the crunch before christmas
With holiday spirit building, it’s time to make of cookies, cakes and candy. With a boost of from the scent of freshly cut Christmas trees on sale every few blocks along New York City sidewalks and department store holiday windows, the kitchen calls.
My dear friends Danny and Gene have their version of a December tradition—a massive cookie production routine with the goods distributed to friends and family: favorites from years past, family heirloom recipes, and new additions. The organization and timing of this affair is quite impressive. I remember being trapped in the corner of their apartment surrounded by tray after tray of the baked and the unbaked. They easily choreographed the mixing, shaping, baking, and cooling in a non-stop, all-day swirl. They certainly fueled my interest in baking.
Since I am not doing a high-volume production of multiple varieties—at least not this year—the hard part is to decide what to bake. Do I want a holiday flavor such as gingerbread or simply go for decadence with chocolate? Should they be simple, comfort cookies or fully designed and decorated like a Christmas ornament?
After more thought, I decided on a cookie with a balance of sweet and saltiness. Considering all the sugary treats at this time of year, the bit of unexpected saltiness will definitely grab your attention. Salted Praline Batons has elements that I love. The few specks of salt flakes contrast and compliment the sweet caramel flavor. A crunchy sprinkle of almond praline on a buttery crispy cookie gives it an illusion of holiday sparkles.
I suppose the only thing missing is chocolate, but there’s time for that in the new year.
Salted Praline Batons
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup (1-1/2 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted
- 1-1/2 cups (7-1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup (1 ounce) sliced almonds
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces/1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
1. Line a baking pan with silicon pad or parchment, set aside. Place sugar and water in a 4-quart (medium, heavy bottom) sauce pan over medium heat, stirring with spatula until combined, let mixture come to a boil. Continue the process, use pastry brush and cold water to brush side of pan to eliminate crystallization, until it turns golden, about 5 minutes.
2. When sugar mixture has reached desire color, remove from heat, add toasted almonds, stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan in a thin layer and let ooh completely, about 30 minutes. Remove praline onto a chopping board and chop into small uneven pieces.
1.Preheat oven to 325°F, position rack in middle position. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a Ateco #0804 tip/3/8-inch plain tip. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flour and salt, set aside.
2. Pulse almonds with sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Place butter and sugar mixture in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, add egg whites and extracts, beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 batches until just combined well.
3.Transfer batter to prepared pastry bag, then dab some batter under corners of parchment to secure to baking sheets. Pipe 5-inch-long strips (about 1/3 inch wide) 1-1/2 inches apart in 2 rows (see photo) on one baking sheet.
4. Bake for 7 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle generously with praline and lightly with sea salt. Continue baking until cookies are baked through and golden-brown on edges, 12-15 minutes more. (Turn baking sheets if cookies are browning unevenly.) Slide parchment with cookies onto racks to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).
5. While first baking sheet is in the oven, pipe batter onto second sheet. Repeat Step 4 when first sheet of cookies is done.
1. Praline can be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
2. Cookies keep, layered between sheets of parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.
recipe adapted from Miraglia Eriquez and Chou