Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Italian Almond Cookies (Amaretti)

It's the height of rudeness, I tell you. Taylor's Patisserie (they of the 500m drive down the road to the nienish tart) have shut down over Christmas. Fair enough. Have a break. You have served me well so far. But 3 weeks? 3 weeks? Did someone forget to tell you that you are running a business??

Taylors have forced my hand. Because they have been shut for so long, I was forced to get some sweet temptations from Dolci Dolci. I have a soft spot for all Italian food, and Dolci Dolci just make the fabulous sweet stuff. And oh my! It is very very good! The other day I was doing some quiet child-free shopping, and I decided a milkshake would be a nice little addition to my shopping experience. I happened to be near Dolci Dolci so I thought I would just get one from there. Of course, whilst I was standing at the counter waiting for my milkshake, all their irresistable cannoli, cakes and cookies were softly calling me, begging me to eat them. Their cannoli are to die for. I would love to be able to replicate them at home, but my one and only attempt resulted in some very unappetising deep-fried cardboard. On this particular day though, I felt drawn to something a little different. I am on a bit of a pistachio thing at the moment, so I went with the pistachio and almond cookie. I was well and truly happy with my selection!

It had a golden crunchy crust, coated in flaked almonds. The inside, which was green (!) was moist and chewy and pistachio-y. There was just the right amount of almond flavour (sometimes I think chefs get a bit over excited with the almond extract), and the whole thing came together just perfectly.

So of course, when I got home, I thought, I can do that! But I might need a new Italian cookbook!!! So I jumped on amazon to see what I could find, but I seemed to be struggling. Every cookbook has ricotta cheesecake, most have cannoli, but finding the right recipe for these little cookies was proving a challenge. Then I remembered that I actually already have some Italian cookbooks, so maybe I should start with those rather than more compulsive shopping! "The Silver Spoon" was a disappointment, it focuses more on savoury stuff, but "The Italian Baker" came to the rescue! In hindsight, I should probably have just gone straight to this book with a title like that, but I like to take any opportunity to consider more cookbooks!

I found that the Italian name for these cookies is Amaretti. The traditional recipe is from the Lombard region of Italy and is for a crisp macaroon-ish type cookie. The chewy ones (which are the ones I was looking for) are from Piedmont. I thought I would start with a plain almond one first, just to make sure it gave me the right texture. Once I had that right, then I would move on to using pistachios. Pistachios are significantly more expensive than almonds, and unlike almonds, you can't easily get ground pistachios, so I would actually have to grind them myself. And that is just way too much effort and way too much washing up! Naturally, I changed the recipe slightly (once again, they were way over excited with the almond essence), and I was extremely happy with the outcome!!! Crisp and lightly golden on the outside; chewy, dense and moist on the inside, and just enough almond flavour without that overpowering alcoholic-type flavour you sometimes get with these type of things. GKGK thought they were excellent, although he did suggest maybe they should have chocolate in them!!! Foolish boy! I'll let you know how I go with the pistachio ones!

Italian Almond Cookies
Adapted from "The Italian Baker" by Carol Field

200g almond meal
200g caster sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp almond essence
Icing sugar

Mix the almonds with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the egg whites and essence and mix thoroughly. Roll into balls approximately 3cm in diameter. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving some room for spreading. Flatten slightly and sprinkle with icing sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF. Bake until very light golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Cool on racks. Store in an airtight container.


Sona said...


I have been looking for amaretti recipe. Egg whites. do I whip them before mixing with the other ingredients or use the egg white as it is (out of shell)? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I just made these after going to an Italian food festival and buying some that were dissapointing. These are delicious! Exactly what I was after.

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