Every once in a while I stumble upon a recipe so simple and so perfect that it immediately makes it into permanent rotation. These charming little cookies have only 4 ingredients: almonds, sugar, egg whites, and citrus zest. I made them once with lemon and once with orange zest and both were awesomely good. Batman stopped by to help stir these up. Unfortunately I had to do most of the work because he had to go to time out for throwing sugar. You would think a hero would have better manners.
Although almonds are consumed around the world, the US is by far the largest market. California produces 80% of the worlds supply with more than half a million acres in the state under almond cultivation. This tree is in the same family as peaches (prunus) and produces fruit with a tough outer layer, which is equivalent to the fleshy part of a peach, and inside is the hard shell like a peach pit, and inside of that is the almond. This small deciduous tree is ancient, mentioned multiple times in the Bible and ancient Greek medical texts. The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. It's also very nutritious, and according to the Almond Board of California, 1 ounce of almonds contains 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, 35% daily value of vitamin E, 8% daily value of calcium, and only 1 gram of saturated fat and 13 grams of the good unsaturated fats. This makes it a heart healthy, nutritionally dense food, and very satisfying snack. Almonds can be found in many forms, including almond meal or flour which is simply ground up almonds. You can find it in most grocery stores in the health food or baking aisle, you can order it on line, or you can make your own in a food processor. Keep your almonds in the refrigerator for a very long shelf life.
recipe from Rachel Allen
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
7 ounces almond meal
zest of one orange or lemon
Sliced almonds to roll the cookies in, about 1 cup.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the sugar, almond meal and citrus zest and set aside.
Place the egg whites in a small bowl. The easiest way to separate eggs is to break one at a time into a small bowl. If you are gentle when you crack the shell, the yolk will remain intact. Now you can simply fish it out with your hand and let the white fall through your fingers. This is a good recipe to practice on because it won't ruin your cookies if you accidentally break the yolk and get a little in with the whites.
Beat the egg whites up a little with a fork and add them to the dry ingredients a little at a time. Depending on the size of your eggs, you might not need every drop of the whites. You just want the dough to come together enough to roll it into a log. My dough was very soft and sticky. Roll it into a log on a clean work surface. Place the sliced almonds in a dish to roll the cookies in. Line a pan with parchment paper. Using a knife, cut off small pieces of dough and shape them into crescents with your fingers. Work quickly and drop each cookie into the sliced almonds, roll it around and place it on the pan. These cookies are quite small and you should get 16-18 out of one recipe.
Bake for about 15 minutes. You will want to keep an eye one them because those sliced almonds can burn easily. When they are done they will be lightly golden and cracked on top. Let them cool on the pan if you can resist gobbling them right up. I seriously considered eating every single one and then pretending like the whole recipe never happened. What cookies?