When a hurricane threatened the east coast last summer, I ran to the store to get staple food items, anticipating days of no electricity, but looking forward to lots of peanut butter. Unfortunately, everyone in Philadelphia was on the same wavelength, and the peanut butter shelf blinked at me, spare and lonely. But necessity emboldens palate adventures, and so I picked up one jar of almond butter and one of cashew. The cashew butter got eaten within a week, but the almond butter relaxed on my counter, daring me to get creative. And when I got a craving for sweets a week or two later, as I was making cookies inspired by Smitten Kitchen's lovely peanut butter cookies, I accidentally grabbed the jar of almond butter. A delectable accident, the cookies were a sweet-salty, crunchy-smooth mouthful of deliciousness. I played around with ingredients and measurements, taste tested them on family and friends, added some candied pecans for festive zing, and then sent them off for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2012.
What is this cookie swap? It is a food/writer/new friend connection tool where virtual people become "real" - each blogger sends off a dozen cookies to three recipients, and receives three dozen cookies in return. As we're sending each other cookies, we're also raising money for Cookies for Kids' Cancer, cooking for a cause. I sent cookies to the cool women at Hearts in my Oven, Shuffling Freckles, and Life Undeveloped, and received a mouth-watering variety of goodies from the lovely ladies at Sister's Snacktime Munchies, The Way to my Family's Heart, and Meal Planning Magic. Thanks also to Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for hosting the swap and for fostering a sense of community and realness in the virtual food world.
Almond Butter Cookies
1/2 cup or one stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of crunchy, unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 generous cup of chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups of candied pecans
for the candied pecans:
1 1/2 cups shelled pecans
1/2 cup white sugar
Start by making the candied pecans. Pour the 1/2 cup of sugar into a cold frying pan. Turn the heat on, and after a few minutes, the sugar will turn brown and bubbly around the edges. Start mixing the sugar into a syrup, careful to get out all of the lumps. Once it's all mixed, turn off the heat and put the pecans in, stirring to coat the nuts completely. Let them cool on a plate for at least 30 minutes (they will coalesce into a candied-mass), and then cut them up into bite-sized pieces. This step can be done several hours in advance.
Note: If you choose to use regular pecans, you must add extra white sugar to the dough, or the cookies will not be sweet enough.
For the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the butter and almond butter into a smooth paste. Add the sugars and keep mixing. Add the eggs and half-and-half and mix until smooth. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until completely incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and pecans, and try really hard not to eat all the dough right then and there. Roll the cookie dough into balls and place on the cookie sheet. Put cookies in the oven for 9-10 minutes (my oven takes exactly 9 minutes and 45 seconds), and let cool. Scarf them up!