Friday, November 28, 2008

cinnamon almond stars

These star-shaped cinnamon almond cookies from Churer, Switzerland, are crisp, chewy and utterly sublime. A sweet meringue serves as both an element of the cookie dough and a baked-on frosting for the finished cookies. The name means cinnamon stars, and the cookies are traditionally no more than a couple of inches across.

Makes 3 dozen

1 ½ cups whole, natural almonds

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1/4 cup egg white

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 pinch salt

1 ½ cups powdered sugar, plus powdered sugar for rolling

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.

2. In a food processor, combine almonds, cinnamon and lemon zest. Pulse the motor on and off until the almonds are roughly ground, then leave the motor on and grind the almonds finely, about 30 seconds.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with the lemon juice and salt until they are very foamy. Continue whipping vigorously until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in the powdered sugar to make a stiff meringue. Set aside 1/3 cup of the meringue, covered in plastic wrap.

4. Stir the ground almond mixture into the remaining meringue mixture until the mixture comes together to form a stiff dough.

5. On a surface coated in powdered sugar, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. (This is thicker than most cookies, so be careful not to roll it out too thinly.) With a 2-inch, star-shaped cookie cutter dipped in water between each cut, cut the rolled dough into cookies and transfer the cookies to lined baking sheets. Reroll any scraps of dough and cut it in the same manner.

6. Add a few drops of water to the reserved meringue to make it spreadable, and brush it onto the tops of the cut-out cookies.

7. Bake the cookies just until they are firm to the touch but still moist inside, 12 to 14 minutes. (Do not overbake, or the cookies will harden as they cool; they should be tender and chewy.) Cool the cookies completely and keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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