I imagined a chubby, almondy cookie and after a couple of batches, I got what I had aimed for: a healthy holiday cookie that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, deliciously flavourful, and gluten-free and sugar-free (sweetened only with maple syrup and apple butter).
Did you know how easy it is to make apple butter?! I made it for the first time this fall, using the most basic recipe I could find. I simply cooked down a huge pot full of chopped apples for almost a whole day on the woodstove until they went beyond the apple sauce stage and crossed over into that thick dark caramelly world of apple butter. Add a few sprinkles of cinnamon and cloves and voila. Spread it on buttered toast in the morning and it will win you over.
I'm lucky that my family lives near an abandoned orchard in Nova Scotia and every fall, we have a tradition of rescuing these lonely apples from falling to the ground, unused.
They're free, they aren't sprayed with pesticides, and they make the most exquisite (a bright rosy pink!) apple sauce. How much better can it get? Now that I'm back in the big city for a bit, I treasure the jars of apple sauce and apple butter I brought here with me, they taste like the East Coast and the wind and the leaves and sunshine back home.
Now before I share this recipe, I have a special treat for you that will warm your heart and give you a chuckle. (And also fulfills the promise I made of sharing cute animal videos with you when I don't have time to make cooking ones). So. Dogs need cookies too, especially around the holidays, and my friend Val has just put up a fabulous blogpost sharing a winning doggy biscuit recipe (just in time for a fun homemade Christmas present for all your canine friends). I happened to be there with my camera when she gave her spirited pups, Cracker and Mash, their first tastes of biscuit, fresh out of the oven. And here is what that looked like:
I can only hope that biting into my almond cookies will generate a fraction of the exuberance displayed by Cracker and Mash. Please do make these and let me know if you did a happy dance :-)
CHEWY GLUTEN-FREE ALMOND THUMBPRINT COOKIES
Makes 20 medium-sized cookies
*Feel free to substitute your favourite jam or jelly for the centre part.
1 1/2 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature (I used goat butter, my new favourite butter)
1/2 cup maple syrup (more to taste)
1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca (or arrowroot) flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
About 1/3 cup apple butter (or your favourite jam or jelly)
About 20 almonds to decorate the cookies
Mix the ground almonds and butter together, then add the maple syrup, beaten egg, and almond extract. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and incorporate into the wet almond mixture. Mix until smooth. Chill in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes. Roll into balls and flatten them slightly on a greased cookie sheet. With your thumb, make an indentation in each cookie. Place about 1 tsp apple butter (or jelly / jam) in each indentation and top it off with a whole almond. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes or until the edges are crisp but the centre still soft. Let them cool on the pan a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.