The 1st Day of Christmas: A16 Cookies

Makes 4 dozen 

These cookies are amazing.

In December of 2010 I helped my good friend Alanna host a large holiday party. We had both recently purchased the A16 Food + Wine cookbook, and our spread featured several dishes from it. Among the things we made were the Almond Croccante cookies featured here. Since then I have made these cookies every Christmas, a tradition I plan to continue.

The cookbook itself is named for San Francisco’s famed A16 restaurant. More than just authentic Italian food at its finest, this book showcases wine from the Campania region of Italy, informing readers of wine’s history, flavour profiles, and designations. This is serious business. I love this book because it pays homage to Italy’s rich culture, of which food is a fundamental part. Inside you will find recipes for genuine Neapolitan pizza, homemade pasta, and other classics like tuna conserva. You will also find useful information about the importance of ingredients that go into this cooking, and gain an understanding for how they are used in the cuisine. This includes the 00-flour (double zero) featured in this recipe.  

While the A16 book has many amazing recipes, I chose these cookies because they are so simple. Don’t let the basic ingredient list fool you. At first glance this recipe may appear unassuming, but these embody everything a good Italian cookie should be. They lend just the right amount of sweetness and crunch alongside a good cup of coffee. They also make a great accompaniment to mousse desserts (or as the book suggests: gelato, semifreddo, or panna cotta), adding the perfect crunchy element.

The ingredients as they are listed here are exactly as they appear in the book, with the method paraphrased. Credit: Chef Nate Appleman, A16 Food + Wine.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups 00-flour*
  • ¼ kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups sliced natural almonds

*If you can’t find 00-flour (“double zero”) flour you can substitute all-purpose. 00-flour is high in protein, and is responsible for making truly incredibly Neapolitan pizza crust, and lending itself to quality homemade pastas. In these cookies, it creates just the right amount of crunch, with a fine crumb. Look for the flour at specialty or Italian grocers.

Method

Combine sugar and butter in a stand mixer and beat with paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat briefly to incorporate.

Turn mixer to low and add flower and salt, followed by almonds, beating until just incorporated.

Empty dough onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and pat into a six inch square, splitting the dough in two sections so it is easier to work with if you like. Wrap and refrigerate for about an hour, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F. At this stage, you can roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness on a floured surface and cut to 1x2 inch squares, as the book suggests. I prefer to cut the square of dough into thirds and just thinly slice, as pictured below.

Place cookies one inch apart on prepared baking sheets lined with a silpat or parchment. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until golden. Depending on your oven, you may need to rotate pans during the cooking process.

Store in an airtight container for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to a month. One batch of these goes a long way, so I personally like to keep them in the freezer and pull them out over the holidays as needed.