There are lots of ways to customize these little cookies! Substitute whole wheat pastry flour for all or part of the all-purpose flour. Use brown sugar instead of white sugar. Add dried fruit. Add a generous tablespoon of brandy, rum, or bourbon along with the vanilla extract. Add 2 teaspoons ground coffee beans. Replace 1/3 cup of the nuts with roasted cacao nibs, or simply add the nibs without reducing the nuts. The sugar is flexible, too—how sweet do you want your cookies? Have your way with them!
Reprinted with permission from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan, 2012). —Alice Medrich
4 to 5 dozen cookies
1 to 1 1/2 cups
(or a heaping cup) nuts (raw or toasted, or even roasted and salted)
1 very slightly rounded cups
(about 5.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour)
1/2 to 2/3 cups
(3.5 to 4.625 ounces) sugar
(generous) salt, unless you're using salted nuts
(4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
pure vanilla extract
raisins, currants, or chopped dried fruit (optional)
FOR COOKIES WITH CHOPPED NUTS: Pulse nuts in the food processor until they are a little coarser than you want them to be. Dump them out and set them aside. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the processor and pulse to mix thoroughly. Add the butter and vanilla and process until the mixture is blended, with no visible flour. Add the nuts and pulse just until they are dispersed in the dough.
FOR EXTRA-TENDER COOKIES WITH GROUND NUTS: Combine the nuts, flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and the vanilla and process until the mixture forms a dough with no visible dry ingredients.
In either case, shape the dough into a 10- to 14-inch-long log (about 1 3/4 inches in diameter) on a large sheet of wax or parchment paper (or make 2 skinnier logs if you want smaller cookies). Chill for at least 2 hours, until firm enough to slice, or, preferably, overnight; the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the log from the fridge. If the dough is too hard to cut without crumbling, wait for 10 to 20 minutes, until it is still firm but sliceable. Use a sharp knife to cut the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place them 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until light golden brown at the edges; rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Set the pans on racks to cool completely, or slide the parchment liners onto racks. The cookies keep in an airtight container for at least 1 month.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).