I first came across a recipe for croquants in Dorie Greenspan’s book and it sounded too good to be true: thrifty, fast, easy. Then in her friend David Lebovitz’s book Ready For Dessert I saw another, but this time in grams not cups. Both of these cookery writers are massive Parisophiles (what is it about the Americans and Paris?) and, apparently, croquants are very common in France (croquant translates as crunchy). As a once-avid Francophile who was intimately acquainted with the local patisserie (I used to fetch Sunday morning pains au chocolat in my pyjamas), I can safely say I have never heard of croquants but perhaps they are a recent development, like the cupcake. Whatever their history, they are delicious and so satisfying. One minute you have these tiny piles of just-mixed stuff, the next you have a huge pile of macaroon-esque delights. Oh and this is a great way to use up leftover egg whites, instead of leaving them to rot in the fridge or the freezer.
And, yes, I realise that a biscuit isn’t exactly going to be that satisfying for dinner but I have to share this because even if you’ve never baked anything before, not even a potato, you’ll manage a croquant. Once you’ve baked them you’ll probably manage several. They last for ages in an airtight tin so don’t be scared by the quantity this makes. The only thing to pay attention to is the space between each one; don’t be tempted to cram all the mixture onto one measly baking sheet. They will spread.
Croquants (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table)
For lots you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
caster sugar, 270g
egg whites, 2
plain flour, 85g
nuts (I’ve used both hazelnuts and almonds; Dorie Greenspan advises any that you like but her current favourite is salted cashews), 100g
You will also need some baking parchment or reusable liners to cover the baking sheets.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-assisted/gas 6.
2. Line two or three (depending on their size) baking sheets with baking parchment or liners. If you only have one baking sheet then you will need to cool it off and reline between each batch.
3. Chop the nuts roughly, put in a bowl with the sugar and mix together.
4. Add the egg whites (as they are; no need to whisk) to the sugar and nuts and stir to mix together evenly.
5. Finally, sift in the flour and stir once more to blend together.
6. Put teaspoon-size mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheet about 5cm apart from each other (so probably about 9-10 on a standard baking sheet). Flatten each lump slightly with the back of a spoon.
7. Bake the biscuits for 4 minutes, then turn the sheet and bake again for another 3-4 minutes or until they are puffed and golden.
8. Put the whole baking sheet onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool. Don’t try forcing the biscuits off the parchment; wait until they peel away easily (about ten minutes).
9. Bake the rest of the mixture in the same way.