Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bear Paw Butter Cookies

AKA Almond Spritz Cookies

Finally, we’re seeing more grizzly bear, and not just the occasional adult, but youngsters of all ages and sizes. Big bear, little bear, old bear, rowdy teenagers and brand new puppy-sized cubs all show up when the salmon return to spawn. When the salmon return to SE Alaska’s streams and rivers, so do the bear, but the bear are there to fish! To celebrate our recent bear watching adventures, I decorated a batch of Almond Spritz Cookies with slivered almonds to resemble bear paws with claws. Well, almost resemble… it's a work in progress. The unbaked cookies looked more like bear paws than the final baked product, so there’s a learning curve to be dealt with here. I'll think of it as an opportunity to try again... bake another batch… or two… soon.

Photo: Check out those impressive claws!
Adding a small amount of almond meal changed the cookie texture to a slightly grainier version of Spritz. That’s not an issue unless, like my onboard taste tester, you expect the more traditional soft, melt-in-your-mouth bite of a classic Spritz cookie. Change the name from Almond Spritz to Almond Butter Cookies and that textural difference is no longer a factor. The almond influence is subtle, you'll only taste a hint of the almond extract and almond meal, a nutty backnote that enhances the buttery vanilla flavor.

This first batch of Bear Paw Cookies was a success, tasty enough to disappear quickly and to create a demand for repeats while I tweak the appearance. We enjoyed the cookies, but we really loved the bear sightings they celebrated. (Check out some of the recent CruiseNews posts and enjoy a few grizzly photos along with your cookies.)

Bear Paw Butter Cookies
aka Almond Spritz Cookies

Based on a recipe in Dining on Deck by Linda Vail
Yields 3 ½ to 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, beaten
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond meal (ground almonds)
½ teaspoon salt
approx. ¼ cup slivered almonds (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (375 F in my galley oven)
  2. Use a stand mixer or handheld mixer to cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg and two extracts and beat until fluffy. Add the flour, almond meal and salt and mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Use a small cookie scoop or two spoons to form cookies the size of ping pong balls; place 1 ½ to 2 inches apart on parchment paper or a silicone mat lined cookie sheet.  Arrange 5 almond slivers on each cookie to resemble the claws of a grizzly bear.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven until lightly golden, roughly 6 to 8 minutes in my galley oven. Be careful not to overbake!
  5. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet immediately and place on a wire baking rack to cool. (If you leave them on the cookie sheet they will continue to cook, overbrowning the bottoms!)

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