Friday, January 15, 2010


Aaaaand…we’re back to cookies. Spice cookies (gingerbread, pfeffernusse, etc.) are traditional at Christmas, but I can never muster up much enthusiasm for them—especially when I could be having chocolate instead. Still, when planning my holiday assortment, I feel compelled to add the quintessential wintry flavors to the mix, and Carole Walter’s Madras Cookies (from Great Cookies) fit the bill perfectly. They’re festively redolent of spice and orange zest, but the curry powder defies the usual ginger/cinnamon hegemony, and coconut and almond—two tastes I find it hard to resist—play major supporting roles. The cookies have a complex flavor, but they’re still subtle enough to be crowd-pleasers. In other words, you don’t bite into them and say, “Oh, curry”; it just adds a certain je ne sais quoi. These are just basically just a spice cookie with a twist, but it’s a good one.

I won’t lie; Carole Walter is always a demanding mistress (I appreciate the careful specificity of her instructions, down to precisely how many minutes to run the stand mixer at each stage, but occasionally while making one of her recipes I find myself rolling my eyes at some of the hoops she wants me to jump through, even though I’m sure they do make the cookies better), and this recipe is a bit fussy, what with needing to toast the curry powder and grind the almonds and chop the coconut and everything, but I assure you that in this case, all the steps are important. I once substituted almond meal for grinding the almonds myself, and the cookies just weren’t the same—the nubbly texture I achieved in my wimpy mini food processor gave them so much more character. So put your trust in Carole.

2 teaspoons mild curry powder
2½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 cup plus about 50 (scant ½ cup) unblanched whole almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
⅔ cup granulated sugar
⅔ cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (Carole likes you to chop your coconut in a food processor ahead of time; I don’t always do this, but I admit that it does improve the texture of the cookies by eliminating long, troublesome strands)

1. Heat the curry powder in a small, heavy skillet over low heat for 15 to 30 seconds until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

2. Place the flour, 1 cup of almonds, toasted curry powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade. Pulse 10 to 12 times, then process for 1 minute or until the mixture is finely chopped and cakey. Set aside.

3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and orange zest on medium-low speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add the granulated sugar in a steady stream, then add the brown sugar and mix for about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each, then add the vanilla, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until blended after each addition. Using a large wooden spoon, fold in the coconut.

4. Chill the dough for 20 to 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll into balls.

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and moderately butter your baking sheets.

6. Roll the dough in the palms of your hands to form 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches part on the baking sheets. Gently press a whole almond into the center of each cookie. Using the heel of your hand, flatten the cookie into a 1½-inch disk.

7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown (toward the end of the baking time, rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back). Remove from oven and let stand 2 to 3 minutes before loosening with a thin metal spatula. Transfer to cooling racks.

Yields: 50 2-inch cookies
Time: 1½ hours, plus 30 minutes chilling
Leftover potential: High; can be frozen

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