the crunch before christmas

by hungryrabbit on December 10, 2010

Salted Praline Batons

With holiday spirit building, it’s time to make of cookies, cakes and candy. With a boost of from the scent of freshly cut Christmas trees on sale every few blocks along New York City sidewalks and department store holiday windows, the kitchen calls.

My dear friends Danny and Gene have their version of a December tradition—a massive cookie production routine with the goods distributed to friends and family: favorites from years past, family heirloom recipes, and new additions. The organization and timing of this affair is quite impressive. I remember being trapped in the corner of their apartment surrounded by tray after tray of the baked and the unbaked. They easily choreographed the mixing, shaping, baking, and cooling in a non-stop, all-day swirl. They certainly fueled  my interest in baking.

Since I am not doing a high-volume production of multiple varieties—at least not this year—the hard part is to decide what to bake. Do I want a holiday flavor such as gingerbread or simply go for decadence with chocolate? Should they be simple, comfort cookies or fully designed and decorated like a Christmas ornament?

After more thought, I decided on a cookie with a balance of sweet and saltiness. Considering all the sugary treats at this time of year, the bit of unexpected saltiness will definitely grab your attention. Salted Praline Batons has elements that I love. The few specks of salt flakes contrast and compliment the sweet caramel flavor. A crunchy sprinkle of almond praline on a buttery crispy cookie gives it an illusion of holiday sparkles.

I suppose the only thing missing is chocolate, but there’s time for that in the new year.

Salted Praline Batons

recipe adapted from Miraglia Eriquez and Chou
make about 48 cookies

For praline
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoon water
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

For cookies
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sugar
1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Make praline
1. Line a baking pan with silicon pad or parchment, set aside..

2. Place sugar and water in a 4-quart (medium, heavy bottom) sauce pan over medium heat, stirring with spatula until combined,  let mixture come to a boil. Continue the process, use pastry brush and cold water to brush side of pan to eliminate crystallization, until it turns golden, about 5 minutes.

3. When sugar mixture has reached desire color, remove from heat, add toasted almonds, stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan in a thin layer and let ooh completely, about 30 minutes. Remove praline onto a chopping board and chop into small uneven pieces.

Make cookies
1.Preheat oven to 325°F, position rack in middle position. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a Ateco #0804 tip/3/8-inch plain tip.

2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flour and table salt, set aside.

3. Pulse almonds with sugar in a food processor until finely ground.

4. Place butter and sugar mixture in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, add egg whites and extracts, beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 batches until just combined well.

5.Transfer batter to prepared pastry bag, then dab some batter under corners of parchment to secure to baking sheets.

6. Pipe 5-inch-long strips (about ⅓ inch wide) 1½ inches apart in 2 rows (see photo) on one baking sheet.

7. Bake for 7 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle generously with praline and lightly with sea salt. Continue baking until cookies are baked through and golden-brown on edges, 12-15 minutes more. (Turn baking sheets if cookies are browning unevenly.) Slide parchment with cookies onto racks to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).

8. While first baking sheet is in the oven, pipe batter onto second sheet. Repeat Step 7 when first sheet of cookies is done.

Cook’s Notes
1. Praline can be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
2. Cookies keep, layered between sheets of parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa December 10, 2010 at 8:45 am

These look absolutely perfect for my palette! You are my hero (= Salt & sweet are my kind of thing!

Victoria (District Chocoholic) December 10, 2010 at 8:54 am

You could, you know, dip these in chocolate. Or serve them alongside Nutella. But they look tasty on their own.

azélias kitchen December 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

good looking photo of your sticks!

Mark Scarbrough December 10, 2010 at 9:18 am

Since I am way more about the salt than the sweet, this seems a recipe made for me. Absolutely divine.

catty December 10, 2010 at 9:22 am

This looks DELICIOUS, although that first photo is a little phallic ;) heheh.. xx

Joan Nova December 10, 2010 at 9:23 am

I recently decided to try my hand at baking (I’ve been resisting) and am participating in my first Xmas cookie bake on Saturday. Like Lisa, this suits my taste too. I may give it a whirl.

Deeba December 10, 2010 at 10:07 am

These are utterly gorgeous Ken. I ♥ sweet bordering on savoury. BTW Catty’s comment is cracking me up … LOL LOL LOL!

Jara December 10, 2010 at 10:44 am

these look like these would make for great snacks/treats. I love anything praline flavoured. Great recipe and photos. Thanks for sharing!

Margaret December 10, 2010 at 11:38 am

Wow, these cookies look amazing. I also love the savory/sweet contrast. Great techniques too as these cookies are perfectly piped! Looking at your baked goods always inspire me to want to bake.

Jamie December 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

These are absolutely beautiful, Ken, especially all piped out in perfect rows. And who doesn’t love a bit of salty with their sweet? I love Breton cookies because they are made with salted butter. Yum. Now I have to try these! And your friends’ cookie production sounds, well, complicated and something not to try alone! But way loads of fun – unless you are trapped in a corner :-)

Michelle Maskaly December 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I tried these at the cookie swap and they were so good!

Basia December 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I’ll add these to my marathon baking session, they look great. Terrific photography.

Andrea@High/Low December 13, 2010 at 8:07 am

Between the salt and the crunch, my husband enjoyed these creations of yours! So good seeing you on Friday and safe travels on Wed!

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef December 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm

All I can say is yum yum yum!!!!

stephchows December 13, 2010 at 1:59 pm

mmm even without any chocolate these sound amazing!!

Su-yin December 13, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Love this! I wish I was your neighbour ;)

p.s. I agree with Catty! Food porn on so many levels, heh.

Katie Yoo December 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

They look so crispy and yum! I wish I can have one now^^

Winnie December 13, 2010 at 6:49 pm

These were super delicious and it was wonderful to see you again in NYC. Have a fantastic time in Hong Kong (I think that’s where you are going), and hopefully we can meet up for another lunch when you’re back!

Joyti December 14, 2010 at 3:59 am

Those sound delicious! Pecans are always great…

Jackie December 14, 2010 at 7:45 am

Wow, when I first looked at that top photo I thought it looked a little obscene, but on reflection that’s more MY mind than yours ;) Although, having said that, it appears to be Catty’s mind too!

These look lovely! Have a wonderful trip, see you before too long!

Jax x

Daydreamer Desserts December 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Cracking up with all the “stick” innuendos… LOL that being said, they do look delightful! Happy Holidays Ken! XO

momgateway December 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm

need to bake some cookies soon and I think I’ll start with these…

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