What’s Your Poison? Almond Cookies

Almond Cookies

Once in a while you’ll hear this question from a bartender with a weird sense of humor inquiring about your choice of alcohol. Yet historically, famous people like Socrates would be politely invited to leave this world by selecting their preferred poison.

Socrates chose hemlock. Cleopatra, exquisitely played in the famous film by Elizabeth Taylor, took a poisonous asp to her breast (that was not a love bite!). Philosopher Demosthenes, a political enemy of Alexander the Great, according to Plutarch, filled his own writing quill with poison, went to a temple to assure himself some privacy, and sucked on it until he died (Plutarch, 559). But the most common poison, by far, the one served to many historical personages, from Dukes and Emperors, to Bishops and Popes, to KGB agents and their victims, was cyanide, recognized by the smell of bitter almonds (I am not even mentioning Hitler, may his name be eradicated forever, and several of his henchmen).

How has our favorite nutritious and delectable variety of nuts transformed from bitter to sweet and from poisonous to healthy? Hundreds of years ago, before farmers learned how to domesticate trees, a funky genetic mutation had “turned off” the ability of almond trees to produce the toxic compound (Nelson, NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR). Make no mistake, even a handful of wild bitter almonds contains enough cyanide to be potentially lethal (ibid.) but today most people are not even aware of their existence. Almond trees were cultivated about 3,000 years ago, among the first arboreal cultivations.

As on any tree, you should first see the buds, then they blossom into beautiful flowers, and finally, the tree produces fruit (yes, technically almonds are fruit, rather than nuts). However, there is a Biblical account of a strange miracle. At the end of the Book of Numbers (Bamidbar), we learn about the first attempt to challenge existing leadership of Moses and his brother Aaron. Korach, the chief troublemaker, is their first cousin, and he enlists a number of supporters, claiming that he has the same right to spiritual leadership as Aaron. “Okay, Moses as a leader I can understand, – he proclaims, – but Aaron as a High Priest? That’s pure nepotism, my people! Moses simply appointed his brother to a lucrative position! Keeping it all in the family, isn’t he? We demand proof that Moses’ decisions are Divinely dictated!”

Two hundred and fifty men, led by Korach, stormed Moses’ tent. Granted, 250 is a very small percentage of more than two million, the total number of Israelites at that time, but some measures needed to be taken, and Moses, as always, appealed to the A-mighty for guidance. He was instructed to place the staff of every prince of every tribe in the Holy of Holies, and the one whose staff blooms, would be the G-d’s chosen spiritual leader. Trying to avoid additional accusations, Moses then placed Aaron’s staff in the most disadvantageous place inside, rather than closer to the entrance. Nonetheless, Aaron’s staff not only bloomed, but appeared to have buds, flowers, and almonds on it at the same time!

A dry staff, a piece of wood, a symbol of leadership, cannot, all of a sudden, bloom. It is only the essence of authority, the first step. Buds, the second step in this miraculous transformation, symbolize potential, and flowers, the third step, is the ability that charms the eye and gladdens the heart. But at that time, 3,000 years ago, almonds were still wild, bitter, and poisonous. The wondrous miracle was not only in causing the dry wood blossom, and not only in having all three steps occur simultaneously, but also and most importantly, in making the third step, almonds, sweet and nourishing, bringing them to actuality (Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, https://www.inner.org). Perhaps, this was the strange genetic mutation, recognized by science, that had turned almonds from poisonous to sweet.

To celebrate the potential of 2021, our ability to make positive changes in the world finally actualize our hopes, I made totally dietetic, yet sinfully delicious almond cookies.

An easier three-ingredient cookie you have never made. Simply mix almond flour with sugar or substitute, add some baking powder, and mix with water. It is a good idea to refrigerate dough for about 10 minutes, to make it more workable. At this point you can either fashion plain cookies or add anything you want: chocolate, vanilla, nuts, etc., either as an ingredient or as filling. I chose to roll balls, indent them, and fill the indents with sugar-free jam. Bake them for about 15 – 18 minutes, and you have a dozen delicious, gluten free, sugar free, plant-based cookies. While they are baking, enjoy a delightful piano improvisation by a Georgian prodigy Beka Gochiashvili on the music from a Russian film When Almonds Blossomed (music by Giya Kancheli):

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (112 g) blanched almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar or substitute (I use Xylitol)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Optional: Sugar free jam, chocolate chips, or nuts
  • Optional: a pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup water

PROCEDURE

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Mix dry ingredients
  • Gradually add water, mixing thoroughly to avoid lumps
  • Refrigerate for 10 minutes
  • Form balls, place on lightly misted with oil baking sheet about 2 inches apart
  • Indent center, fill with jam, chocolate chips, or nuts
  • Alternatively, mix unsweetened cocoa, chocolate chips, or chopped nuts of your choice into the dough
  • Bake for 15 – 18 minutes until firm to the touch
  • Cool on rack

Enjoy!

About the guest author:

undefined Dolly Aizenman is the brainchild behind Kool Kosher Kitchen (Which her blog and her book are named after).

This charismatic Russian blogger is fond of cooking and writing.

She has a BA in Art and Music Education, MA in English, MS in Education and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.

Published by koolkosherkitchen

I am a semi-retired educator. I love to cook and I love to write. I am trying to combine these two for no other purpose but to share some of my old favorite recipes, as well as some new inventions, and to exchange food ideas and opinions. Kosher food is just like any other food - fun to create and fun to experiment with, especially if you get kids involved! My book is found on amazon.com/author/koolkosherkitchen.

59 thoughts on “What’s Your Poison? Almond Cookies

  1. Great post👌 Who knew almonds had so much historical significance? Interesting that they’re considered a superfood now and yet they were once a poison! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Oh wow Dolly! I remember my Nanna’s Almond Cookies…they were divine. I remember her telling me this story. I had Hyperactivity so I missed alot of what she said. But reading your post it all came flooding back! Thank you for sharing the story of Almonds & your Almod cookie recipe!
    ((hugs)) Sherri-Ellen & **purrss** BellaDharma (trust me she wuud try one!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Sherri-Ellen; I am so pleased my humble post has elicited sweet memories!
      Meow and purrs to BellaDharma from The Cat Gang.
      P.S. My childhood nickname was Bella (we had Italian neighbors).

      Like

  3. Such beautiful blossoms… I love almond and apple blossom so very beautiful…Almond cookies or anything with almonds in it is one of my favourite flavours…Have a lovely weekly dear Dolly Hugs xx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your ability to combine ingredients, science, religion, and musical culture never ceases to amaze me, Dolly!
    I think I will try these cookies and wait till I have tasted them before I choose the filling. Prunes maybe? In France, prunes stuffed with marzipan are served as treats for the holidays — here’s a link to give you an idea:

    http://www.lesrecettesdemaud.fr/recettes/pruneau-fourre-a-la-pate-damande/

    But I could totally see a lemon, orange, or apple jelly filling! Thank you for the post, Dolly 😊! I hope you are well. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the link, dear Joelle. I have seen these cuties in Paris, but never realized what they were. As to my cookies, I now made them chocolate by simply mixing in a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa and topped them with dark chocolate chips. My husband liked them even better!
      Be well and stay safe, dear Joelle! 😻

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic! An almond cookie recipe that doesn’t require butter. This will be great! Thank you so much! (Nothing against butter but I’d love to be able to bake a sugar free, lower fat cookie that still tasted good) I can use my homemade marmalade in them!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: