As the notes accompanying the recipe in the July-August 2019 Milk Street explain, Catalans like to dunk carquinyolis, local almond cookies, in coffee or in a sweet dessert wine. Good advice in principle, though difficult in practice. Coffee is an unfortunate choice, while a Catalan dessert wine could be a pricy acquisition for so limited a purpose. What of the classic cookie companion, then, a glass of milk?
Milk, glad to say, works really well here. Part of that has to do with milk doing justice to nearly any cookie, though here it has more to do with the great qualities of the carquinyoli itself. Imagine a cookie that, simultaneously, is both crunchy and chewy. For most cookies, that’s an either/or proposition, though today’s offering satisfies both ends of the crunchy-chewy continuum.
After this recipe was prepared, a search revealed some (though by no means all) carquinyolis are baked until they’re hard, almost like biscotti. While the extra time in the oven probably doesn’t change the taste much, the texture would suffer. Yes, this preparation is good just the way it is, with a bit of softness throughout.
The “chewy” part comes from a dough that’s worked as little as possible. After the ingredients are mixed, they’re formed into a roll without much kneading in between. That roll, pictured below, is then sliced into individual cookies:
This explains the chewiness, but when does the crunchiness come in? At the very end, right before baking, as each cookie is brushed with beaten egg, which ensures the teeth meet a crispy exterior before sinking into to the soft cookie below. Not only that, but almond slices are lightly browned before being mixed into the dough, dispersing little packets of toasty crunchiness throughout the cookie.
On a whim, today’s preparation substituted almond flour for AP flour. A good choice, and had that impulse continued through to the final rolling, these would have been gluten-free too. A concern for more than one of you, and this journal always aims to please.
Not as much as the carquinyolis please, though. Chewy with just enough crunch to excite the palate, they offer a smooth sweetness almost reminiscent of cherries, lost in buttery silkiness. They’re a superb treat, great by themselves, but just begging to be dunked. Select a good Catalan dessert wine, or coffee if you must (must you?), though nothing beats a dip in ice-cold milk. It is the almond’s destiny.
(Catalan Almond Cookies)
- 1 and 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting (*1)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 ounces almond paste, divided in four (*2)
- 1 teaspoon finely-grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs (1 whole, 1 separated)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Set oven racks at the uppermost and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
Distribute the almonds on one of the baking sheets and toast in the oven until they’re golden-brown, about 8 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool on a wire rack, and leave the oven heated.
In a food processor combine the sugar, almond paste, lemon zest and salt. Process until the almond paste has broken down and the mixture is sandy, about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla, the whole egg and the egg white and process until the mixture is smooth, about 20 seconds.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl containing the flour combination. Stir with a rubber spatula until the two are nearly incorporated, then fold in the almonds. Turn the mixture onto a lightly-floured surface and knead a few times.
Form the dough into a roll about 14 inches long and two inches thick. Cut the roll crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and place them on the baking sheet, spacing them at least an inch apart. In a small bowl whisk together the remaining egg yolk and a teaspoon of water. Brush this over the cookies.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, switching the trays halfway through. Let cool on the tray for five minutes, garnishing with an almond slice if desired. (*3) Remove cookies individually to a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes, then serve.
1 – Almond flour works really well here, and it’s difficult to imagine how “regular” flour would be any better. Avoid my mistake and use almond flour for kneading and rolling too, and these will be entirely gluten-free.
2 – Take care to select almond paste, not marzipan. While the latter is good, it’s a little too sweet for this application.
3 – Not in the original recipe, but a nice touch, don’t you think?