Greetings from Canada! I spotted this recipe from Etsy via Pinterest and thought the cookies were too cute not to make for this winter/holiday season. Not going to lie, these cookies are time-consuming to make as they need to be chilled for 1.5 hours, and the decorating takes some patience. However, I think they are totally worth it, and they taste similar to delicious bakery-made sugar cookies but with a hint of almond flavour.
Makes 20 cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 cups flour
pinch of salt
40 chocolate chips
20 whole almonds
1/2 cup almond slivers
cocoa powder for dusting
With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until just incorporated. Over-mixing will cause the cookies to spread while baking, according to the original recipe.
Add the egg and vanilla and almond extracts. Mix on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the flour and salt to the mixture and beat on low speed until the dough has formed and there are no more streaks of butter in the bowl. If your mixture is crumbly, add cold water, 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough clumps (I needed 5 tbsp.)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside about 1/2 cup of dough for later use and put in the refrigerator. Turn out the rest of the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper and place a second sheet over top. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an oblong disc between the sheets. Transfer this dough package on to one of the baking sheets and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and roll the dough thinner, aiming for a thickness of around 1/4 inch (you don’t want the cookies too thin). Cut out 3 inch round shapes and transfer onto the prepared baking sheets. Be careful not to stretch the circles. I only had a scalloped cookie cutter, but it worked to create the illusion of feathers!
Assemble your decorating bits into a bowl for easy reach.
Use the reserved chilled dough to create small marble-sized balls (40 in total) and place two at the top of each owl body.
Place a chocolate chip, point side down, into each dough ball and press down gently to form the owl eyes.
Add a whole almond between the two eyes for the owl beak.
Use your cookie cutter and gently imprint wings on each side of the cookie, making sure not to cut all the way through.
Add three slivered almonds on each side of the bottom of the owl to create the claws/feet.
Adding the almonds was incredibly fiddly and I couldn’t help but think of the creepy aye aye creature I recently watched on The Zoo (for those of you who watch UK telly, you might know the creature of nightmares to which I’m referring).
Use a butter knife or an edge of your spatula to score cross-hatching onto the wings to make a feather pattern.
Dust the wings with a little cocoa powder before baking.
Preheat the oven to 350F and bake the cookies 15-20 minutes. The almond claws will turn golden brown when the owls are finished baking.
Let them cool on the sheets a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.