I will remember this recipe until the day that I die. Perhaps because I baked these cookies during a pleasant mid-August afternoon in the elegant kitchen of a stunning house in Burgundy, far away from my food machine, essential in my constant struggle against time, far away from the humid heat of the Po valley, far away from everything that is daily life 355 days per year.
Waking up slowly in the most absolute silence, a short walk in the garden among the quince and mirabelle plum trees to the pond, reaching then the coop where beautiful hens leave every morning their delicious eggs.
Janette, the shrillest and most affectionate, follows me to the door of the house, makes herself comfortable on the rug, and observes me, her head slightly bent on one side.
I drink my coffee and look at her, from my lovely kitchen, for long, silent minutes.
No rush, no deadlines, no commitments to meet. Isn’t it easy to get used to Paradise?
Afterwards, a stroll to Beaune market, the charming town at the heart of this French countryside, sophisticated and surprisingly eclectic: a straw handbag with leather handles under my arm, and a deep blue scarf over my neck, because the sky moves fast over here and, unpredictable, is always catching you out while you’re distracted by everything that surrounds you.
Despite this, the stalls offer all the marvels of summer and of the land, in harmonic succession of colours and tastes peaking in fragrant pyramids of Bresse roasted chickens, boxes of fois gras, sausages and cheeses that could fill an encyclopaedia…blissfully ignoring the ideas of those who think that eating animals and their derivatives is a crime… While I jump from stall to stall, I think “how can a vegan cope in France?”
Then I focus again on the task at hand and I look for a local delicacy: pink candied almonds. They are not much different from the ones you find over here, but while back at home they have a caramel colour and are associated to Fun Fairs, in France are often employed to enhance the flavour and appearance of other recipes, the likes of cookies and croissants. This is enough for me to buy a few bags, together with a few sticks of fragrant Baratte butter, a meaty Madagascar vanilla pod and get back to my French kitchen.
Outside France it can be hard to find the pralines d’amande concassé, the pink candied almonds typical of the Lyon region. You may find them in specialised shops, in Italy the likes of Zodio or Eataly.
Otherwise, you can prepare them at home: they are beautiful kept in glass jars and served with coffee.
If you’re still not convinced, check out this recipe by the magnificent Bernard, one of the best French bloggers.
I tested his recipe and it’s marvellous. I’ve included it below: basically you need to repeat the exact same steps 3 times, to ensure all almonds are perfectly coated.
If you don’t feel like making them yourself, then you can simply use regular candied almonds, commonly available, or simply almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios, or dried red berries.
For the pink candied almonds
Large, thick frying pan
For the cookies
Baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or preferably a perforated baking tray with silicone baking perforated mat)
INGREDIENTS & METHOD
For the pink candied almonds (from the blog La Cuisine de Bernard)
80 g almond (you can also use hazelnuts or both)
150 g sugar (to be divided into 3 equal parts)
A few drops of red food colouring (if in powder, just enough to hold on the tip of a knife)
Place 50 g of sugar in a large frying pan, with a thick base, together with a few spoons of water and a few drops of red food colouring.
Stir well, turn the heat to high and bring to the boil. When bubbles start forming, add the almonds.
Stir constantly with a wooden spoon; lower the heat or the almonds will darken.
At some stage, the syrup will begin to crystallize becoming grainy; keep stirring thoroughly until the almonds are well coated in sugar.
At some stage the sugar will turn into a sort of pink powder that doesn’t easily stick to the almonds. Keep stirring to allow the sugar to melt, but probably not all of it will stick.
Then pour everything onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Set the almonds aside, separating them from the sugar that didn’t stick (you may not have any).
Put the sugar into a saucepan, together with another 50 g of sugar. Add a little more colouring and few spoons of water.
Bring to the boil over low heat, until the residual pink sugar has melted.
In the meantime, place the almonds back into the frying pan, without turning on the heat.
Bring the syrup at 124°C, check the temperature with a thermometer.
When the syrup is close to 124°C, switch on the burner under the frying pan and then pour the syrup, always stirring.
Coat the almonds as thoroughly as possible with the syrup, which again will take a grainy appearance.
Keep stirring for a while more, allowing the sugar that’s not sticking to melt.
Transfer again the contents of the pan onto the parchment paper and separate the almonds from the residual sugar.
Place the residual sugar into the saucepan together with the remaining 50 g of sugar, a little more colouring and a few spoons of water.
Allow to melt and bring once again to a temperature of 124° C.
Place for the last time the candied almonds in the frying pan, switch on the heat and, always stirring, add the syrup at the correct temperature.
After this third step the almonds will be well coated.
Keep stirring to allow the syrup to melt, sticking to the almonds. Pour onto the parchment paper and separate each almond.
Heat the oven to 70°C and bake the candied almonds for 45 minutes to dry them out completely.
After that, you can store them for a good length of time in a glass or tin airtight container.
INGREDIENTS & METHOD
For the cookies with pink candied almonds
Makes approximately 20 cookies
130 g excellent quality softened butter
75 g superfine sugar
1 egg at room temperature
2 pinches of flower of salt (or regular salt)
1 vanilla pod
180 g all-purpose flour (type 00)
125 g pink candied almonds (roughly chopped with a mortar or a rolling pin)
25 g walnut kernels (roughly chopped)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
For the Cookies with pink candied almonds and walnuts: in a bowl mix the softened butter with the sugar until you obtain a white, fluffy creamy mixture.
Add the seeds of the vanilla pod and the salt.
Add the lightly beaten egg.
Add the flour, mixed with the baking powder and sifted, then the walnuts and pink candied almonds, roughly chopped.
Don’t mix the dough for too long, just the time to compact it.
Place the dough on the counter and give it a cylindrical shape of approximately 4 cm diameter; cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 160 ° C. Cut the cylinder into slices and place them, well separated, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Bake your Cookies with pink candied almonds and walnuts for approximately 20 minutes, a little longer if you prefer your cookies to be crunchier.