What to bake when you prefer the salty over the sweet? And you’re busy? (And you can’t eat gluten?) These easy beauties, which have become everyone’s favorite Christmas cookie, including mine.
The original recipe caught my eye a few years ago as the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s 2009 Cookie Contest Winner. If you love almonds and caramel and butter and Christmas, you’ll be as smitten by these decadent cookies as the Strib‘s tasting panel clearly was (their verdict: “love” and “beautiful”).
As a gift to the baker, these are bar cookies, which Minnesotans know are the most magical (and easy!) of all. Other than allowing time for the shortbread crust to chill before baking, they come together in minutes. After they cool for awhile, cut them into tidy triangles, pour yourself a glass of milk, and dig in.
Despite their simplicity, the triangles are elegant on a cookie plate AND disappear blessedly quickly. You can focus on how nutritious almonds are to lull yourself into cookie complacency, but a cookie isn’t Christmas without a hearty dose of butter and sugar, and these are no exception.
Adapted from a recipe by Charlotte Midthun for the Star Tribune
Makes 6 dozen cookies
Note: 1) This recipe requires working ahead. 2) The cookies freeze beautifully. 3) To cut the cookies, while cookies are slightly warm, slice crosswise into 12 equal rows; then, working with one row at a time, start with a diagonal cut to create the first triangle, then a straight up-and-down cut to create the next, continuing to slice each row into 6 right triangles. 4) After slicing the cookies, allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 5) See the original recipe if you’re interested in using wheat flour instead of almond flour for the crust.
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) butter, divided
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. blanched almond flour (choose a finely milled variety like Honeyville)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 lb. sliced almonds
coarse sea salt (like Maldon) for garnish (optional)
Carefully line a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan (or rimmed baking sheet) with aluminum foil, shiny side up.
In a large saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter. Stir in 1/2 c. of the brown sugar and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in egg and almond extract, then stir in salt and almond flour. Press dough evenly into pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes. (Can be prepared one day ahead.)
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a fork, prick dough in 20-24 places all across dough and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set pan on a wire rack to cool.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining brown sugar, remaining 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, and granulated sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high, bring mixture to a boil, and cook for 3 mintues without stirring.
Remove from heat and stir in cream. Stir in almonds. Spread almond mixture evenly over crust, all the way to the edges. Return pan to oven and bake until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to wire rack to cool. While bars are still slightly warm, cut into triangles (see above). Sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt to finish, if you like.