Sunday, March 14, 2010

Three recipes in one: almond cookies, tortoni, and apple crisp

In the spirit of prolonging sugar's powerful grip on my body's major organ functions, let me introduce you to the magic that is tortoni. Tortoni is a rich, yet somehow light, frozen mousse. It's incredible.

The beauty of these recipe is that, in order to make the tortoni, you first make easy almond cookies - which you'll sample while making the tortoni - and once you have the cookies and the tortoni, why not go ahead and fix the apple crisp, too? It's perfect for a cool March night.

They all complement each other beautifully, and each ingredient has a symbiotic relationship with the next. If you're short on time, though, the tortoni alone is delicious.

These recipes are adapted from a Recipe Redux that ran in the Times magazine last February.

Almond cookies (called macaroons in these recipes)
These are a bit chewy if eaten alone as a cookie, but perfectly good for snacking. You'll toast them to make them crispy for the tortoni and the crisp.
  • 2 egg whites
  • 7 ounces almond paste
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl, and beat lightly.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the almond paste, 3/4 cup of sugar, and the salt. Pulse until combined. Scrape into the egg whites. Add the confectioners’ sugar. Fold mixture gently until blended.

3. Use a spoon or a very small ice cream scoop to drop the batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Drops should be about 2 teaspoons in size. Bake until uniformly golden, about 18 minutes. Let cool.

Let this melt just a little before serving. Since it's a frozen mousse, it gets creamier as it melts.
  • About 12 macaroons
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups heavy cream.

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Break the macaroons into pieces and toast them on a baking sheet until golden, dry and crumbly. Let cool. Grind to fine crumbs in a food processor. You need about 1 cup.

2. Whip the cream, and place in the refrigerator to chill at least 30 minutes.

3. Combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the syrup reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer.

4. Meanwhile, in a mixer, whip the egg whites until they form firm peaks. In another bowl, whip the yolks until fluffy. Fold together the whites and the yolks.

5. When the sugar is ready, turn on the mixer to medium speed and, with it running, slowly pour in the syrup in a fine thread. Reduce the speed to low and whip until the mixture cools to room temperature. Mix in the vanilla.

6. Fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture.

7. Line the base of a 2-quart soufflé dish (or other mold) with parchment. Spoon half the crumbs into the base. Cover with the mousse. Top with the remaining crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

8. Run a knife around the edge of the mold, then invert onto a plate. Cut into wedges.

Apple Crisp
This is the best part, the perfect culmination of each of these recipes.
  • about 10 macaroons
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into tablespoons and chilled

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Break the macaroons into small pieces and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes to dry them out. Let cool.

2. Pour the toasted macaroon chunks into the food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times. The mixture does not need to be a powder. Pour into a bowl.

3. Prepare the apples: Peel, core and dice the apples into 1/4" chunks. In a large mixing bowl, toss the apples with the sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the lemon zest and juice. Gently mix.

4. Make the crisp: In the bowl of the food processor, combine the flour, 3/4 cup ground macaroons, brown sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse 4 to 5 times, until the butter is pea sized.

5. In four 1-cup ramekins, fill the bottom layer with the apple mixture, then a layer of crisp, then another apple layer and another crisp layer. Fill the ramekins overly full; the filling will compress as it bakes.

6. Bake until the apple filling is bubbling and the crisp has dried out a bit, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the crisps cool slightly before serving. Top each with a small portion of frozen tortoni and a reserved macaroon. Serves 4.


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