Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vegan Italian Almond Fingers

You could knock yourself out with the powdered sugar on these--I held back a bit for the simple reason of wanting you to see how pretty the almonds look against the cookie itself! The cookie crumb is moist inside and a bit chewy and crunchy on the outside. . . pure heaven!

These look just as delicious without any powdered sugar--but it would be wrong to leave it off, in my opinion, anyway.

If I had posted anything for these past few days, it would have been cookies. I have been "stress baking"--my holiday cure for getting through this mess each year. Yes, I said "mess". I was lucky to have had a snowy morning to wake up to a few days ago--it made for a beautiful backdrop in the woods behind our home. I was so energized by this, I begged my husbby to please, please get the camera, let's take the dogs and make a Christmas card photo. He looked at me with a cautious optimism--he knows how fleeting these moments can be. Now, I have not sent a holiday card out for two years--but if we have snow before Christmas, I find myself on some sort of auto pilot for "joy" (albeit for a brief period of time)--and begin addressing the envelopes to long lost friends--and a few to family as well (all of whom I am sure will see this in their pile of bills and think, seriously. . . a card. . . from Kelly?).

Baking is an outlet for me that no other activity quite fills. I have knitting, sure--but I reserve that activity for the evening hours, which leaves another seven or so hours of day time to fill with, well, sugar and flour--my other BFFs in the world. (Aside from my running.) So the next few posts will be about cookies. Then, I am sure, like most of us, we will all be ready for a revamp of our eating habits (except the vegan part, that is not leaving any time soon).

This recipe is from, again, one of my faves: Dolce Italiano: Desserts from The Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma--what a wonderful pastry cookbook! I have yet to try a recipe (and vegan-ize it) in this collection
that did not succeed--the directions and ingredients are incredibly accessible and easily translated. Her recipe for Italian Almond Fingers was a dream recipe. I opted out of baking my usual "wedding cakes"--those addictive, powdered-sugar coated balls of flour and butter and pecans--and instead wanted to try--well, a cookie covered in powdered sugar still, but one with a bit more sass--like these traditional yummies. I love almonds--and I love lemon. Both of these ingredients are infused in this cookie (be sure to have almond flour on hand--it can be pricey, but is worth every penny when baking cookies like these). I am telling you--nearly all of these are gone! *I had a friend over last night and graciously shared them with her--to keep me from eating the entire batch! She loved them, too. I added a pinch of my favorite "yellowing" ingredient--tumeric--to get the best "look-alike" as I could as the base of the recipe is made with egg yolk. So the gorgeous yellow hue is brought out in the cookie making it more visually appealing and truthfully, imparting a hint of flavor that is so subtle--but so divine--I hope you try these cookies!

Vegan Italian Almond Fingers

3/4 cup almond flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks Earth Balance Vegan Butter (or 1 cup)
1 cup Florida Crystals sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package of sliced almonds or about 1 1/2 cups of them
1/4 cup powdered sugar (for dusting)
1 teaspoon Ener-G Egg replacer with 1 tablespoon warm water (for brushing on dough to roll in almonds)

This dough requires about an hour to chill before making the cookie. Just an FYI. So, for starters, prep your egg replacer and set aside in a bowl. Next whisk all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy--about 3 minutes. Add the egg replacer, vanilla and lemon zest. Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well until a somewhat stiff dough is formed. Flatten the dough into a round disk and place wrapped in plastic in the fridge for an hour. Preheat oven to 325 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the almonds on a plate. Mix your egg replacer and get a pastry brush ready to coat the cookie with--or just use your fingers. The rest of the shaping of the cookie can be done by hand. Remove the disk from the fridge and with a pastry cutter or knife, divide the dough into three equal sections. Take one section and roll into a log about 1/2-to-1" thick. Meantime, place other sections in the fridge to keep cool while you work with the dough. Then, cut the log into about 1 1/2" pieces. Carefully, shape each piece into an oval and then, wipe with or brush with a bit of the egg replacer, then roll in almonds and place on cookie sheet. Repeat this process until all dough has been used. Space the cookies about 1/2" apart on cookie sheet. You should be able to use all dough and just two cookie sheets for this recipe. Bake for about 14-15 minutes--rotating the cookie trays from top-to-bottom and turning half way--about 7 minutes into baking. (For even browning.) Don't over cook these--they may seem a bit soft when they come out of the oven, but they will firm up! Remove from oven and let set and cool for about 2 minutes. Carefully, remove cookies from tray and then place on cooling racks. After cookies have cooled, lightly dust with powdered sugar--enjoy!

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