Radically Simple Holiday Cookies

For the first time in 20 years, I had saltines in the house (the ones in that big green tin) and made the Saltine Cracker Brickle from this week's food section of the New York Times (12/15).  Not bad, actually.  Part cookie, part candy, it was made from just a handful of ingredients.  Such is the magic of butter, sugar and chocolate.  The paucity of ingredients had me thinking about the cookies and confections I've created during the past two (saltine-free) decades!   Some people are grateful for the three-ingredient gluten-free cookies I invented using roasted chickpea flour; beg for the little sandwich cookies made with Nutella; crave the simplicity of cinnamon crisps made, unexpectedly, from wonton wrappers; are intrigued by the cookies made from halvah, and charmed by the notion of "Cookies While You Sleep"-- crisp meringues that look like small snowdrifts.   These are little gifts from "me to you," so that they can be "from you to yours."   Maybe it's time to buy a nice big cookie jar.  (The big green Saltine tin would also work!)  Here are two favorites, but stay tuned for more!

Chickpea Flour Shortbread I first became familiar with chickpea flour in the south of France where I attended a cooking school run by Roger Verge.  It is the essential ingredient used for making socca, an indigenous pizza-like snack, thin and pliable, and blackened from wood-fired ovens.  This flour is also used for making fournade, a simple soup from Burgundy, and for panelle, little chickpea flour pancakes, familiar in the south of Italy.  I became so enamored with the stuff that I started experimenting and created this addictive little cookie, perfect for gluten-free diets.  Roasted chickpea flour can be found in Middle Eastern food markets and health food stores.  Plain (unroasted) can also be used. Instead of sprinkling them with powdered sugar at the end, you can dust them with multi-colored granulated sugar for a "holiday look."

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 2 cups roasted chickpea flour, plus more for dusting

Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add 1 cup confectioners' sugar and pinch of salt.  Mix well.  Stir in chickpea flour and mix until dough forms a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Sprinkle pastry board lightly with chickpea flour. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out into desired shapes (I use a fluted cookie cutter), about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Squares are also nice.  Prick each several times with a fork.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 25 minutes until golden and just firm.  Let cool.  Sprinkle generously with remaining sugar pushed through a sieve. Makes about 36 cookies Sesame Seed-Olive Oil Cookies (from Radically Simple) These taste like cookies you might expect to find at an old-world Italian pastry shop.  The olive oil gives them an interesting texture and flavor.

2 cups self-rising flour 2/3 cup sugar 2 extra-large eggs 1/2 cup olive oil 2 teaspoons almond extract 2/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.  Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and extract.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; it will be crumbly and slightly oily.  Form the dough into small ovals, about 1-1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide.  Roll the top and sides of each cookie in the sesame seeds.  Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Bake 25 minutes, until golden and just firm.  Cool  Makes 24