OK, so the first thing you will notice about this post is that it isn’t Purim. (Perhaps I am overestimating my readers’ grasp of just when all the Jewish festivals are, but then again, since my readership is full of bakers, and Purim always seems to me as a religiously-mandated excuse for baking – you’re supposed to make little baskets of biscuits and give them to people, this is the festival I would make up if I made up festivals – my chances might be better than I think.)
The second thing you will notice about this post is that my last sentence went on and on and on and on and on…
The reason for both these things is Project Grants. They are due tomorrow. There were 19 of them in my group, plus a few little Cancer Council and Cancer Australia bagatelles, and I have been reading them. And proof-reading them. And, occasionally, inserting sarcastic marginalia into them. This has been phenomenally time-consuming, and has probably not improved my ability to write sensible sentences. Next week, we have fellowships, the week after that we have more fellowships, then there is Easter, at which point I will escalate my current insane Lenten singing schedule into something that borders on the impossible, or at least the highly improbable, after which we have more fellowships, a grant report, two events that I am running in late April, and a Program Grant due in May. And a concert the day before the grant goes in. Hooray!
All of which is a very long way of saying that yes, I’m cooking, yes, I’m thinking about food, and yes, I’m even making up recipes. But sometimes it’s going to take me a few weeks to write them down, because, as you may by now have grasped, I am hardly ever at home, and when I am, it is for sleeping.
Anyway, back to these cookies, because these cookies are awesome. They are basically a riff on some cookies in Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food, only I changed virtually all the ingredients. As you do. But they are still sort of the same cookies, in texture, personality, and, most importantly, in their really, really spectacularly easy method.
Also, they really do look coal-black when they go into the oven. It’s rather awesome.
These cookies take about ten minutes to put together, and then 25 minutes to cook, and they would probably keep very well if I didn’t have hungry scientists who don’t give anything the opportunity to keep well. Claudia Roden says that the original biscuits keep well, and that’s good enough for me.
As are these delicious, chocolatey, ever-so-slightly boozy biscuits.
Your Shopping List (makes about 16 little cookies, if I recall correctly)
100 g almond meal
100 g hazelnut meal
50 g dark, dark cocoa
75 g caster sugar
2 tablespoons brandy (make sure you roll the R when you say it, it’s that sort of biscuit)
Now what will you do with it?
Preheat the oven to 170°C, and line a tray with baking paper.
Put everything in a bowl. Beat it a bit with a fork to break up the egg, then get in there with your hands and squidge your fingers through it until you have a sticky dough. Which is all over your hands. I do hope you remembered to take off any rings before you started, especially if they had Celtic knotwork on them.
Wet your hands – indeed, I’d recommend washing them, and then damping them again with cold water – and roll the mixture into little balls about the size of large walnuts. Put the balls on the prepared baking tray, and press down slightly. Leave at at least an inch and a half between them – they won’t spread much, though.
Bake for 25 minutes or so, until they have become a bit paler and a bit cracked-looking, and don’t feel doughy when you poke them. They won’t be hard straight out of the oven – indeed, they should still be a little squidgy in the middle – one way to tell if they are done is to turn them over and see if they look cooked underneath.
Cool on a wire rack, and then store in an airtight container. I reckon these would keep a week, easily, but they probably won’t get the opportunity.
These biscuits are gluten-free and dairy-free, but obviously do need the eggs and nuts. I don’t think a flaxmeal egg would work here, as the dough is pretty stiff to begin with and flaxmeal eggs are a bit evil. I don’t think brandy is advisable if you have FODMAP issues, either, I’m afraid.
Any kind of nut meal works here. Any kind of liquid flavour ingredient. You can remove the cocoa and add more nut meal. You could make them with pistachios and cardamom. You could add orange or lemon zest and some coconut instead of the cocoa. The world is your oyster! (Don’t put oysters in the biscuits. That would be dreadfully un-kosher.)