Sometimes, an ingredient elbows its way into the center of your consciousness, and no matter how hard you try to ignore it, it keeps popping up. And this is cute, at first, and then it becomes maddening. The only way you can stop it from breakdancing on your hippocampus or your thalamus (or wherever) is to look it square in the eye and say, "Fine. We'll do this your way."
And then you'll rip open the almond paste.
Pinching it into nubbins, rolling them into marbles, you'll stick a few in your mouth to show them who's boss.
Be brave, steadfast, and strong.
Almond paste has gotten expensive. Maybe it has always been pricey, and I just didn't notice because I didn't have a relationship with it, but now that we're having a tumultuous affair I'm telling you -- this stuff may be the financial end of me. The grocery store variety runs about $6.50 for a 7-ounce tube, and that's no chump change. But honestly, stopping the hippocampus-dancing has got to be worth something, and $6.50 seems just about right.
The paste gives these cookies a chew and subtle almond flavor that's a bit marzipanny, but just for a second. Then they become chocolate chip cookies again and you're like, hmm, what was that delightful experience I just had? And then your teeth hit the toasted almonds, and your tongue tastes the almond extract, and the whole almond trio -- paste, nuts, extract -- crescendos in a way that's undeniably thrilling.
Keep in mind that you won't need a full tube of paste for these cookies. Wrap what's left over securely in foil, and speak up. If this ingredient resonates with you, I'll kick my next almond paste recipe further up the queue. Hint: it's involves cake.
May you, your thalamus, and your hippocampus all have a wonderful week.
Recipe for Almond Paste & Toasted Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe begins at the beginning: with the classic Tollhouse recipe on the back of the yellow bag. Then things veer off the rails, with an almond triumvirate adding chew, crunch, and a mellow almond flavor that makes you want to grab the cookie jar, hug it close, and hide under a table in a far-off room. Dipping them in milk = a fine idea.
Makes about 30 cookies
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted whole almonds, chopped (or more, or less)
2 ounces almond paste (eyeball it: it's a bit less than a third of a 7-oz tube)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars. Add the egg, then the almond extract, beating well. Add the flour mixture in two additions, beating just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Fold in the mini chips and chopped nuts.
Pinch off bits of almond paste and roll them into balls. See the above photo for a visual, but you can make the balls as large as you like. Gently fold them through the batter.
I like these cookies small, so I use a 1-1/2 inch scoop to dole out the dough. Bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the sheet pans halfway though, and checking the undersides carefully to ensure they don't burn. (For best texture, consider under-baking them rather than the alternative.) Stored airtight, they'll keep a good 5 days.