As soon as I read the Big Short, I had the idea to make the almond rochers from the Tartine Cookbook. It is a gorgeously photographed book, and the image for these cookies is a tall shaky tower of these incredible fragile and lightweight cookies. I thought they perfectly captured the shaky situation created by bundling really bad sub-prime mortgages into securities and selling them. My cookies did not come out looking exactly like the ones in the Tartine book - those had big cracks in them, just like our poor economy, but these were easy to make and delicious. To be honest, they were a bit of a snooze, and if I make them again I would drizzle some chocolate on them to liven them up.
Adapted from Tartine Cookbook by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson
1 cup + 2 Tbs sliced almonds
2 large egg whites at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on an unlined baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Then break up totally with your hands - if you are going to pipe these, you need the almond papers to be small so they don't get stuck.
Pour about 2 inches of water in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Combine the egg whites, confectioners sugar, and salt in the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer, place over the simmering water - make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk together the ingredients then place over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the whites are hot to the touch, or 120 degrees. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, put on the mixer stand, and mix on high speed, with the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick and glossy and holds stiff peaks. Fold in the almonds and vanilla with a rubber spatula.
Quickly put the meringue batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large round plain tip, I used No. 7, pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into little kiss shaped towers. If you don't want to pipe, you can use two spoons to drop the cookies onto the baking sheet - because the dough is so sticky, this is actually more of a pain than the piping - I swear!
Put the baking sheet in the oven, but keep the oven door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape so they dry out. Bake the cookies till they puff and crack along the sides (the cracking never happened for me, not sure why...) This should be about 15-20 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cook. They keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks.