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Renata's Vanilla Crescents

1 cup (about 6 ounces) unblanched almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 12 to 16 pieces and softened (we used regular butter)
Juice and grated zest (peel) of 1/2 small lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla confectioners' sugar or sifted confectioners' sugar for dusting

Place the almonds and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the almonds are ground, about 1 minute. (We did this in a blender and then dumped the mixture into a large mixing bowl.) Add the remaining sugar, flour and salt and pulse the mixture 3 or 4 times until the ingredients are well-mixed. (We stirred everything together using a fork.) Distribute the butter evenly on top of the almond mixture. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, rind and vanilla and process until you have a smooth, soft dough. (If using a mixer, beat well. Then, use your hands to mix together. You'll have nice soft dough that's easy to work with.) Scrape the dough out onto a piece of wax paper and form it into a ball. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours, or until firm but not rock-hard.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or butter them.

Divide the dough into quarters and cut each quarter into 14 pieces. Roll the pieces into cigar shapes about 3 inches long and tapered at the ends, then curve them into crescents. (The cookies can now be frozen for later baking.) Place the cookies 3/4 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets and bake in the middle of the oven for 13 to 18 minutes, or just until golden at the edges. Cool the cookies for 2 or 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then carefully transfer to racks set over wax paper. While they are still warm, generously dust them with vanilla confectioners' sugar or plain confectioners' sugar. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Tester's note: These cookies baked very quickly, so begin watching them after nine or 10 minutes. Remove from oven when they are golden brown. Makes 65 cookies.

"The Christmas Cookie Book,"
by Judy Knipe and Barbara Marks
Tested by Johnna A. Pro

Thursday, December 07, 2000

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