This recipe came out of my love and adoration for Flo Braker's Pains D'amande, possibly my favorite cookie recipe on Food52. I've also made a coconut-lime version, but I think this is my favorite. I made a couple of changes. The obvious are the addition of cocoa powder, espresso and (optionally) Chinese Five Spice Powder. The not so obvious: In Ms. Braker's original recipe, she (or David Lebovitz, who also featured the recipe) suggests that you add the sugar to the warm butter mixture, but try to leave some of it crunchy. I discovered that if you add the sugar off heat, just before you add the dry ingredients, the sugar does stay crunchy and doesn't melt completely into the batter.
My only regret is that I just made the last batch of dough from my freezer so I can't include a picture--but this recipe is a favorite, and it makes a great gift. —drbabs
Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda, cocoa powder, espresso and Chinese 5 spice powder (if using) together in a small bowl; set aside.
In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and water. Stir occasionally just until the butter melts. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Pour this mixture into a 3-quart mixing bowl. Stir in the almonds and set aside for about 30 minutes at room temperature until lukewarm.
Stir in the sugar, and then stir in the rest of the dry ingredients all at once; fold until completely blended.
Pack the soft dough firmly into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
Place a rack in the lower third of oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lift out the firm dough from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the dough in thirds crosswise. With a very sharp knife, cut each bar into 1/8-inch or thinner slices, and space them 1/4 inch apart on the baking sheets. (The dough should slice as if it were fudge.)
Bake, one sheet at a time, for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn each cookie over and rotate cookie sheets 180 degrees and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and chocolaty smelling. (Place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely before removing cookies. (The dough freezes well if you only want to make a half or third batch.)