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I first started reading my mother's dog-eared issues of Gourmet magazine not for the recipes, but for the travel pieces. I still unapologetically devour books that fall under the category "armchair travel," no matter how cliché the image of an urbanite curled up on a rainy day, reading Peter Mayle, may seem.
Yes, Peter Mayle. I read and reread A Year In Provence (and fine, everything else that he's ever written, including that one about being a dog) countless times, creating a mental picture of Provence so clear it was hard to remember that I hadn't actually been there. And you know, when I finally did arrive, it was almost exactly as I had imagined. The colors. The happiness of lingering over a glass of rosé on a sunny patio. And the almonds. Oh, the almonds.
I love almonds in every conceivable form. I'm particularly addicted to nougat and the slightly chewy, deeply flavored Provencal calissons were a revelation. There was another almond sweet that I had forgotten about until one (rainy) day when I was wistfully flipping through my copy of The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells. She calls these wedges croquants, which is probably their name (she has lived in Provence for 20-plus years) though croquants also refer to a crunchy cookie similar to Italian biscotti.
Whatever their name, these are delicious. They're also ridiculously simple to make: egg whites, a bit of flour, and honey bind together whole almonds. The mixture is baked until it puffs into a chewy, nutty, candy-cookie hybrid. I add plump dried cherries for added sweetness and red fruit flavor. At once simple, sticky, and bursting with flavor, I promise these will be the first thing to go from a cookie plate.
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