I think wehave to talk about toasted nuts. Sometimes, when I have the time and frame ofmind, I spend a lot of time toasting, skinning and stashing nuts in my pantry.All types, but mainly almonds and walnuts which I toast lightly, and hazelnutswhich, in my opinion, are almost useless if they´re not toasted. Have you evertried an un-toasted, skin-on hazelnut? Yeah, not good. If in doubt, this hazelnut loaf will make it clear.
Toasting,in general, opens flavors. Such is the case with spices and seeds that aretoasted in a skillet before going into a curry or something similar. I wouldn´tthink of using sesame seeds in a salad without toasting them first. The samegoes with the almonds in this recipe. I believe they make all the difference.Almost to the point of saying that it´s almost a different recipe without them.It´s fine to leave the skin on as long as you toast them.
Theselittle sugar coated butter balls are the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth holidaycookie. Who doesn´t need a recipe for easy gifts? You can wrap them and givethem as hostess´ gifts, or take them to whatever party you´re going where you don´twant to arrive empty handed. They are a crowd pleaser. Great with coffee, mulledwine or as an after dinner sweet bite.
Every yearI decide to make homemade gifts to give to friends, and also to those workingwith me. Every year I fail, except for that one occasion years ago when I gavethem boxes of oatmeal and chocolate cookies. They still remind me again everyyear, just in case I decide to honor my decision. Maybe this will be the year.And this is certainly a fitting recipe.
It´ssimilar to shortbread, so I can freeze it, giving me little space for blamingthe hectic last months of the year for not following through with my gift-giving.
Today I´mjoining a group that will bake and share twelve different Christmas recipes ofour choosing. They will be treats involving some kind of sweet. It´s aptlycalled 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, because hey, that´s how close the mostimportant holiday of the year is. The idea comes from Brenda and you can findall the details in her wonderful blog.
So, ifyou´re like me, you will have so many recipes for homemade baked ideas, thatthere will be no excuse to buy last-minute uninteresting gifts just because youhave to. Or you can join the party and excuses will be unacceptable, becauseyour freezer will be already stocked with sweet treats.
|Before going into the oven|
ALMOND BUTTER BALLS barely adapted from Kathleen´s Bake Shop Cookbook, byKathleen King
1 cupbutter, at room tº
4 Tbsconfectioners´ sugar
½ teaspoonalmond extract
2 cups allpurpose flour
¾ cupground toasted almonds
Extraconfectioners´ sugar, for coating
In a largebowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add almond extract andbeat well.
Add flour,1 cup at a time and then the almonds. Mix just until smooth.
Gather intoa ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
Preheatoven to 350º. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Rollportions of cold dough between your palms to form balls. Place 1-inch apart onlined baking tray.
Bake for 20to 30 minutes, until they are a bit golden and cracked.
Let cool ona wire rack. Roll in some extra confectioners´ sugar to coat.
Thesecookies freeze well unbaked. When you need them, just line them up on aparchment-lined or greased baking tray, thaw, and bake.
Yields 3 to4 dozens, depending on the size