One of our friends is gluten-free. This presents somewhat of a challenge to me as a baker since I am just fine with gluten and rarely give it a second thought.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and is off-limits for those with wheat allergy or celiac disease. It is also the magical ingredient that provides cohesiveness to dough and is easily taken for granted by me, the non-gluten-free baker.
Our gluten-free girl recently came to dinner and I decided to finally tackle this type of baking. I had recently read an article in Saveur on favorite holiday cookies from around the world. Switzerland’s entry was for Basler Brunsli, also known as a chocolate-almond spice cookie. No flour in this recipe – a cookie everyone can enjoy.
It certainly sounded promising– almonds, sugar, cloves, cinnamon and chocolate. Chewy texture and the “unmistakable flavor of old-fashioned Christmas cheer.” Well, alright then.
However, I cannot lie. This was one frustrating cookie and I almost scrapped it in favor of something, anything, that was not baked.
The dough is very tricky and needed, I don’t know, some flour to help hold things together. Determined not go give up, I found that working in small batches and keeping the excess dough in the freezer was the key to success.
Overall, the Basler Brunsli is actually quite nice and resembles a chewy chocolatey spicy brownie. A nice ending to a gluten-free dinner for a guest that I hope returns on many occasions in the near future.
Basler Brunsli – (Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies)
Saveur, Issue #134
8 oz. whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Finely grind almonds and sugar in a food processor. Add chocolate; pulse until finely ground. Add cinnamon, cloves, and egg whites; pulse to make a dough.
Sprinkle a large piece of parchment paper with sugar; transfer dough to paper. Lay another piece of paper over dough; roll dough to 1/8″ thickness.
Cut out cookies with star-shaped cutters; transfer to parchment paper—lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 1″ apart. Reroll scraps and repeat. Let dough dry for 3 hours.
Heat oven to 300°. Bake until cookies are slightly puffed, 12–15 minutes. Let cool.
MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN