Thursday, September 22, 2011

Glutein-Free and Passover-Friendly Treat

photo by Anthony Palatta
Last weekend I was making dessert for a dinner party that included a friend who can't eat glutein.

Luckily, I've been making a dessert for Passover for a while that fits the bill: lemon-almond meringues, or "almendrados."

The recipe has its origin with Jews from Spain and North Africa, known as Sephardim, and I found it in the New York Times several years ago. It's quite easy to make and has only a couple of tricks you need to know. It's also extremely delicious for a flour-free cookie.

You start with 2 cups of blanched almonds (the recipe says whole, but I've used slivered and sliced and even non-blanched almonds in a pinch). Grind them up in the food processor to a fine powder, then add 1 egg beaten, 3/4 cup of sugar, and the zest of 1 lemon (or two if you want extra lemon punch). Mix it all up.

By the way, I've halved this recipe with great results.  I've also made it using honey instead of sugar for a friend who can't eat sugar or flour, and they come out great that way as well. The liquid of the honey also obviates the need for egg as a binder in the recipe.

Be careful if you're using the recipe in the Times, as they list the ingredients as "1 cup of sugar." They do this because you need another 1/4 cup of the sugar later on in the recipe.  I hate when recipes are written this way.  Why can't they say "3/4 cup of sugar plus 1/4 cup for rolling the cookies" so you don't accidentally thrown in a whole cup into your dough?  Ugh!!!

The next step is important.  Refrigerate your dough for at least 12 hours.  If it's not thoroughly chilled, your cookies will spread too much.

Preheat your oven to 350.  Pinch off a bit of dough and roll it into a ball the size of a walnut, then roll it in sugar so it's covered.  Place the balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about an inch apart.  In my experience, those double-lined cookie sheets make the cookies spread more, while a darker conventional cookie sheet gives you a more compact cookie.

Here's the other trick:  bake the cookie for 9-11 minutes until it just starts to turn color and the outside crust of the cookie begins to set.  It will still seem very soft and you will probably freak out a little the first time you make them.  "They're not done!"  No, they are done, but they need to sit on the cookie sheet and firm up as they come to room temperature.  That way you'll end up with a cookie that's soft and chewy inside, and firm and crusty outside, with a fresh lemon and sweet almond flavor that will make you forget you've gone glutein-free.

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