From the department of Who Has Time To Make Edible Gifts In Advance Anyway comes this last-minute recipe, shared by French food writer Cécile Cau on her blog a couple of days ago. It is a recipe for croquants, which is the French word for a variety of crunchy cookies from the South of France, most often thin and involving almonds.
I read the recipe and was enchanted by its simplicity. Flour, sugar, eggs, almonds, and a splash of orange flower water: I had all these on hand, and since my desk is about four steps from my kitchen, the temptation was great to just drop whatever it is I was supposed to be doing and bake a batch.
I halved the recipe, wanting to take it for a test drive before I committed three cups of almonds to it, and modified a few things: I used a combination of regular and light whole wheat flour, decreased the quantity of sugar, determined an amount of orange blossom water that seemed right to me (Cécile's recipe didn't provide a measurement), and added a bit of salt, both mixed into the dough and sprinkled on just before baking.
The result is a truly delicious, crisp, slender cookie, not too sweet, and subtly (but noticeably) flavored with orange blossom. It could be compared to biscotti or cantuccini, and indeed they are cousins, but these are two to three times thinner, which makes a significant -- and in my opinion, desirable -- difference in the final texture and eating experience.
So, will you give these a try? And do you have any last-minute edible gift ideas to share?
Almond and Orange Blossom Croquants
- 125 grams (4.4 oz, about 1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 125 grams (4.4 oz, about 1 cup) light whole wheat flour (in France, use farine semi-complète or T110)
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar
- 175 grams (6 oz, about 1 1/2 cup) whole almonds, unblanched
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 large organic eggs
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
Makes about 40 croquants.
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, almonds, and salt. Add in the eggs and orange blossom water, and stir in with a fork or dough whisk.
Add in enough cold water for the mixture to come together into a sticky, but not too loose, dough; I added 60 ml (1/4 cup), but the amount will depend on the particular flours you used.
Pour the dough onto the prepared baking sheet to form 2 separate "loaves," roughly rectangular in shape, about 12 by 18 cm (5 by 7 inches) and 2 cm (3/4 inch) in thickness. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt each.
Insert into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, keeping an eye on the progress, until the loaves are set and golden brown.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer one loaf to a cutting board, and use a serrated bread knife to cut it into thin slices, about 8 mm or 1/3 inch, wearing an oven mitt on the hand that holds it still. It's important to slice the loaf while it's still hot; it will be too hard to slice once cool. Repeat with the other loaf.
If you find that the slices aren't quite baked through in the center, place them back, flat side up, on the baking sheet and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until baked through.
Let cool completely before serving or wrapping up.
Adapted from Cécile Cau's recipe.
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