Sealed with a kiss

There is a wide-spread misconception about The Casual Baker out there that requires immediate clarification. There is a belief, among some, that because I have an agenda and make lists with check boxes (I highly recommend this very satisfying approach) and obsess about crumbs on my plate as I'm eating desserts, among other idiosyncrasies, all aspects of my life must therefore be orderly, neat and tidy.

One look at my baking cupboards should be sufficient to shatter any such illusion. I begin with the best of intentions, but soon the half-used packages of recipe-specific ingredients begin to pile up and, before I know it, I'm simply tossing items up onto the upper shelves and quickly closing the cupboard doors behind. It's usually after something falls on my head or into a bowl of batter (this only actually happened once; the second time, I caught the bag of chocolate chips just inches above the bowl) that I cave, drag a chair over from the kitchen table and finally take a look at what's going on up there.

It was while sorting through this baking debris just the other day that I discovered an unopened box of marzipan. For the life of me, I can't recall what possessed me to buy sweetened almond paste in a sausage-like casing (maybe it looked neat?), but there it was just left of the Oreo cookie crumbs and just right of the assorted half-used bags of pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, etc. All of the recipes that I came across online called for almond paste and specifically discouraged substituting marzipan. Pshaw, I say. It's all almonds in the end.

These Almond Kisses are not a showy cookie by any stretch of the imagination, but they have a soft texture and fresh taste that nicely offsets the richness of the chocolate Kisses. While I don't think they'd qualify as a family favourite in our family of 2, I would make them again.

So, if you're still convinced that my spices are lined up alphabetically, my sugars are organized by shade and my flours are categorized by healthfulness, I encourage you to take a peek inside my cupboards the next time you're in the neighbourhood.

But maybe not today, since I just cleaned them.

Almond Kisses

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 box (7 ounces) marzipan
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3-1/2 cup sugar (for dipping the cookies)
~30 Hershey's Kisses (or 28, plus however many you plan on eating while you bake)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or reusable non-stick baking sheets. Unwrap chocolate Kisses. Place 1/3-1/2 cup of white sugar in a small bowl.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, grate marzipan using a large-holed grater. Add butter and beat well for 2-3 minutes. Add egg whites and vanilla and beat again until well mixed.

Add flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

Using a small ice cream scoop or your hands, form dough into 1-inch balls. Dip the balls into the sugar, one by one, and place on cookie sheets, leaving room for slight spreading during baking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly golden. Remove immediately to cooling racks and gently press a chocolate Kiss into the centre of each cookie. The cookies will crack slightly, but should still hold together. (The Kisses, meanwhile, will secretly be melting and gluing themselves to the cookies, but you'd never know it to look at them. Let cool completely before eating.

Yields about 28 cookies.

Note: If you're using almond paste (as opposed to marzipan) as the recipe actually suggests, add 1/2 cup of sugar in with the butter and almond paste mixture before you beat it for 2-3 minutes, and use only 2 cups of flour rather than 2 1/4 cups.

Source: Adapted from "Almond Cookies with Chocolate Kisses" from the Odense website.