Fruit-filled Almond Cookies with Fresh Grapes, Cranberries or Blueberries

Fruit filled almond cookies (6)This recipe started with a meditation on a grape. I’d been enjoying sweet, crisp grapes in the height of their season, and wondered what I could do to celebrate them in the form of dessert. After all, good grapes deserve so much better than the icky purple gum, candy and soda that often represent them. This well-known flavoring, of course, is supposed to taste something like wondrous Concord grapes with their distinctive tang and sweetness. But no matter what, it always tastes like a bad imitation to me.  Fresh, real Concord grapes are truly different and wonderful — but this time, I decided to honor the more common red table grape by making it the center of a new cookie recipe.

Fruit filled almond cookies (4)I chose small, firm grapes and wrapped each one in almond paste (marzipan’s less-sugary cousin).  Then I enveloped them in speckled almond dough and drizzled them all with a bit of wine-spiked icing. The result was downright delicious: a crisp, nutty homage to the burst of fruit at the core of every bite. But then I thought, why stop with one fruit?  Tart whole cranberries would offer a wintery alternative to the grapes — one whose rush of sourness would balance the sweetness of the cookie.  And alongside these, a fresh blueberry variety would offer another vibrant yet delicate center to the otherwise almondy treats. Take your pick or make all three! Here’s the recipe.

Fruit-filled Almond Cookies: Grape, Cranberry or Blueberry (makes about 24)

For the cookies:Fruit filled almond cookies (1)

  • 24 fresh whole cranberries, small seedless organic grapes, or fresh blueberries — firm but ripe, stems removed
  • 7 ounces almond paste, such as Odense
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature; plus 2 teaspoons melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the icing (optional):

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons wine; or cranberry, blueberry or lemon juice

Rinse and dry fruit. Measure out a rough teaspoon of almond paste, flatten it into a disc with your fingers, and wrap a piece of fruit with it. Continue until all fruit is individually enclosed in almond paste. (This is a sticky process; you’ll have to stop to rinse your hands often. And you may have a little extra almond paste when done). Set wrapped fruit aside.

Fruit filled almond cookies (14)In a large bowl, beat the sugar with the 1/3 cup softened butter until smooth and pale. Add the egg and beat it in completely, then do the same with the extract. Sift over the bowl: flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. (Here, sifting is meant to remove the clumps, not to omit the little flecks of almond skin; include any non-clumpy speckles of almond in your dough that are left behind in your sifter/sieve.)  Mix until dough sticks together, adding melted butter along the way. Just when it has a consistent texture, measure out rough tablespoons of dough. Flatten each tablespoon of dough slightly, then enclose an almond-paste-wrapped piece of fruit in it. Roll in hands to make a round ball. Repeat until all fruit is enclosed in dough. Freeze raw cookies for 15-20 minutes.

Fruit filled almond cookies (13)While the raw cookies chill, preheat oven to 350 F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. To make the icing, place powdered sugar in a bowl and add your liquid of choice one tablespoon at a time, whisking well. Cover tightly until ready to use.  Bake the chilled cookies on prepared baking sheets for about 25 minutes, until becoming golden brown. Transfer to wire racks.  Once cookies have completely cooled, drizzle the icing across them using a pastry bag, fork or plastic baggie with a small corner cut off.  Let icing fully dry before serving.  Store covered in a cool area or fridge; eat within 3 days.

Fruit filled almond cookies (10)Nutty and buttery with sweet amaretto flavor, these indulgent cookies offer a crisp shell with a sweet, soft core.  Visible speckles of almond foreshadow the rich paste within, celebrating and surrounding the bit of fruit at each treat’s center.  The grape version is juicy and mild; the blueberry is dark yet delicate; and the cranberry is scrumptiously sour and seasonal at once. Like the grapes that inspired this recipe, these cookies might seem like nothing special — but they are genuinely worthy of festivity and even favoritism.  I admit, they have now won this rank under my roof.

Fruit filled almond cookies (8)Maybe next time…  This recipe’s easy-to-work-with dough makes it as versatile as it is delicious. Of course, options for alternative centers are practically never-ending: most fresh fruits that are not too oozy should work well. I once made a related version filled with hunks of candied ginger, and I trust that other dried fruit would also be divine. A heap of finely grated lemon or orange zest in the dough will surely complement the filling. (Perhaps lemon-blueberry or cranberry-orange? I’m definitely making one of these next time!).  In place of icing, drizzled melted chocolate could be used for extra richness — though these flavorful treats don’t necessitate either.

Fruit filled almond cookies (15)Fruit filled almond cookies (5)Fruit filled almond cookies (12)

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15 Responses to Fruit-filled Almond Cookies with Fresh Grapes, Cranberries or Blueberries

  1. katy says:

    Moriah, this is so wonderful and for so many reasons; I’ve recently been thinking about grapes myself–about how overlooked they are in terms of baked goods–and then decided to do something about it (I ended up making a galette with them, which I have yet to blog about; let’s just say I’m a little behind schedule). In any case, it’s nice to see that you and I were on a similar baking wavelength; maybe it was something in the Berkeley air? :) I like the sound of grapes combined with amaretto and swaddles in buttery goodness.

  2. Oh my gosh, what a brilliant idea! And everything you make is so gorgeous too! Loved the process shots, like swaddling a tiny grape in buttery goodness:)

  3. Bill Lorber says:

    Wow! Who gets to eat all of these delicious creations? How about an oven to table program?

    Fee based – of course :)

  4. Yes, why stop at grapes although that is so unique an idea. These are really beautiful and if you find that you just can’t stop then I will send you my address.

  5. Erica says:

    This recipe looks truly delicious! The photos are beautiful too…

  6. jen says:

    Oh this sounds delicious, what a great idea and now I have many fruity cookies running through my head for the festive season!

  7. Ah, what a clever idea, to wrap a grape in a cookie! I wonder, do you think this could work with any more traditional, pantry-ingredient cookie base? (I don’t buy almond paste or any fancy ingredients like that.)

    • Thanks, Avra-Sha. I’ve skipped the almond paste successfully in this recipe, and I’m sure you could simply replace the almond meal with flour. Keep the rest of the recipe the same, and this will give you a more basic sugar cookie for wrapping the fruit. I’d love to hear about it if you try it!

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