Every Easter (and Christmas) when I was a child, my mother and I would bake kahk (sugar cookies made with ghee) and petit fours cookies. Petit fours (pronounced peu – tee – foor) is French for “small oven”, and it’s used to refer to the little homemade buttery biscuits that are often served with tea. It was a tradition in our household to make petit fours before every feast, and I looked forward to it more than anything … probably because we very rarely baked any other time during the year.
I had a plastic yellow table and bright red chair that I would set out in front of the little kitchen in our apartment, and I would gather all my plastic baking equipment in preparation of the big baking day. I’d organize my little rolling pin, tin cookie cutter shapes, and colorful baking pans on the table and wait for my mother to give me a little amount of simple flour-and-water dough to play with while she baked her famously delicious cookies. I cannot give my mother full credit for the recipe however, because it was my grandmother who taught her how to make kahk and petit four. It was a yearly tradition in my grandma’s house long before it became a tradition in ours. I’d spend hours shaping and reshaping the dough, making designs and pretending to have developed my own recipe. Once the real cookies were ready to be baked, I’d hand over my tray of star and tree shaped cookies to be “baked” too. Made of just flour and water, they’d come out as hard as a rock and were completely inedible, but it was still nice to find a way to participate in the festivities.
When I got married, I took up cooking as a creative outlet. After much experimentation, trial and error, and a lot of inspiration from my grandparents’ fail-proof recipes, I got a few things right. However, with baking, I didn’t have as much practice, nor did I have the patience to follow exact measurements. So often, my baking attempts were disasters. More recently, I’ve fallen in love with raw (no-bake) desserts, which have been a delicious relief for me. This Easter, however, I wanted to relive the old times, and bake cookies that were more traditional. But I broke up with wheat-based flours close to a year ago because of the gluten therein. I’m not allergic to it, but I find that I feel better when I’m not eating it. (Brenda, co-author of midEATS recently found out she is sensitive to it too). So I knew that I needed to use another type of gluten-free flour. Gluten-free baking with things like rice flour and xanthan gum isn’t accessible to me, so I chose a simple one-ingredient ‘flour’ instead: almond flour. For those avoiding gluten and grains, baking with almond flour is a welcome option. Almonds are healthy, natural and don’t require a lot of complicated preparation. In fact, baking over 30 petit fours cookies made with almond flour took me just 20 minutes … total. And as I mentioned, I’m a novice when it comes to baking.
You can grind blanched almonds to make almond flour pretty easily, but knowing that I was going to experiment quite a bit with gluten-free baking, I bought a 5lb bag of almond flour from Amazon. It’s economical for the quantity, though I’m sure that grinding your own in bulk in a food processor might be cheaper (and fresher) if you have the time. I keep mine in the freezer, and only take out the amount I need a few hours ahead of time so it can lose its coolness.
Making these petit fours were much easier than I anticipated. All the ingredients I considered where available in my kitchen, so I didn’t need to go out and buy anything specific to make this happen. It’s as easy as bringing out a food processor, adding the ingredients, giving it a whirl, shaping the dough into little cookies and baking them for 8-9 minutes till cooked.
As you can see in the pictures, there are dark ones and light ones. They are the same exact cookie. The only difference? The dark ones were broiled for literally an extra minute for the top to brown. Most of my family liked the roasted taste of the dark ones more. The inside is still nice and chewy/doughy, but the outside is crisper. The lighter ones are melt-in-your mouth soft, but still hold together very well and are not at all crumbly.
I would say that this baking experiment was a huge success! I’m certain that with a little creativity, this basic petit fours recipe can be adapted to include extra spices, shredded coconut, chocolate, homemade jam between two cookies (as we used to do with petit fours when I was a kid), etc … the possibilities are endless. But this time, I ate them solo and plain, with a warm cup of black tea with milk in the morning … and they hit the spot every time!
Grain-Free Petit Fours Recipe (Gluten-Free Almond Cookies)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7-9 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert almond flour Christmas Easter cookie Egyptian French fall spring summer winter
Ingredients (30-35 cookies)
- 2 1/3 cups almond flour, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup fat (I used 1/4 coconut oil and 1/4 grass-fed ghee – I loved the mixture, but you can use one or the other with the same results)
- 1 pastured or organic egg, beaten
- 5 tablespoons honey or 100% pure maple syrup
- 2 1/4 teaspoons fair-trade vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon organic almond extract (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
- 1 teaspoon unrefined salt
(1) Preheat oven to 350F.
(2) Mix the almond flour, fat and sweetener. In a food processor, mix the almond flour, fat (I used a combination of coconut oil and ghee), and honey or maple syrup.
(3) Mix the egg and extracts. In a separate blender, beat the egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, baking soda and salt.
(4) Combine the mixtures. Pour the egg-extract mixture into the processor with the almond flour mixture, and whirl until well incorporated.
(5) Shape petit fours. Shape 1 teaspoon-sized pieces of the dough into round cookies, and add to baking sheet, gently pressing down very slightly to flatten a bit. Space cookies at least an inch apart because they expand. You can make smaller cookies if you wish, or larger. These were about one and half to two inches wide.
(6) Bake petit fours. Stick baking sheet in preheated oven and bake for 7-9 minutes. If you keep for an extra minute, they get darker. For the darker cookies, I kept for 8 minutes, and then ‘broiled’ for a minute to get the top to brown. Since I was trying it for the first time, I wanted to test the texture of both the light and dark ones, and I’m happy to report that each was tasty in its own way. Be very careful and monitor the cookies carefully so they don’t burn.
(7) Leave to set. After baking, leave out on the counter to set for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy warm, with a glass of milk or tea. To store, keep in a sealed container on the counter for up to a week.