I originally planned to send something else for this year’s big cookie swap; but severe procrastination and a lack of proper planning on my part (WHY everything isn’t available on Amazon Prime I have no idea) led to a frenzied plan B. It worked out in the end, but let this be a lesson to all of you (and to my future self): check that you have all the ingredients a good week before you plan on baking. Don’t assume anything.
Granted, these were probably the most fragile cookies I could possibly choose to make the cross country trek, short of maybe macarons. But with plenty of padding and proper packaging they made it safely to their destinations in near-perfect condition.
Also known as Florentines, these crisp and caramelized cookies have a hint of almond and orange zest. Despite their fragility, they were actually perfect cookies for shipping. Unlike most cookies which dry out and get harder as they age, these do the opposite: they are delightfully crunchy the day they are made, and then slowly soften into a chewy texture that’s different but equally as good.
The delicate lace cookies are sandwiched with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate; the melted chocolate bubbling through the lacy eyelets, an effect that’s both alien and beautiful at the same time.
The batter is quite different from normal cookie batters, coming together more like a pâte à choux than a cookie dough. When you first mix the sugar and flour in with the melted butter, the batter will appear separated, with a clear, oil slick layer on top. Keep stirring until the batter homogenizes into a smooth, opaque paste before adding the almond flour, extract, and orange zest.
Once removed from heat, the batter it will cool into a smooth, silly putty-like paste. You should be able to scoop the dough into balls that relax into soft domes; if the batter spreads too flat, let the dough cool a few minutes more.
Be sure to keep a close eye on these cookies while they are baking, as they’ll go from pale blond to golden brown to overcooked in a matter of 30 seconds. Baking time will also depend greatly on your baking sheet and baking surface; I used a thick, heavy baking sheet with a silpat. If you use parchment paper and/or thinner, darker baking sheets, your baking time will likely be much less. Watch the first batch closely to know exactly how long they need to bake in your specific circumstances.
Once cooled, melt a few ounces of high-quality dark chocolate (I used some of the amazing 68% French Broad Chocolate I brought home from Asheville). Since the chocolate is really 75% of flavor of the final product, I highly recommend splurging on the good stuff; a thin layer goes a long way and you want to be sure the taste reflects that.
These are a dead ringer for Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Lacey cookies, if you’ve ever tried those you’ll know just how amazing they are. I know my mom is the one who first turned me on to them; she stores them in her freezer and savors them as long as they’ll last (how she makes them last longer than a day, though, I have no idea). But this homemade version, with bittersweet chocolate, fragrant almond, and just a hint of orange zest, is near identical in flavor, taste, and texture.
Almond Lace Sandwich Cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup ground blanched almonds or almond meal
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
- Preheat oven to 350*F. Line baking sheets with silicone mats.
- Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add sugar, flour, and salt and whisk until sugar is dissolved and butter no longer appears separated, about 3 minutes. Whisk in almonds and milk and stir until smooth and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest and almond extract. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes.
- Drop batter by scant teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 3 inches of space between cookies. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until light golden brown around the edges, rotating the baking sheets half-way through baking. Let cool 3 minutes until no longer flexible, then carefully transfer to a wire cooling rack with a thin spatula. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate on bottom of half the cookies, then top with remaining cookies to form sandwiches. Let sit or refrigerate until chocolate is set.