Sunday, November 3, 2013

Butter cookies with mastic and almonds

A couple of months ago I took a short trip to the island of Bozcaada (or Tenedos in Greek). I say short trip, thanks to traffic it took about 10 hours to get there and another 10 hours to get back so it felt like a very long trip. The island was scenic and beautiful, but as always the most memorable element in my mind is the food I ate. And this included, among some delicious sea bass, these mastic butter cookies. They were sold at this tiny little bakery and they were so popular that there was a large queue of people buying them in multiples of 10 when we arrived in the morning. I decided to buy 10 as well to take back to my family, but they were so warm and tasty that I devoured half of them in about 5 mins. I am not ashamed to say that there were only a couple left by the time I got back home (maybe I am a little ashamed). 

Anyway, I've been meaning to make them ever since I got back. I finally got around to buying the mastic and got some free time on my hands, so I decided to get down to it. My advice is to eat while they're warm!

Ingredients (makes about 35 cookies):
2/3 cup almonds (or other nuts)
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup icing sugar (plus additional to powder the cookies)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of mastic (also sold as gum arabic or acacia gum)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Place the almonds on a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes or until dark and crunchy. Grind in food processor until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Separately grind the mastic to powder.

Beat the icing sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Separately mix together the flour, salt and mastic. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar butter mixture. Stir in the chopped almonds and mix until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Cover the baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll the dough into small pieces (2cm wide) and place a few centimetres apart on the tray. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are brown. When the cookies have cooled slightly, about 5-10 mins later, powder the tops with icing sugar and serve when still warm (preferably).

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