Friday, March 18, 2016

Lemony Almond Thumbprints

I don't know why, but for the last few weeks I've been really, really busy on the weekends. From housewarmings to planned full-day excursions to family gatherings and  those unavoidable, necessary cleaning days, I feel like I haven't had a weeks to just sit back and do nothing in a while. Even this weekend is jam-packed: my sister is home from college for spring break, a few of my cousins from Colombia are here for the weekend (one of them is running on Sunday's NYC half marathon!), and Sunday also happens to be my sister's 21st birthday. So, there's tons to do. I'm happy to be this busy, and am genuinely looking forward to everything we have scheduled: Korean food for dinner with my sister on Friday, souvlaki with the family in Astoria on Saturday, and marathon spectating early Sunday morning with a big celebratory/birthday Colombian meal to follow. Three days of delicious eats and time with some of my favorite people- it's definitely a good way to spend the weekend. But with scheduled Easter activities all of next weekend, it sort of feels like my do-nothing weekend is still so far off! 

It's one of the reasons why I've been having trouble getting recipes posted lately. I made this commitment to myself to get back in the blogging game and post delicious recipes only when I had the time or came up with something truly delicious, but I've been having trouble sticking to it. Every now and then I find myself getting caught in that old mentality of mine, where I HAD to post at MINIMUM once a week (because otherwise the blogging police would get me or something). It's taken some time to get used to the fact that I don't actually have to post on a strict schedule, and if I don't have the time to make a recipe  it's not the end of the world. So, that's that. I've had busy weekends with little time for baking and photographing, but luckily, I was able to squeeze in one recipe last Saturday. 

I was craving something bright and lemony, as I always do once spring hits. I find it interesting that during winter, which is when citrus fruits are in season, I crave them all except lemons. Then once spring hits, I'm all about lemon. Its bright, tangy flavor feels so fitting at the turn of the season, and that zing is welcome in any way, shape, or form. Last weekend, it made its way into a batch of lemon curd and cookies. 

Lemon curd can be easily found in most supermarkets, but a store bought jar will never compare to one that's homemade. And since it's so simple to make, there's no real reason to go out and buy it. All you need is some freshly squeezed lemon juice (fresh is key!), lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and butter. All the ingredients get cooked over medium low heat on the stove, and after about 10 minutes or so of whisking, the eggs transform the once runny lemon juice into a thick, luscious lemon curd. The lemon curd then goes to the fridge to chill, and is the perfect topping for toast, scones, and cookies. 

I love pairing almond and lemon together, so making a nutty thumbprint cookie was a natural choice for holding my freshly made lemon curd. I chose to follow along a recipe from Mindy Segal's Cookie Love, an amazing cookbook if you love baking cookies. Her recipes are pretty involved and are best suited for weekend baking, when you have lots of time to tackle an intricate recipe, but her thumbprints are very doable if you have less time on your hands. I really love her technique for shaping the cookies. Instead of pinching out equal pieces of dough and shaping them into balls, Mindy shapes the entire batch of dough into a square, then cuts it into 6 even strips. Each strip is then cut into 8 pieces, and before the pieces are pulled apart, is lightly rolled to round out the edges. The cookies might not turn out perfectly round and may crack a bit around the edges, but it's such a fast method that I don't even mind their slight imperfections. 

I loved how these turned out. The lemon curd is so bright and tangy, and paired so nicely with the more subtly almond flavor of the cookies. It's the perfect way to welcome spring, or at least pretend that it actually feels like spring (NYC is supposed to get hit with a wintery mix on Sunday!). These cookies keep nicely in the fridge for a few days, and I have to say, I think they taste better slightly chilled from the fridge than at room temperature. Happy weekend and happy spring, everyone!  

Lemony Almond Thumbprints
lemon curd recipe from Epicurious
cookie recipe adapted from Cookie Love, by Mindy Segal


For the Lemon Curd

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Cookie Dough

6 ounces slivered almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt


Begin by making the lemon curd. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs until combined. Add the butter and set the saucepan over medium low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the curd is thick enough to hold marks of the whisk, about 6-10 minutes. 

Pour the curd through the sieve and into a bowl. Discard any solids that remain in the sieve. Cover the surface of the lemon curd with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill, at least 1 hour. 

While the curd is chilling, prepare the cookie dough. In a food processor, combine the toasted almonds and 1/4 cup sugar. Pulse until a fine meal forms, stopping before the almonds begin to release their oils. 

In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for a few seconds to loosen up. Add the remaining sugar, and beat together until light and creamy, about 4-5 minutes. You want the butter to appear aerated and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture and nut mixture to the mixer bowl and mix on low speed until the dough comes together but still appears shaggy (about 20 seconds). Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and mix for another few seconds until combined. 

Set a long piece of plastic wrap on your work surface. Place the dough on the plastic wrap and shape it into an 8-inch by 8-inch square. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. 

Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap. Using a sharp knife, cut the square of dough into 6 even strips. Separate the strips, and then gently roll them to round out the edges. Cut each log into 8 pieces, but keep the pieces together. Roll them together to round out the edges, then pull the pieces apart. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them apart evenly. Use your index finger to make an indentation in the center of each cookie. 

Bake the cookies one pan at a time. After 8 minutes in the oven, remove the cookies and use the end of a wooden spoon to tap down the indentations in the cookies. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the cookies are set, about 6 minutes more. While the cookies are still warm, fill the indentations with a bit of lemon curd. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 2 more minutes, just to set the lemon curd. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining cookies. 

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container—arrange the cookies in layers with sheets of wax paper in between—and kept in the fridge. They’re especially tasty slightly chilled!

Makes 4 dozen cookies


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