Our online recipes are, in many ways, alive. They’re fluid and evolving, constantly being tweaked and updated to better perform in the kitchens of home bakers.
Case in point: our Almond Cloud Cookies. These cookies are delightfully chewy, with a rich, robust almond flavor. Not to mention a striking appearance with their dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
For a long time, this cookie recipe called for store-bought almond paste; specifically, a brand we carried in our online shop. But then we realized different almond paste brands perform slightly differently in these cookies. And a little while later, we debuted a new recipe for DIY Almond Paste, yet another option with which to bake.
All of these almond paste choices made us consider — how do these slight changes in ingredients affect our Almond Cloud Cookies?
Do we need to update the recipe for different types of almond paste? How can we make sure this recipe is successful for every baker, regardless of which ingredients they choose?
Those questions are too much for me, a lowly blog writer, to answer. They fall to our peerless test kitchen, a group of talented bakers who make sure that each and every King Arthur recipe is foolproof. The case of the cloud cookies fell to one test kitchen member in particular, Molly Marzalek-Kelly.
It was a daunting task to take on. “I love this cookie, and people love this cookie,” shared Molly. (She's not kidding; they're a staple at our Bakery and Café.) “So we were very mindful about what we were changing in the recipe.”
After many months of work, here’s how she landed on the newest version of the recipe currently on our site.
The almond paste options
Ultimately, there were three primary almond paste options that Molly focused on in her recipe testing.
The original recipe called for American Almond's Love 'n Bake almond paste; it was formulated specifically for that product because we offered it in our online shop.
But other almond paste brands, like Odense and Mandelin, are commonly found on grocery shelves. It was highly likely bakers would turn to one of these options to make the recipe instead, so non-Love 'n Bake brands needed to work too.
And finally, a third option: DIY Almond Paste. Made with just almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt, and almond extract, it’s a simple and delicious recipe that can be prepared in a few minutes, making it easy to turn into cookies.
The recipe testing variables
While testing each of these almond paste options in Almond Cloud Cookies, Molly focused on these factors:
- Package size*
*It may not seem obvious, but this was a practical consideration. Love 'n Bake comes in a 10-ounce package, while Mandelin and some other brands are sold in 16-ounce sizes. Molly wanted to keep these amounts in mind to make things easy for home bakers. After all, writing a recipe isn’t just about creating a delicious baked good, but also being efficient for the baker!
Putting Almond Cloud Cookies to the test
Molly tested this recipe for months, baking over 30 batches with various almond pastes, slight recipe tweaks, and rigorous comparisons.
One unique element about this recipe was that there weren’t many ingredients to play with: primarily almond paste, sugar, almond flour, and egg whites. So making adjustments to any of them proved to be both crucial and noticeable.
In addition, Molly wanted to change the recipe as little as possible. It was such a cherished recipe to begin with that she sought to preserve it while accounting for different variables.
So how did the different almond pastes compare?
Taste: Almost identical! Each version of these cookies had a strong almond flavor, both from the paste itself and the additional 1 teaspoon almond extract added to the dough. The DIY Almond Paste proved just as flavorful as the store-bought versions; in every batch, the cookies retained a robust almond taste.
Texture: Also remained mostly consistent across recipes. Texture is one of the standout characteristics of these cookies: a crisp exterior and delightfully dense, chewy interior. That chewiness was replicated with various almond pastes.
Appearance: Here’s where the primary difference emerged. The cookies each spread differently on the baking sheet, resulting in some that were thinner and wider, and others that were thicker and less wide. The cookies made with DIY Almond Paste, in particular, spread too much while baking. Molly would eventually make a recipe tweak to account for that difference.
Package size and yield: Good news for bakers! Molly found that 10 ounces of Love 'n Bake almond paste (the exact size of the package) worked perfectly in the recipe, while 16 ounces of other store-bought almond pastes could also be used without much difference in the final result.
Meanwhile, the recipe could be made with exactly one full batch of DIY Almond Paste. The only difference was yield: the Love 'n Bake version made about two to three fewer cookies, while the DIY Almond Paste version made a couple extra.
The final Almond Cloud Cookies recipe
Finally, after dozens and dozens of cookies and months of testing, Molly was able to update the Almond Cloud Cookies recipe to account for different almond paste options.
She and the rest of the test kitchen team decided to call for DIY Almond Paste in the primary recipe. Doing so eliminated some of the variability that might come from people using different varieties of store-bought paste, giving bakers control over all the ingredients they use in the final recipe.
Updating the recipe specifically for DIY Almond Paste resulted in a few slight tweaks to the original version of the recipe. Here's what Molly changed:
- Included 1/2 cup (48g) almond flour, to reduce spreading
- Increased the recipe yield to 24 cookies, instead of 21
- Adjusted the baking time to 18 to 22 minutes, instead of 20 to 25 minutes
- Removed a recipe step calling for the cookies to be chilled for 2 hours before baking; not necessary with homemade almond paste!
Molly knew some bakers might want to still use purchased almond paste to make this recipe, so she drew on details from her extensive testing to guide them. At the bottom of the recipe page is a tip on how make these cookies with store-bought paste. To do so, make three small changes: omit the 1/2 cup (48g) almond flour; use 16 ounces (454g) of paste; and refrigerate the scooped cookies for 2 hours before baking.
And if your preferred brand of store-bought almond paste is Love 'n Bake, omit the 1/2 cup (48g) almond flour; use 10 ounces (284g); and don't refrigerate the cookies before baking.
Almond Cloud Cookies, however you want to bake them
Our test kitchen works hard to make sure every recipe we publish is reliably successful. For this particular recipe, that goal felt extra-important: almond paste can be a pricey ingredient, and our bakers didn’t want people to waste money on versions of the recipe that didn’t bake up the way they wanted.
Now, the recipe fully accounts for all the almond paste options a baker might desire. It’s a choose your own adventure with a delicious ending.
If you want to take these Almond Cloud Cookies to the next level, try our recipe for Mandelhörnchen (Almond Horns). The dough is prepared the same way (with the same almond paste options) but shaped into crescents and covered in sliced almonds and chocolate.