I know these cookies don’t look like Horseshoes….and they don’t looked dipped in chocolate either. I’ll explain later. :)
I tasted these cookies for the first time the other night when I was asked if I wanted to play Mah Jong. It seems the group I was going to play with was short a person and I was asked if I wanted to sub. Okay…but I haven’t a clue how to play.
Don’t worry I was told. It’s easy. You’ll catch on quick.
From what I could gather, Mah Jong is a Chinese game that uses tiles instead of cards. Instead of suits you have things like Craks, Bams, and Dots. The North, South, East, and West Winds make an appearance, and then you have to deal with the tiles from “the wall”, and there are quints and flowers. And don’t get me started on the dragons.
I can honestly say I came away from the evening still not knowing how to play but I was pretty sure I grew a few more brain cells and I think I had fun.
The real reason I said Yes was that it was being hosted at Jane’s house. And Jane knows how to throw a good party. It was there at Jane’s house playing Mah Jong that I was introduced to the World’s Finest Cookie. And I NEVER exaggerate.
Jane served a tray of Chocolate Dipped Almond Horseshoe Cookies that she picked up a the Simple Kneads Bakery in downtown Greensboro, NC. These cookies were in the shape of a horseshoe and coated with sliced almonds. The cookie was chewy and so flavorful and was delightful with a cup of hot coffee. Decaf of course…I mean it was 9:30 at night! Of course my first choice is to buy these cookies whenever possible. But since I do not live live near downtown I wanted to try my hand at making them myself to see how close I could come to getting them to taste like what I had a the Mah Jong party.
Here is the recipe that I found on line and I decided to give it a try. These tasted just like what I had at Jane’s. The recipe is from the December 1991 issue of Gourmet magazine. They have a short shelf life and if not eaten right away they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. And these are gluten free is that is important to you!
Chocolate Dipped Almond
2 Cups almonds, sliced and very lightly crushed, about 6 ounces.
7 ounces almond paste, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened,) chopped. Semi-sweet may be used instead. White Chocolate is nice too. :)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray 1 baking sheets with nonstick spray. Spread almonds on a separate rimmed baking sheet. Place almond paste and sugar in processor (I mixed in my Kitchen Aid Mixer) and process until blended. Add egg whites, 1 at a time, blending well between additions.
Spoon dough into pastry bag fitted with plain 5/8 inch wide tip. Pipe one 6 inch long log of dough atop almonds on rimmed sheet. Gently roll dough in almonds. coating completely. (Dough is sticky.)
Transfer to prepared sheets, bending dough ends to create horseshoe shape with 1 1/2 inch wide space between ends. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies about 1 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden, about 18 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.
Line another baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate in medium metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Dip ends of 1 cookie into chocolate, tilting pan if necessary. Shake cookie gently to remove excess chocolate. Place cookie, rounded side up, on foil lined sheet. Repeat with remaining cookies.
I have never used Almond Paste in a recipe before but I know it is what makes these cookies taste so good. The recipe is basically almond paste, sugar and egg whites. That’s it. Now you will notice that I had to strike out the word “horseshoe” because try as I might I could not get these cookies to keep a horseshoe shape as I rolled them in the sliced almonds. So, I did what any enterprising baker would do….I rolled them into little almond coated balls and baked them up just like a regular cookie. I even stopped by Williams Sonoma today to get a pastry bag and some tips because I did not have a set. The cookie dough is so sticky and soft that I still think you will need the pastry bag so my purchase was not un-needed. Anyway, they turned out beautiful! And because I am in calorie saving mode…after all it’s still January….I did not dip my cookies in the melted chocolate. I’ll add that extra bit of hip padding some other time. :)
So I am still deciding if I want to become a regular at the Mah Jong table and even if I decide not to, it was a fun evening and I got to discover these little gems. I’ll be making them again soon. So good with a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea.