Almond-cherry cookies tout gluten-free tang

If Americans can embrace cranberries in their sweets, then sour cherries shouldn’t be such a stretch. Yet the flavor remains firmly rooted in the Old World.

I’ve professed in this blog my fondness for dried sour cherries that bordered on obsession during pregnancy. That tang, without the chemical aftertaste of candies, was an essential ingredient for combatting nausea and perking up my apathetic palate.

Rewind three Christmases, and I could have eaten these cookies by the dozen. Even now, there are plenty of reasons to add these to my holiday-baking lineup.

Combining blanched almonds, sugar and egg whites in the dough, they’re a great gluten-free option during this carb-laden season. And the method of simply soaking dried fruit and then encasing the drained morsels in dough, without the need to concoct a filling, saves time and extraneous ingredients.

I’d probably give the cherries an extra kick with a soak in kirsch. This recipe could even be adapted to rum-soaked raisins, if that’s more to your liking.

Tribune News Service photo

Bartavelle’s Almond-Sour Cherry Cookies

About 30 dried sour cherries

1 pound blanched almonds

2 cups sugar, preferably organic

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pinch sea salt

Soak the cherries in hot water to soften. Drain and squeeze out excess water.

Using a food processor, grind together the almonds and sugar to a fine, flour-like consistency. Add the egg whites, almond extract and salt; pulse until mixture comes together. Cover and chill dough. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325 F.

Use a small scoop or large spoon to portion dough into 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) balls. Poke a hole in each and insert 1 cherry, then roll to make a smooth, round ball.

Space cookies about 2 inches apart on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet and flatten each ball slightly.

Bake cookies until lightly colored, for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway for even coloring. Be careful not to overbake. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

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