Saturday, November 6, 2010

Almond Shortbread

The Halloween celebrations last weekend have officially marked the beginning of holiday season. I love this last quarter of the year where you have all the celebrations, festive foods and lots of sales (read shopping) to look forward to. Considering the gigantic sweet tooth that I have, I love these sugar high holidays - A reason to eat more sweets and feel a little less guilty about it.

Almond Shortbread Cookies
(From this recipe, Makes 12 wedges)

I have a bunch of bookmarked recipes and have been wanting to make these shortbread cookies for a while now. This is probably the simplest baking recipe ever. You just cannot go wrong with it. The recipe calls for Almond Meal. This is an expensive ingredient. One pound packet costs about $12. I was very sure that I will not be able to use up so much quantity in a couple months. I was reading the label on the packet and it said "Almond meal is simply the blanched almonds ground..." So I thought why not make my own almond meal? All you need is blanched almonds.

(Almond Meal)

I used 1/2 lb blanched almonds which yielded 3 cups of ground almond. The recipe I followed for shortbread also mentions that adding sugar while grinding almonds helps absorb oils from the nuts.
1. Using a coffee grinder or Indian style mixer-grinder or mixie as many people call it, ground almonds in batches.
2. I divided half pound almonds in 4-5 batches. With every batch add a couple pinches of sugar and grind to a medium powder.
3. Voila, you almond meal is ready! Store in an air tight container in the fridge.

I followed the recipe from Joy of Baking word to word. The only change was instead of rice flour, I used corn flour.
  • In a bowl, beat together 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature) and 1/4 cup sugar. Add 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract.
  • In another bowl, mix 3/4 cup APF, 1/4 cup almond meal, 2 tbsp corn starch and 1/8 tsp salt.
  • Fold in the dry ingredients in butter-sugar mix. This forms into a soft, buttery and loose dough.
  • In an 8" round pan press the dough and score into wedges. Prick the dough with a fork so that it won't puff up.
  • Bake in a 300 F oven for about 50 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Let cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and cool completely before storing.
The shortbread tasted great and we had it with evening tea for three days in a row. The next time I make it, I think I will use a square pan and cut it into sticks instead. I think powdered cashews will taste equally good and plan to use them next time.

This weekend celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights. Wish you all a very Happy Diwali and a wonderful year ahead!