The Winning Cookie…Toffee Almond Sandies
A huge thank you to all who participated in the Le Creuset Cookie Contest! I received hundreds of wonderful and cherished family recipes, and the ones I tried were all delicious.
But even better than the cookies were the heartwarming stories behind them…I loved reading about Kathryn’s Kelly’s Chocolate Nut Drop Christmas Cookies, a recipe she received in junior high, then renamed after her daughter because she went into labor shortly after enjoying them one Christmas night; or Beth’s beautiful Cucidatis (fig cookies) that she grew up baking with her loving Italian grandmother; or Julie’s Double Ginger Snaps that she makes every year with her husband to usher in the holiday season…they wait until their kids are in bed, then make a mess of the kitchen rolling out the dough, baking the cookies and drinking White Russians (how fun is that?). Undoubtedly, for all of us, holiday cookies are as much about family traditions and special memories as they are about taste.
There were far too many recipes for me to bake them all, so I had to narrow them down. A vast majority of you love Wedding Cookies (also known as Viennese Crescent Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes), so I eliminated those from the running because the recipes were too similar to differentiate; same goes for holiday cut-outs, old-fashioned sugar cookies with frosting, and all forms of chocolate chip cookies. There were many unique entries; initially, I planned on baking just three, but as you can see, I couldn’t resist trying a few more…
I packed the cookies up and brought them to a dinner party of twelve close friends. For dessert, we did a cookie tasting, which—in addition to being great fun—seemed like the fairest way to pick a winner. The Toffee Almond Sandies were the favorite, which was surprising because the others looked far more interesting. But that’s what I love about these cookies: they look plain but when you bite into them, you discover a buttery, sweet shortbread studded with melted toffee bits and crunchy almonds—they’re just wonderfully good.
The winning recipe comes from Kelly in Virginia, who bakes them every Christmas with her family. The original recipe was printed years ago in Taste of Home magazine and was given to her by a close family friend.
The nice thing about these cookies is that they’re perfect any time of day. You can eat them for breakfast, have some with tea in the afternoon, or polish off a few after dinner. They’re light, crisp and addicting–in fact, it’s impossible to eat just one.
They’re also incredibly easy to make and keep well, making them—in my mind, at least—the perfect holiday cookie. Congrats to Kelly and thanks, everyone, for sharing your wonderful recipes!
Toffee Almond Sandies
Makes about 9 dozen (you can easily halve the recipe)
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup Confectioners’ sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups chopped almonds
6 oz (about 1 heaping cup) English toffee bits*
1. Set racks in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a medium bowl; mix well.
3. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and Confectioners’ sugar until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula, then add oil, eggs and almond extract; mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix slowly to combine. Stir in almonds and toffee bits.
4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar, then place about 2″ apart on prepared baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through cooking, for 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
*I use the Heath brand toffee bits. If you are local, note that Giant does not carry them; try Safeway near the chocolate chipsAdd your review or comment!