The Chocolate Hazelnut Spread I made the other day was delicious, chocolaty and not-too-sweet with a good hazelnut flavor. I began to wonder, after making it, how it would work with other nuts. Hazelnut and chocolate have a very similar flavor profile, but I decided to try the recipe with ground almonds in place of the hazelnuts. The result was a bit milder than the hazelnut spread, but no less appealing. It struck me that it would be a wonderful filling for a sandwich cookie, standing in the place of the ultra-sugary spreads (or frostings) that usually fill the space.
For the cookies, I used a nut-packed butter cookie recipe that I spotted in Cookie Craft. The cookies were said to be very flavorful and, as the cookbook is geared towards cookies that are rolled and shaped, I figured that it would be a very easy dough to work with. It was. The dough came together quickly and handled like a dream, even without chilling it. The cookies held their shape with virtually no spreading in the oven, too.
On their own, the cookies were fairly crisp and, while they were buttery and not at all hard, they were dense because there is no leavening in this recipe. Once they were paired with the filling, the cookies changed quite dramatically. They moistened and became softer, almost cake-like (friand-like, for those of you who are familiar with the almond-rich cakes), and melded into the chocolate filling. The almond flavor and texture really came through once the cookies reached this point and it made for a lovely contrast to most sandwich cookies, where the cookie and filling remain detached.
The cocoa powder topping is optional for these cookies. The cocoa actually does add a bit of extra chocolate flavor, but the cookies are actually very beautiful plain, as you can then see the flecks of nuts throughout the dough. I ended up dusting half and leaving half undusted and the black/white contrast made for a nice presentation for serving. You can also use powdered sugar to finish these off, if you prefer.
Chocolate Almond Cream Sandwich Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk together almonds, flour and salt. Gradually incorporate it into the butter mixture, working with a mixer on low speed. Dough may become somewhat dry as you work, but be patient and it will all come together.
Dough can be chilled or, unless your kitchen is very hot, handled at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out dough on a smooth surface, either very lightly floured or lined with wax paper, until it reaches just under 1/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to punch out desired shapes and transfer to baking sheet. Cookies will spread very little in the oven. Dough can be rerolled 2 or 3 times. Repeat until all dough has been used.
Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes, until edges (or bottoms) are lightly browned and cookies are a bit firm to the touch at the sides.
Cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Almond Spread
1/3 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
1/2 cup dry nonfat milk powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup milk (low fat)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
In a medium saucepan, combine almond meal, dry milk powder, brown sugar, cocoa powder and cornstarch. Add in milk and vegetable oil and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture begins to thicken and just starts to bubble. Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof container, preferably one with an airtight lid.
Cool to room temperature and, if not eating right away, store in the fridge with an airtight lid on the container.
Match up cookies in pairs that are closely sized/shaped. Spread each pair with about 2 tsp or so of Chocolate Almond Spread. Sandwich together and dust with cocoa powder. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 42, 1 1/2-inch sandwich cookies