On the eleventh day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Brown Butter, Toasted Almond & Toffee Shortbread.
Well, folks, we are almost to the end of LunaCafe’s second annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon. After this post, only one more cookie, and then it’s time to put away all the cutters, stencils, sprinkles, and other holiday cookie baking paraphernalia; plus wipe the flour from every surface in the OtherWorldly Kitchen. And then carefully and lovingly repackage the many large tins of cookies for their final destinations.
But please be assured that I have saved the absolute BEST two cookies for last. We will end this adventure creating the most memorable holiday cookies ever with a bang.
Our daughter, Rachel Mary Elizabeth, will descend upon us next weekend, and she is determined to gather up ALL the cookies for her “poor cookie deprived friends” in Eugene, Oregon where she is at long last completing her English Literature degree.
Well, don’t tell her, but this particular batch of cookies will have “disappeared” by the time she gets here. Poof! Gone! Wherever did they go?
When you taste this cookie, you’ll understand why I can’t share it, not even with my beloved daughter. Trust me, you won’t share it either. Not with Santa. Not with his deserving elves. Not with adorable Rudolph, no matter how bright his nose glows.
Just like me, you’ll be making up some ridiculous story about how you can’t find the Brown Butter, Toasted Almond & Toffee Shortbread, even as you are wiping the incredibly buttery, chewy toffee crumbs from your lying lips.
Brown Butter, Toasted Almond & Toffee Shortbread
This has got to be one of the very best cookies in the entire universe. These cookies are so good, in fact, that it is just about impossible not to make yourself sick eating them. So if you a person of weak will, such as yours truly who recently ate an entire already gift wrapped bag of 6 of these cookies in one evening–well, maybe you should skip this recipe.
2 cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour (9 ounces)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup almond flour (Trader Joes)
16½ tablespoons (8¼ ounces) chilled Brown Butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Almond Toffee Topping
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup wildflower honey
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sliced almonds (about 8 ounces), lightly toasted (400° for 10 minutes)
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Whisk in the almond meal. Reserve.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the chilled brown butter and sugar.
- Add the almond extract, and incorporate.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Line an edged 9- by 13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat the paper with vegetable spray.
- Evenly distribute chunks of dough over the parchment paper, and press the dough evenly over the entire sheet.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour and then prick the surface of the shortbread evenly with a fork.
- Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, until the cookie base is very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Almond Toffee Topping
- In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cream.
- Over moderately low heat, bring the mixture very slowly to a boil. Wash down the sides of the saucepan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to discourage sugar crystallization. Stir constantly and make sure that the sugar dissolves before the mixture is allowed to boil. Otherwise the toffee may turn granular.
- Boil the mixture, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240º. The mixture will be a very light brown; don’t go too dark or the toffeel will overcook (darken and harden too much) in the oven.
- Add the vanilla extract and incorporate.
- Remove the toffee from the heat, stir in the almonds, and let it cool for a few minutes before pouring it onto the partially-baked cookie base. (There is nothing hotter or more dangerous than hot sugar syrup; be very careful.)
- Bake the sheet of cookies at 375º on the middle rack of the oven for about 15 minutes. The center of the sheet will be bubbling softly. (Don’t overcook the toffee. If it is gets dark, the toffee will be too hard; if the caramel is not dark enough, the toffee will be runny.)
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
- Carefully pry the parchment paper away from the cookie sheet and then holding both ends, lift the entire cookie from the tray.
- Using a large French knife, cut the cookies on the diagonal into 1½- by 2-inch rectangles.
- Store airtight, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin, in a cool, dry place. Cookies keep for 2-3 weeks.
Makes about 3 dozen, 1½- by 2-inch cookies.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.