There’s an old hostessing adage that says when you are having people over for a party, you should only serve them tried and true favorites. In other words, never conduct food experiments on your guests.
Well, we don’t live by that rule in this house.
This afternoon, the Chef and I had a party. A handful of friends came in and out the door, toting cheese and onion dishes, wines from the Columbia Valley, white bean dip, and clams made up in a spicy red pepper liquid. Brandon came up the stairs with more presents from Goodwill in his hands, including six of these fabulous wine glasses without stems, which the Chef and I have been coveting for months, but worried they were too expensive. Brandon found them for 39 cents each at the thrift store for us. Oh, that Brandon. No wonder Molly is marrying him.
I love throwing parties. Clean the house (even up to the last moment), simmer a soup, toss a salad, and put on music — voila! It’s party time. Quinn and Alison, Traca, Brandon, Lisa and Mane, Jeff and Daniel — these people more than fill a room. We marveled at the weirdness of the weather (“Baby, it’s hailing outside! It looks like snow!”), discussed politics, and traded suggestions of restaurants that captivate us. Mostly, we gathered in the living room and laughed until the light grew dim.
The Chef put together a soup we have been testing for the book: curried carrot with cranberry chutney. Believe me, it will be worth the wait for that recipe. I made a wild green salad with pomegranate seeds and a fig balsamic/lemon olive oil dressing. That went fast. And halfway through the party, I made these cookies.
After I posted the peanut butter cookie recipe a few weeks ago, I found a barrage of comments on the website from readers eager to try more kinds. Someone suggested almond butter. Another suggested jam on the top. They simmered in my mind until I tried it today.
There was silence in the room as everyone ate these. Then, oh yes, we said. Oh yes.
ALMOND BUTTER COOKIES WITH A CHOCOLATE TOPPING
Where the flourless peanut butter cookies taste silky soft, these have the density of shortbread. There is something marvelously mellow about them, the almonds not asserting themselves too much in the mouth. Simple as laughing with friends, they taste more difficult than they are to make. Chewy, slightly nutty, a small sweetness, with a few crumbles left over on the tongue — these are well worth making.
Before I put the first batch in the oven, I told Brandon I was going to top them with my favorite marmalade (more on this tomorrow). He agreed, but he wanted to try chocolate instead. Inspired, he ran across the street for chocolate chips. We dropped them in little clusters on the indentations of the cookies, then baked them for one more moment. A little like chocolate ganache, as Traca suggested. A lot like goodness we could all endorse heartily. It’s worth making this new recipe for guests.
one cup of almond butter
one cup of white sugar
two teaspoons of baking powder
Cream the almond butter and sugar together by mixing them well, until they have become one coherent mixture. Add the egg and stir. Add the baking powder and stir. The dough should be one lovely almond ball, all the individual ingredients transformed into something else.
Roll a piece of dough half the size of your palm into a solid ball. Dunk it in sugar and roll it around until it is covered and shimmering. Fill a baking sheet — preferably covered with a silpat, or parchment paper will do — with the balls of dough. Press them down with a fork for that traditional tine pattern. Place them in a 350° oven, which you have been heating for at least fifteen minutes.
Bake for nine minutes. Take the baking sheet out of the oven, press down on each soft cookie with the back of a spoon, and watch a little indentation form. Take a few chocolate chips and place them in that divet. When you have accomplished this with all the cookies on the baking sheet, put the sheet back in the oven for one minute. (Or, until the chocolate chips have started to melt a bit at the edges, quivery, almost liquid.)
With a butter knife, spread the melted chocolate chips across the indentation in the cookie. Lift up. (Good luck not licking the knife.) Carefully, move the cookies to a cooling rack. They will be a bit fragile at this point. Let the cookies cool for ten minutes. Then, you may serve them to your guests.
Makes a dozen cookies (or more, if you can stand to make them smaller).