Friday, December 09, 2005

Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookies

The closer Christmas gets, the more cookies I want to make. It's almost a compulsion, but I don't fight it since I love cookies.
I wanted to make some cookies that had chocolate chips, but still had a little something extra special about them. I didn't want plain chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal chocolate chip. After searching through my cupboard, I found a bag of toasted, whole almonds. A quick search through my bookmarked recipes revealed maki's chocolate chip and almond cookies, but I didn't want thin, crisp (though delicious-looking) cookies on this occasion. I wanted something a bit more substantial.
Starting with maki's recipe, my recipe uses a bit less butter and starts with whole almonds. I coarsely chopped them in the food processor, which resulted in fine and chunky bits. This really dispersed the almond flavor through the cookies. I hesistated slightly before adding the full teaspoon of salt, but I think that in this case it brings out the flavor of the nuts really well. If you use salted butter or start with salted almonds, you will want to reduce the amount to 1/2 teaspoon salt.
This turned into a fabulous, buttery combination of chocolate and almond without the overwhelming chocolatiness of most chocolate and almond combinations (think flourless chocolate cake). They are definately a nice change from cookies with the more ordinary pecans or walnuts, too. Make sure you let them cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes, or they will be too soft to handle. Once they have cooled, the cookies are very light and crisp the first day. The chocoalate is melty and the whole combination is simply lovely. But the flavor improves with time. After storage, the cookies soften slightly, though staying nicely moist, and the almond flavor gets a bit stronger. The flavors meld to create a suprisingly sophisticated cookie.

Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
2 eggs
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse almonds until coarsely chopped. It is fine if some pieces are very small, but you want to avoid having very large chunks.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together. Blend in vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in eggs one at a time. By hand, or with the mixer on low speed, stir in flour mixture, adding almonds and chocolate chips at the very end.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10-11 minutes at 350F, until cookies are lightly browned.
Let cookies rest on sheet for at least 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Makes 3-4 dozen