just don’t ask if these are for you, because I think you already know the answer to that question. Instead I’m handing over the recipe. And you’ll need to come up with your own smart-alecky retorts.
50 to 60 cookies
Use a good-quality cocoa powder. You can use natural or Dutch-process for these, whichever one you like. Just remember that the chocolate flavor of the finished cookies is dependent on the quality of cocoa powder you use. So it’s worth using a decent one. I used Valrhona. See notes below on ingredients.
If you like extra-crisp biscotti, you can flip each one over midway during the second baking, in step #6. I sometimes smear one side of the cookies with melted dark chocolate. When dipped in a warm espresso, I can’t imagine anything better.
For the biscotti
- 2 cups (280g) flour
- 3/4 cups (75g) top-quality cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup (125g) almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
- 3/4 cups (120g) chocolate chips
For the glaze
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coarse or crystal sugar (see Notes)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the 3 eggs, sugar, and vanilla & almond extracts. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then mix in the nuts and the chocolate chips until the dough holds together.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into two logs the length of the baking sheet. Transfer the logs onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.
5. Gently flatten the tops of the logs. Beat the remaining egg and brush the tops of the logs liberally with the egg. (You won’t use it all). Sprinkle the tops with the coarse or crystal sugar and bake for 25 minutes, until the dough feels firm to the touch.
6. Remove the cookie dough from the oven and cool 15 minutes. On a cutting board, use a serrated bread knife to diagonally cut the cookies into 1/2-inches slices. Lay the cookies cut side down on baking sheets and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm.
Once baked, cool the cookies completely then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. If you wish, the cookies can be half-dipped in melted chocolate, then cooled until the chocolate hardens.
Notes: The sugar I use in France, is called cassonade, a coarse-grained, naturally-colored sugar that resists melting.
In the United States, one can find similar sugars, such as C & H Washed Hawaiian Sugar or Florida Crystals demerara, available in supermarkets or natural food stores. Turbinado or demerara sugars are also available online. If you don’t have any, you can skip the egg wash and sugar glaze.
Valrhona cocoa powder is available in bulk at ChefShop. The best-value is the 3kg pack, which conveniently comes in three separate sealed bags so if you have two baking friends, it’s easy to go in on a shipment.
Related links and recipes:
Living in Paris, it isn’t always very interesting watching television, which I sometimes like to do during dinner. Sure there’s some great French channels, but I’m kinda lazy when I’m eating and prefer the English-language ones, which usually means CNN International. It’s not bad, but they often repeat the same story over and over and over again, tweaking it ever-so-slightly each time they report it.
(Although one story they haven’t reported on, oddly, is their reporter who got caught in Central Park with a knot—and more, in his knickers.)
So I often find myself flipping through cookbooks while I eat, glazing over the text and scanning the glossy photos. But when I came across this one, for Florentines, I stopped and bookmarked it right away.
I’m always attracted to anything nutty, crispy, salty, or caramelized, and this recipe had them all.