I bookmark a lot of recipes, but then never quite get around to making them – I don’t have enough time, something else comes up, I have other things to bake. Basically, life happens. Usually I forget about the recipe, and that’s that, although if the recipe is lucky, I’ll happen across it completely by accident a few months later and then actually try it out. If life doesn’t intervene once again. Not this recipe though. I first saw it about three weeks ago, and it’s been on my mind since then. I was just so intrigued by the appearance of the cookies – they look so… arresting. A bit of a dramatic description for a cookie perhaps, but I don’t really know how else to describe the wonderful contrast between the dark chocolatey inside poking through the cracks in the white icing sugar shell. But true to form, every time I thought to myself right, I’m going to try those cookies out this evening something else came up and it just didn’t happen.
Then the other day I got my act together. It was a bit of a miserable weather day – the rain started about an hour after I left the flat, so I wasn’t very prepared for it (though thankfully I always have an umbrella in my bag – a necessary habit after living in Scotland for four years). And every time I stepped outside it poured. I also accidentally got fish guts on my jeans whilst I was feeding my eagle rays at the aquarium in the morning. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t wash that out. So not only did I get to the lab slightly damp, but smelling faintly of fish, too. I really go in for the whole attractive thing, you know? It turned out to be quite a long day, so by the time I got home (still smelling slightly fishy) I was a little fed up. I decided that it was time to try these cookies. Fun fact: “crackle cookies” is rather fun to say (if a bit of a tongue-twister when said too quickly), and I find it really difficult not to smile when I say it. Automatic mood-lifter.
The original recipe is just chocolate crackle cookies, and I was actually initially going to add hazelnuts, but then at the last minute realised that almonds would also work. And then I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to use hazelnuts or almonds. I’m the most indecisive person ever, so I consulted with Craig (luckily he’s used to random baking ideas/questions/panics being thrown into the middle of a conversation about something completely different. Or just out of the blue. Some things don’t change, even if you move halfway across the world*), and he suggested almonds. Which is rather convenient, because “almond” happens to be the secret ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa, which is being guest-hosted by Laura over at How to Cook Good Food. The cookies turned out to be utterly delicious, and were the ideal counter to what was essentially a damp and fishy day. A little crunchy on the outside and fudgy on the inside – perfect. The almond flavour definitely goes with the chocolate, but then the combination of dark chocolate and almonds is always a winner. I brought the cookies into the lab and everybody loved them. Everything about them actually – the appearance, the texture, the flavours. Definitely a winner of a cookie!
Chocolate & almond crackle cookies
Makes 20-25 cookies
Adapted from Cuisine, May 2012
These cookies get coated in icing sugar and go into the oven looking a bit like truffles. As they expand in the oven, the icing sugar coating “cracks” to form their distinctive appearance. The outside will be crunchy but the middle should stay a little bit fudgy. The amount of icing sugar required will depend a lot on how big a ramekin or bowl you use when coating the balls of dough – a small ramekin is best. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days (if they last that long!).
40g slivered blanched almonds
175g caster sugar
100g all-purpose flour
60g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
60g unsalted butter, chilled
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp icing sugar, for coating (this is just a rough guide)
1. Roughly chop the slivered almonds. Set aside.
2. Sift the caster sugar, flour, cocoa powder, ground almonds, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir together (you may need to push the ground almonds through the sieve with the back of a spoon). Dice the butter up into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the chopped almonds.
3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add to the flour and almond mixture and stir together with a metal spoon until incorporated and the mixture begins to come together into a ball (it takes a little while, but it does happen). Wrap in cling film (or cover the bowl in cling film) and refrigerate for 30-45 mins.
4. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to fan 180°C. Sift 3 tbsp of icing sugar into a ramekin (don’t put it away yet, you may need to sift more icing sugar later).
5. Remove the dough from the fridge, and split into walnut-sized balls. Drop each into the ramekin of icing sugar and roll around to coat well, so they look a bit like truffles (your hands will get messy from the dough, so I suggest using a teaspoon to manoeuvre the balls of dough in the icing sugar and then transferring them to the baking sheets. Sift more icing sugar into the ramekin as you need it). Place about 5cm apart on the baking trays.
6. Bake for 10-12 mins or until just set when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 5 mins on the baking trays before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
* Thank goodness for the existence of WhatsApp.