I really have to thank you guys for the Italian dessert suggestions. You’re helping me master things I love that I never thought I’d have the wherewithal to make.
Exhibit 1: Gelato.
Exhibit 2: My friend Daniel Sheehan‘s request for, and I quote, “that Italian cookie with a center like caramel and rice crispies with a thin bottom of chocolate.”
Dan, I’m glad you brought this up. If you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about, those crunchy chocolately chewy cookies were my all-time favorite as a kid. But I never knew what they were called. I’d just ask my dad for the “flat crunchy chocolate cookies” any time he went to a bakery. I still didn’t know what they were called when I saw your comment, but I was set on finding out. After all, how could I research a recipe without knowing what I’m looking for?
So I called a bunch of Italian bakeries, described the cookie, and asked if they could tell me what it was called. I started with my old standby, Villabate in Bensonhurst. No luck.I got yelled at by an old Sicilian lady who said, “Whya you only want to know what it’sa called? Whya you no come in and buy it?” She had a good point. So I politely excused myself and ended the call.
After a few more fails, I finally got an answer from Mozzicato in Hartford, CT. Turns out, this was Joe’s old standby growing up. The kind lady said they don’t sell them (lucky for me), but they’re called Lace Cookies. Ah. Finally, after 29 years, I learn what my favorite cookie is called. Thanks, kind lady in Hartford.
My next quest was finding a recipe. I found that most recipes use oatmeal, which I plan to try soon, but I opted for my own version of a few different almond-based recipes I’d found. It’s not Christmas in our house until my mom starts making almond cookies. So it just had to be almond. These don’t look like the cookies I remember from the bakery as a result (they must be oatmeal-based), but they’re still amazing.
Speaking of kids loving cookies, Lara, my seven-year-old upstairs neighbor, helped me make these. She and her brother, four-year-old Otto, fully approved. Their chocolate-clad pajamas were all the proof I needed.
Chocolate Lace Cookies
2 cups blanched almonds
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Semi sweet chocolate (chips or chocolate bar)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pulse the blanched almonds in a food processor until they’re about the size of small pebbles.
In a small bowl, combine the almonds, flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest.
Melt the butter in a microwave or small sauce pan. Mix in the heavy cream, honey, and vanilla. Add the almond mixture to the the butter mixture and stir with a cake spatula (or other small, flat utensil) until ingredients are combined.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll teaspoonfuls of batter into balls and place on the parchment paper. Press down on each ball slightly. Don’t flatten them—they’ll spread out in the oven. Place each cookie 2 or 3 inches apart so they have space to expand (further apart than pictured here–I moved them after the shot).
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Let the cookies cool slightly, then spread melted chocolate over one cookie and top with another to make a sandwich.