Eat (not so) Well: PhD is for Cookie

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
When David was 10, he toured Boston with his 6th grade class. Sitting in a circle in Harvard Yard, his teacher asked, “Who thinks they might like to come here for college?” David’s hand shot up like a rocket, excitement blushing his face. His teacher felt this moment was significant enough to share with me when they returned. The seed of a dream had been planted.

David attended Harvard summer school after his junior year of high school and applied to Harvard for college. He didn’t get in. Because of the disappointment, he had a hard time deciding where to go, but in the end, he chose UC Davis—a perfect place, as it turned out, for him to do his undergraduate studies. He applied to Harvard again for graduate school and this time was accepted. That was 7 ½ years ago.

Last week, Larry and I attended David’s thesis defense for his PhD. I sat in the audience as he presented his research, listening to every word with bated breath, lump in my throat, tears in my eyes—not just because of the greatness of his accomplishment, but also because of the sweetness of bearing witness to a 20-year-old dream come true. Afterwards, his professor popped bottles of Veuve Clicquot and I passed around platters filled with copious quantities of homemade (gluten-free) cookies I had brought from California.
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This got me thinking about how fitting it is to celebrate special moments with sweet treats. Sugar is meant for moments like this, especially when it is incorporated into homemade goodies made with love. And although I am reading every label on every food item I buy these days to check for sugar, I let myself enjoy the sweetness of the moment, munching on biscotti and ricciarellis as I watched my son beam with relief and joy.
I made five different types of cookies for the PhD after-party over several weeks’ time, froze them in air-tight containers, and brought them in a suitcase lined with towels. Cookies freeze well as long as they are in an air-tight container and are kept closed until completely defrosted (otherwise they sweat as they defrost and become soggy). Of course I made Mimi cookies but I also made brownies, lemon bars, biscotti, and ricciarellis. Because of David’s celiac disease, I substituted gluten free flour mix (Pamela’s) for the flour called for in the recipes. They all turned out delicious and nobody could tell that they were missing the wheat.

You can find the gluten-free lemon bar recipe here and my favorite brownie recipe here. My sister-in-law, Celeste, recommended my making the ricciarellis—Sienese almond cookies. For those of you unfamiliar with them, as I was, these are the most amazing cookies EVER—perfectly light and chewy and easy to make. I doubled the recipe.

(From Divina Cucina

2 cups blanched ground almonds or prepared almond “flour” (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar
3 drops almond extract
Extra powdered sugar for rolling in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients. Beat egg whites until stiff and mix into the almond mixture. Add the almond extract and blend until you have a soft paste.
Place some powdered sugar on a clean, dry surface. Form one tablespoon of dough into a small ball, roll in the sugar, and then form the traditional diamond shape, flattening the cookie with the palm of your hand.
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Place the cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.
(You can also put candied orange peel in the dough and dip in chocolate.) Makes about 16-19 cookies.
IMG_6504 Enjoy! 
And next week… a biscotti tutorial! Another easy and fabulous treat for a special day.