Friday, December 23, 2011

Almond Crescent Cookies

I have been making Christmas cookies for as long as I can remember. Over the years I have amassed quite a collection of recipes, but Spritz cookies—my childhood favorite—always remained at the top of the list. A few years ago I ran across a recipe for Almond Crescents in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Christmas Cookies. This cookie has supplanted Spritz cookies as the one cookie that I have to make every matter how busy I am. Even this year—which has been busier than recent seasons—I have still managed to make a couple of batches of crescents. So it seems fitting to end my short parade of Christmas cookie posts with this, my favorite Christmas cookie to bake and give.

An unassuming little cookie, the crescent is generally not the first cookie that people gravitate towards when they approach the cookie platter (unless they have had one before). But it is always the one people remark upon. Similarly, I was not particularly attracted to them the first time I flipped through Beranbaum's book. Fooled by their plain and simple appearance and a bit put off by the rather fussy process of molding the crescents, I too almost passed them by.

Forming the little crescents is indeed a bit of a tedious task (although the dough itself is extremely easy to make), but as it turns out, one of the things I love about these cookies is the precise work of portioning and forming the crescents. It forces me to slow down for a bit during this perennially busy season and enjoy the moment. I always put on my favorite Christmas movie—White Christmas—and hum along as I work. I know the movie by heart, so I don't have to have my eyes on the screen all the time. Although, I admit to having to stop and sit down to watch Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye do the "Sisters" number—I never get tired of it. And when Rosemary Cluny sings "Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me"—that also requires a pause in my work...such an amazing voice.

All and all, a very pleasant and quiet way to spend an evening during the holidays. And the results are more than worth it. Tender and with a delicate crunch, these cookies have an addictive, faintly cinnamon-y, almond flavor. Everyone I have ever given them to remembers them and seems very pleased when they find a few tucked into their gift once again.

Almond Crescents

2 oz. (2/3 c.) blanched sliced almonds
1/3 c. (2.25 oz.) sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 c. plus 1 T. (8.25 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds and the sugar until the almonds are ground very finely.

Cut the butter into a few pieces and add. Process until smooth and creamy.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the flour and salt. Pulse just until the flour is incorporated. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, press into a thick disc, wrap it tightly and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until the dough is firm.

Combine the 1/2 c. sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Divide the dough into 6 equal portions (use a scale to divide the dough so that your crescents will all be the same size). Work with 1 section at a time, keeping the remainder of the dough refrigerated. Knead the dough between lightly floured hands until malleable. Roll the dough into a 10-inch cylinder.

Cut into 10 1-inch segments.

Take one segment at a time and roll it into a 3/4-inch ball. On a lightly floured counter, or between your palms, roll each ball into a cylinder with tapered ends, about 3 inches in length and 1/2-inch thick in the middle. Form each cylinder into a crescent shape and place on an ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheet 1 inch apart (30 cookies will fit on a standard-sized half sheet pan/cookie sheet).

Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes in a 325° oven until set but not brown. Cool the cookies on the sheet for 10 minutes (if you try to lift them off immediately, they will fall apart).

While they are still warm, use a small, angled metal spatula or pancake turner to lift them from the sheets and dip them, 1 at a time, in the cinnamon sugar, turning gently to coat all over. 

When the cookies are completely cool, transfer to an air tight container for storage. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

(Recipe from Rose’s Christmas Cookies, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Christmas cookie platter with (among other things) Almond Crescents, Cucidati, Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti & Scottish Shortbread Fans.


Katrina said...

Love those. You do those in the cookies class, don't you?
Merry Christmas, Paige!

Paige said...

Hi Katrina, Yes, they are in the cookie class. You have a Merry Christmas, too!

WendyinKK said...

Being the lazy me, I'll skip the manual shaping and use a crescent shaped cookie cutter.

Merry Christmas ;)

Anonymous said...

I want a Smokey the Bear ruler!

Paige said...

I've had that ruler for so long, I had forgotten it had Smokey on it... :)