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A Cookie Perfect for Any Occasion

There could be worse quandaries than trying to successfully celebrate Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year on the exact same day this year.

But after much hunting, I think I’ve found the perfect cookie to sweeten both holidays memorably.

“Pinched Orange Macaroons” is from the December 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. These dainty, two-bite delights first caught my eye because they use my favorite ingredient of almond paste.

Egg whites lighten them, giving them a crunchy exterior that gives way to a very chewy center. Almond paste plus almond extract up the nutty factor. Fresh grated orange zest and a splash of Grand Marnier give them a perky, wake-me-up citrus jolt, even more so because I added some King Arthur Orange Emulsion that I happened to have on hand. The emulsion, of which I received a sample, is a concentrated orange flavoring stronger than regular extract.

What I especially love about these powdered sugar-dusted cookies is that they look like those fancy little mignardises that arrive at your table to soften the blow just before the check does at swank, white table-cloth restaurants.

With oranges a symbol of sweetness and wealth in Asian cultures, these cookies make the perfect treat for the Lunar New Year. And with their rustic kiss-like shape, they’re innocently romantic enough for Valentines of any age.

These macaroons are sure to make both holidays doubly delectable.

Pinched Orange Macaroons

(makes 5 dozen)

2 large egg whites

1 pound almond paste

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for surface and coating

1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract

3/4 teaspoon orange emulsion (optional)

1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Grand Marnier, Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. Beat 1 egg white, the almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, almond extract, and orange emulsion (if using) with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add Grand Marnier and orange zest, and beat until combined, about 1 minute.

Turn out dough onto a clean surface lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar. The dough will be quite sticky. Roll into two 3/4-inch-thick logs, about 18 inches long. Cut each log crosswise into 30 (1/2-inch) pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Lightly beat remaining egg white. Brush onto each dough ball, and roll in sugar, tapping to remove excess. Transfer to prepared baking sheets. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Gently pinch each piece of dough with three fingers to form an irregular pyramid shape. Bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.

Note: Macaroons can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.

— Adapted from a recipe from Patrick Lemble, executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, as published in Martha Stewart Living, December 2009

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