This post is all about payback. In the ongoing Caramel War that is waged on a regular basis in my home, I have launched my latest offensive.
You see a few days ago, as many of you read on my blog, I made a version of stroopwafels using pizzelle and a caramel filling. But the Caramel, trickster that it is, scored a victory. It lulled me into a false sense of security. It made me think that it was cooking smoothly and that I would finally be able to claim Caramel Victory. Then, overconfident and foolish creature that I am, I looked away. And in those few seconds, the caramel attacked, vigorously changing colour.
When I turned my attention back to the pot, I saw the Caramel smiling in its dark, dark amber way. Another pot of overcooked Caramel.
I gathered myself together and fought bravely. I added the cream and butter and made the filling. I applied the caramel filling to the pizzelle and I served them, pleased to hear that people liked them.
But I knew I had lost the day. I knew that during the night, while I lay awake in bed, that leftover Caramel in the glass jar in my refrigerator was convinced that the war was over and finally won.
Sorry. But things don’t work that way in my kitchen.
I just couldn’t let it go. I had to mount one final attack. And I knew just the recipe to do it. I thought that I was ready to put Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie back on The Overburdened Bookshelf. I enjoyed it as the Flavour of the Month for January. I tried some new recipes, all with great success. But within that book lay my secret weapon: Caramel-Almond Tiger Cookies.
This was a second chance; the opportunity to strike back at my opponent. It was a dangerous ploy. I was low on supplies with very little cornstarch in the house and no almond extract whatsoever. The need for slivered almonds would have to be met with blanched, sliced almonds. It’s war. You make due.
As quickly and quietly as possible I made the butter dough, throwing in some pure vanilla powder for flavouring. I scraped the cornstarch container of every single speck of cornstarch praying that it would be enough and it was. I let the dough firm up in the refrigerator, on the first shelf, away from the prying eyes of the leftover Caramel.
Once my cookies were baked, I prepared myself for the final blow. I found the zone and went there. Almost machine-like, I placed the heavy saucepan on the stove and added the sugar and water. I stirred constantly until the sugar dissolved, not even moving to answer the telephone. Once the sugar was ready, I raised the heat and stopped stirring.
And then I watched.
And I watched.
And I watched.
I could feel the sweat beading on my brow. From the corner of my eye I could see the spatula hanging partially over the counter and partially over the sink, teetering precariously. But I didn’t move to touch it.
I watched that Caramel like I have never watched anything before and I saw it. I saw how quickly it changed. But this time I was ready, whisking it off the stove as it turned a golden amber colour.
It didn’t have a chance.
That’s right, Caramel. Who’s your Daddy now?
Caramel-Almond Tiger Cookies
Adapted from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.
For the almond cookies:
- 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds or slivered almonds (I used sliced, blanched almonds)
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted, butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla powder (the original recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon almond extract)
For the cookie dough:
- Process the almonds and 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour in a food processor until fine, 30 to 45 seconds.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the other 1-1/4 cups of flour, the cornstarch and the salt.
- With an electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pure vanilla powder or almond extract. Mix well.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
- Gather the dough on a work surface and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. It should be firm enough to handle.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the centre of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll out your dough, and using a 1-1/2 inch cutter (I used a fluted one), stamp out as many rounds as you can.
- Once you have stamped out all the rounds, transfer them to the baking sheets.
- Reroll the scraps and cut out as many more rounds as you can. Transfer those to the baking sheets.
- Count the number of rounds. Using a 3/4-inch round cutter or a 3/4-inch plain pastry tip, cut out little circles from the middle of half the rounds. These will be the tops of your cookies.
- Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are just golden around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
For the caramel filling:
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to high and stop stirring. Keep a pastry brush and cup of water handy to brush down the sides of the pan occasionally to prevent the formation of sugar crystals.
- WATCH THE CARAMEL CLOSELY!
- After about 4 to 5 minutes, it should begin changing colour. Once it’s a golden amber (not too dark), remove it from the heat.
- Add the cream carefully and then the butter and stir until smooth.
- Let the caramel sit for 20 minutes to cool down.
To assemble the cookies:
- Once the caramel is cool, spoon a teaspoon or so of caramel in the centre of a cookie round and top with another cookie round with a hole stamped in the middle.
- Once all your cookies have been sandwiched together, place them on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum paper or waxed paper.
- If your caramel filling is still loose, take a spoon or fork and drizzle the caramel over the cookies. If your caramel filling has hardened a bit, return it to the stove and heat it very gently until it becomes spreadable again. Drizzle the caramel over the cookies.
- Let the cookies set overnight.
Note: This recipe yields between 40 and 44 sandwich cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter. This is the final recipe for Tish’s book this month. Stay tuned to see which book I choose as the Flavour of the Month for 2006!