51 - Almond Macaroons

O.k.--I just got this recipe at Christmas, but only made it for the first time last week for Angela's Oscar party.

These almond cookies taste exactly like a cookie that my mother used to buy at Jon Vie, a French bakery in the village. Jon Vie just closed a few years ago, but despite my memories of those almond macaroons, I never thought to buy them on any trips back to New York. Perhaps I’d forgotten them.

But this winter, as Sarah, Sam and I wended our way towards my sister’s house deep in the Redwood forests of northern California, Stephanie Weisman gave me a small packet of Christmas cookies which included these macaroons and gave me that every-sought-after Proustian cookie jolt. Almond macaroons! Jon Vie! My mother returning from New York City with an assortment of tiny exquisite cookies from Jon Vie bakery—here they were in Bernal Heights, San Francisco (Oh--how lucky I was--I'd just been coveting more of those cookies after sampling them at the home of Ann and Dan next door). The almond ones--ringers as they were to those long ago treats from Jon Vie were my instant favorite--fabulous almond flavor--light--a little chewy---very delicious, indeed. Stephanie Xeroxed a copy of her recipe for me and the next day, in our grand shopping spree before heading to Briceland, I did buy a tube of almond paste, thinking I might whip up a batch any minute.

In fact, two months slipped by before I noted that all the ingredients for the cookies had quietly gathered in my Venice kitchen. The recipe calls for a pound of almond paste--since the tube I purchased was 7 ounces, I more or less cut the following recipe in half. I had many egg whites left over from the key lime pie -- my original contribution to the Oscar party-and since there was also a very stale baguette waiting to be turned into crumbs--those almond cookies were almost screaming to be made. (For an even easier recipe--try the 2nd variation which I made at the last minute Passover, 2011)

Here's the recipe:
Thoroughly mix together:

*1 pound almond paste
2 cups sugar
5 egg whites
14 tablespoons plain white bread crumbs.

Refrigerate one hour.

Roll into balls and place on parchment paper on cookie sheets (the recipe said "walnut size"--I made smaller ones, I think). Flatten slightly with your hand. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes (maybe a bit shorter for smaller cookies).

And that is it.
* Not quite. I have begun to make my own almond paste--much less expensive--and easy--here's the recipe--it can easily be made in advance:

I buy almond meal at Trader Joe's--makes it even easier--but here's the recipe with whole almonds:

1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon almond etract
1/4 teaspoon salt.

In a food processor, grind half the almonds until very fine.
Repeat with remaining almonds--andd all nuts and other ingredients and process until a paste forms. make into a mall. Store tightly covered in refrigerator

Even quicker and easier variation:

Preheat oven to 325
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper--
Mix together:
3 egg whites
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 cups ground almonds--you can ground almonds--or buy tj's almond meal--probably not as good as freshly ground--but good enough
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon amaretto (I didn't use this--but I'm sure it would be excellent)

Let mixture stand for about twenty minutes.

You should be able (with wet hands) to make little balls out of this mixture--if they seem too wet add more almonds--maybe 3/4 inch in diameter--maybe smaller--space widely on parchment paper--Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden--turning pan half-way through or whenever to ensure even cooking. I think i just bake one pan at a time seems to make things go smoother.
Cool completely before removing from paper. Store in air-tight container.

And here's epicurious:

Preheat oven to 350°F. and lightly butter a baking sheet.
In a food processor pulse 1 cup almonds with 2/3 cup granulated sugar until ground fine. Add one egg white, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and a pinch salt and pulse until combined. Roll mixture into 16 balls, about 1 inch in diameter, and arrange about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Slightly flatten balls and dust lightly with confectioners' sugar. Gently press 1 almond into each cookie.
Bake macaroons in middle of oven 10 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer macaroons to a rack and cool completely. Macaroons keep 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

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