When a streusel mixture meshes with a shortbread-style dough, something wonderful happens: An irresistibly buttery, craggy cookie takes shape.
The large almond cookie, really a mass of crumbly nuggets large and small, becomes a big disk for sharing, to be presented whole and broken off by hand into casual pieces.
Almond meal, a somewhat flakier version of ground almonds, along with blanched almonds (slivered or sliced), flour and a touch of cornmeal, build the heft of the dough; butter, sugar and 2 extracts establish its texture and level of sweet richness. Working the mixture by hand into sandy clumps gives the cookie a rustic appeal.
Serve with strong coffee, sweet wine, a bowl of poached pears or a cinnamon-stick-spiced dried-fruit compote.
Almond meal is available as Just Almond Meal in 16-ounce bags at Trader Joe's.
Turbinado sugar made from evaporated cane juice (365 Whole Foods Market brand) is available in 2-pound bags at area Whole Foods Markets; turbinado sugar is also available in bulk bins at some natural foods stores. In this recipe, turbinado sugar lends a slight caramel flavor and crunchy texture to the baked cookie. Granulated sugar can be substituted, but the cookie will bake up a bit denser.
Make Ahead: The cookie can be stored in an airtight tin for up to 1 week.
Servings: 20 large or 35 small craggy pieces
- For the dough
- 1 2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour (dip-and-sweep flour into measuring cup and level off)
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal (preferably white, but yellow can be substituted)
- 1 1/2 cups almond meal (see headnote; may substitute ground almonds)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (see headnote)
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size chunks
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
- 1/3 cup blanched sliced or slivered almonds
- For the finish
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on the unbaked cookie
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use nonstick cooking oil spray to grease the inside of a fluted 9- or 10-inch tart pan (1 3/4 to 2 inches deep) or a 9- or 10-inch round layer cake pan (1 3/4 to 2 inches deep). Place the prepared tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet. The layer cake pan does not need to be placed on a baking sheet.
For the dough: Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, almond meal, baking powder, salt and the 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Drop in the chunks of butter and use a pastry blender or 2 round-edged table knives to cut the fat into the dry mixture to form small pieces. Drizzle the vanilla extract and almond extract over the mixture. Use your fingertips to crumble, compress and squeeze the mixture to create small and large curdlike clumps. (It is nearly impossible to overwork the dough, so don't be afraid to handle it.) Scatter the sliced or slivered almonds over the top and crumble briefly to allow the slivered almonds to cling to the clumps.
Layer the crumbled curds in the prepared baking pan, keeping them fairly loose; avoid tightly compacting the dough.
For the finish: Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar on the top layer of crumbles, avoiding the edges of the pan where the crumbles nestle against the sides.
Bake the cookie in the tart pan on the rimmed baking sheet or in the layer cake pan for 1 hour (for a 10-inch pan) to 1 hour 5 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or until the top is a bronzed golden color and the entire cookie is set. A wooden pick inserted into the center of the baked cookie should emerge with no crumbs clinging to it whatsoever. It is important that the cookie be thoroughly baked.
If you have used a tart pan, cool the cookie in the pan on a rack (minus the baking sheet) for 20 minutes. Carefully unmold the cookie from its outer ring, then slip an offset metal spatula between the bottom of the cookie and the base; reposition the cookie on a cooling rack, and cool completely. If you have used a layer cake pan, cool the cookie in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, then invert the cookie onto another rack, remove the pan, invert again to right side up, and cool completely.
Place the whole cookie on a flat serving plate, and offer it to guests for breaking off into craggy pieces.
From Washington cookbook author Lisa Yockelson.
Tested by Lucy Shackelford.
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