6 tablespoons pure almond paste (about 4 ounces), at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Parchment paper for lining baking sheet
2 large egg whites
2 cups sand or pearl sugar*
1 cup red currant jelly
Pure almond paste
* Sand or pearl sugar: Sand sugar or pearl sugar (both sometimes known as coarse
or crystal sugar) have larger grains than granulated sugar and are used for decorating
baked goods. Sand sugar has slightly smaller and shiner grains than pearl sugar.
In a bowl with an electric mixer at low speed beat together almond paste, granulated
sugar, butter, and vanilla extract until light and creamy. Gradually beat in flour and salt
until just combined well. Quarter dough and roll out each quarter between sheets
of wax paper into an 11-inch round (about 1/8-inch thick). Stack rounds in wax paper
on a baking sheet. Chill rounds until firm, at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Transfer 1 round, still between sheets of wax paper, to a work surface. Remove
top sheet of wax paper from round (keep remaining rounds chilled) and replace it
loosely. Flip over wax-paper-enclosed round and remove and discard sheet of wax
paper now on top (this process prevents cookies from sticking to wax paper). Working
quickly, with a 3-inch star-shaped cutter cut out stars and arrange about 1/2 inch
apart on baking sheet. (If dough becomes too soft to work with, freeze or chill
on wax paper until firm.) With a 1/2-inch star-shaped or round cutter cut and lift
out centers from half of stars (about 15). Lightly beat egg whites and lightly brush
onto tops of cut-out stars. Sprinkle sand or pearl sugar over cut-out stars, pressing
sugar down lightly so that it adheres.
Bake cookies in lower third of oven until bottoms are pale golden but tops are
still pale, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet on a rack 5 minutes and
transfer with a spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining
dough rounds in same manner, lining baking sheet with fresh parchment.
Arrange solid stars, bottom sides up, on a work surface. In a small heavy saucepan
boil jelly, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes and cool 10 minutes. Transfer jelly
to a pastry bag fitted with a #3 plain tip (slightly smaller than 1/8 inch).
Pipe about 1/4 teaspoon jelly onto center of each cookie. Center cut-out stars
on top of solid stars, pressing gently so jelly fills in holes. Cookies keep, layered
between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, 3