Saturday, December 11, 2010

Almond Paste Crescents

It's 2 weeks until Christmas and I need to get started with my Christmas baking. There was a time when I would emulate my mother's Christmas baking by starting to bake cookies the day after Thanksgiving and make 13 or 14 different kinds of cookies. INSANITY! This year we are keeping things simple and only making our tried and true Christmas favorites.

This recipe for almond crescents is probably one of my favorite cookies I learned from my mother. They are extremely delicate and flaky with a soft chewy almond paste filling and are kind of a hassle to make, but are oh so worth the effort.

The recipe comes from the December 1974 issue of Family Circle magazine, which apparently was doing a story on Christmas cookies of the world. The proper name for these cookies is Kab el Ghzal as they are (according to Family Circle magazine) Moroccan in origin. To me they taste very European and are infinitely superior to the tired old dry crumbly boring almond-flavored shortbread crescents.

Almond Paste Crescents
(Kab el Ghzal)
makes 4 dozen

2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour (I use White Lilly)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
4 Tbsp. Ice water

Almond Paste Filling:
8 oz. almond paste (I use Odense)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup finely ground almonds

2 cups additional powdered sugar for dusting

In a food processor combine sifted flour and salt and pulse briefly to combine. Add chilled butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add Ice water and pulse until just combined... DO NOT OVER PROCESS or cookies will be tough. Divide dough into three equal-sized pieces, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Crumble almond paste into clean food processor. Add sugars and process until combined. Add ground almonds and egg and process until combined. Turn almond paste mixture onto floured surface (filling will be sticky). Divide almond mixture into three equally sized pieces. Shape each piece into a rope, 1/2 inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut into 16 1-inch pieces and set aside on wax paper-lined pan. Repeat with remaining almond mixture for 48 1-inch pieces of almond filling.

Making the almond filling pieces.

On a clean floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to a 12-inch square that is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into 16 3-inch squares. Place 1 piece of almond filling diagonally across center of dough square, lift one corner over, then roll up. Pinch ends closed and curve into a crescent.

Filling the cookies.

Place crescents on an ungreased baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake 12 minutes at 400 F until edges just begin to brown. Roll hot cookies carefully in powdered sugar (they are extremely fragile) and place on a baking rack to cool. Once cooled, roll in powdered sugar once again. Store in airtight container for up to 3 weeks in a cool dry location.


  1. OK I'm totally trying these tomorrow.

  2. These may be my favorite thing in your blog! On a serving tray, they remind me of Mexican Wedding Cookies, but when you bite into one, there's no comparison... these are ridiculously delicious!!

  3. My mom & I made these before Christmas & they were super yummy! They definitely were a bit time consuming but the final product was well worth it. Is there a way to add almond extract into the dough to have a more intense almond flavor?

  4. I am certain you could add almond extract to the dough, I would just add it (maybe a 1/4 tsp)to the ice water. Since the almond extract is alcohol based it will not make your dough soggy. Great idea! Glad you liked them! Mama Ozzy