These cookies are what dreams are made of. Almonds, orange blossom water and cardamom: ….they devise a heady combination and in my mind, they compose a realm of a blissful holiday in the Mediterranean or a balmy Indian summer. The dusted sugar and the spices only add the whimsy of the holiday aura.
They are delicious, the best of all the cookies I have ever had. It is not just me. I could be biased, but when everyone in our family unanimously votes this as the favorite cookie, it is a sure thing. Our family encompasses members with very different taste buds, and there are not many recipes that we agree on, all at the same time. This one happens to be only one of the very very few.
We stand harmonious.
Love do not need words. I just know when one batch of cookies just disappear in less than a day or when the kids want to leave them for Santa. They only settle for the best when it comes to that one night of the year.
Holiday or not, I am always baking these. Different times of the year demands different flavors and I have a tried a lot of them. Lemon in summer, roses in fall, orange blossom in spring and a combination of your favorites during any time of the year. Other than being ambrosial in nature, the cookies are quite easy to make. The ingredient list is short, devoid of eggs and the cups of melted butter. They are also healthy. Well to some extent, since they are mostly powdered almond.
Speaking of holidays, we seem to have started ours early. The ice storm came in intense and bitter, leaving us “Frozen” for about five long days. We stayed warm at home. The world outside looked straight out of the scenes of the movie “Frozen“.
view of our neighborhood from our study
We slept in, we cooked, we indulged and we baked. Baked these cookies. We also played in the ice. That is right. Out we went with the orange disc and slid over the ice in the driveway. There is never a quite moment here.
The imperfections in their shape and design does not make them less morish. They are light and airy, quite crunchy to bite into but then they melt gently in your mouth. They are not overtly sweet; just right. And the subtle flavors are divine!
before and after baking
Another aspect of this recipe is the flexibility it allows. Since there are no eggs to count and no butter to weigh, the recipe allows you to change the proportions of the flours quite liberally. You can use ghee or the clarified butter, melted butter or even coconut oil. The cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil infuses the cookies with the tropical flavors. You can use spices with them, making holiday cookies or cookies for any occasions, out of the base recipe.
The first set of cookies I had made with the recipe were these Ghoribas from a cookbook by Nadeh Sala- a recipe I am so glad to have found. The first few times I followed the recipe with only few adaptations. Slowly I started playing with the ingredients and now I use mostly almond flour with only part of the all purpose flour.
Okay. I have spoken enough of it. Now if you have heard enough and wondering how much truth there is what I have said about these cookies, you need to try them at least once!
The busiest and the joyful time of the year is upon us! Be happy and spread the peace.
Almond and Cranberry Cookies
Ingredients: (makes 2 dozen cookies)
- 1.5 cup (8 oz) almond meal
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 confectioners sugar (or any ground up sugar; I have used turbinado here) + confectioners sugar to dust
- 7 tablespoon ghee (possible to use melted butter if ghee is not available) *
- 1/3 cup (heaped) dried cranberries (or to taste)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
- zest of one large orange
- 6 green cardamom (shelled and seeds pounded to be powdered)
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
Note: use any flavor/spice you want
* Use cold pressed coconut oil (very nice flavors) or oil to make a vegan option.
If you do not have almond meal, grind almonds (at room temperature) at home. The skin can be ground up too; you will only have a darker looking almond meal, which is okay.
Pour the ghee/melted butter or oil (if making completely dairy free) into a bowl, sift in the all purpose flour and stir in the confectioners’ sugar; add the orange zest and rub the zest in to the flour. Tip in the ground almonds/almond flour. Combine the flour, the oil and ghee together, it will start to form crumbs.
Add the orange flower water, ground cardamom, sprinkles of water. Knead the above mixture for a few minutes in the bowl to form a dough, turn it out onto a clean surface. At first it may be crumbly, but keep kneading, shape it into a ball and place back in the bowl. (if it gets too difficult to form the dough, add water in fractions of teaspoon till the dough just comes together. It should be very firm, non spongy dough). Cover and let it stand for about 30 minutes.
Remove the dough and knead again, then add the almond flakes/slivered almonds and the dried cranberries and form into a ball. Pinch off a little dough about the size of a walnut and roll and press between the palms to form a round shape.
As you press it will naturally crack around its edges. This is how it is supposed to be. The finished cookies will have cracks all over them.
Place a couple almond flakes on the top of each cookie and gently press down for them to stick.
Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake in a pre heated oven, 350 degree F for about 12-15 minutes or until the base starts to turn golden. The base will be golden brown and the surface will have light golden color; (will be darker if you use almond meal with almond skin in them).
Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack and serve with sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes + 30 minutes resting time
Cooking/Baking Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2 dozen small cookies
Difficulty Level: Very Easy
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