What makes a really great cookie? It should have excellent texture, whether it's a gooey chocolate chip cookie with a soft center or a lacy oatmeal cookie with crisp edges. It should feature bold flavors: rich chocolate or luscious caramel or tangy cream cheese.
Today's recipe checks all those boxes, and then some. But it's a surprising sleeper hit of a cookie, as it's quietly elegant and remarkably sophisticated in flavor. It doesn't have the sex appeal, say, of a salted chocolate chunk cookie or the fun factor of a sugar-dusted snickerdoodle, but it has other excellent qualities in spades. For starters, it's a beautiful and tidy-looking cookie. The dough is nice to work with, making it easy for even a novice baker to achieve a look worthy of a French pastry case.
The cookies have a crisp snap, but also a sandy, shortbread-like texture thanks to the addition of almond flour in the dough. They're buttery and nutty and frankly, almost impossible to stop eating on their own. But then you'll make a simple homemade fig jam (which will make you feel impressive right there), and you'll spread that between two cookies for a sandwich.
The jam is sweet but not overly so, and adds a bright, fruity flavor that pairs perfectly with the richness of the shortbread. I add lots of orange zest to my fig jam, and you can easily play around with the amount, dialing it up or down. You can substitute other citrus zest as well.
But I didn't want to leave the cookie at that, perfect as it is! I have a stash of black garlic, gifted to me by a farmer friend, and I've been working my way through it. Black garlic is regular garlic that has been aged and heat-treated to turn it sticky and soft. It loses all the sharpness of garlic and gains a sweet, syrupy flavor that falls somewhere between molasses, dates, and balsamic vinegar.
Seeing as its chewy texture and dried fruit flavor is similar to a fig, I decided to chop up some black garlic and add it to my jam. The result is subtle but fantastic: a fig jam with an earthier, more nuanced undertone.
If you can't get your hands on black garlic, do not fret. These cookies are wonderful without it, and just leave it out without needing to tweak the recipe at all. But if you can procure some, I highly recommend giving it a try.
After all, baking is always an adventure—why not up the stakes a bit?
For the cookies
- 1 cup (96 grams) almond meal/flour
- 3/4 cup (148 grams) sugar
- 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (56 grams) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 16 tablespoons (226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temp
- 1 egg
For the filling
- 8 ounces dried figs
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- zest of 2 oranges
- 4 cloves black garlic, chopped
- 1 cup water