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March 19, 2009

Almonds (Recipe: amaretti cookies)

Adapted from an archived post, with new photos, links and recipe.

Amaretti cookies

I'm a sucker for princess tales, especially when food is involved.

According to Greek mythology, the lovely princess Phyllis was dumped at the altar on her wedding day by Demophon, her fiance. She waited for years for him to return to her (why, we wonder?), but eventually she died of a broken heart. The gods took pity and transformed her into an almond tree.

When Demophon wised up and returned to find Phyllis turned into a flowerless tree, he embraced her, and the tree burst into bloom, proving that his love was greater than death -- or that he loved almonds.

Almonds are an ancient food, domesticated as early as 3000 BC; archaeologists even found almonds in King Tut's tomb. Though they are in the rose genus, almonds most closely resemble peaches; in fact, in commercial production the almond tree rootstock frequently is grafted onto peach trees, giving the trunks a lumpy-bumpy appearance. Spanish missionaries brought almonds to California, which produces 100 percent of the US supply, and 80 percent of the world supply.

Almonds2

On the nutrition front, almonds are high in antioxidants and Vitamin E, and may help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol).

On the culinary front, almonds really shine. Sure, you can sprinkle them on salads, and it's fun to smash them with a nutcracker. For a lower-impact cooking experience, try ginger chicken with almonds, pralined almonds, lemon almond pancakes, fennel with almonds and cherries. Or explore some of the great dishes of the Spanish culinary repertoire: gazpacho made with almonds, either green (with grapes) or white (no grapes); shrimp and mushrooms in almond sauce; or meatballs in saffron-almond sauce.

After all, Spain gave us those almonds in the first place.

Amaretticookies1

Amaretti cookies

Adapted from Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger, these cookies are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Makes approximately 30 cookies.

Ingredients

10 oz peeled almonds
1-1/2 cups sugar less 1 Tbsp
3 egg whites
Pinch of sea salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with a silicone liner (Silpat) or parchment paper. A Silpat will yield softer cookies; parchment will make more crisp cookies.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, chop the almonds finely. Add the sugar and pulse once or twice to combine. Transfer almond mixture to a large bowl.

In a Kitchenaid-type stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and salt on high speed for 2-3 minutes or until soft peak stage. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture, being careful not to deflate the egg whites, until well combined. Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, with ample space between -- these cookies will spread to 2-3 inches.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheets halfway (or, after removing the top sheet from the oven, move the bottom one to the upper rack and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes). Slide the cookies on their Silpat or parchment onto a baking rack until cool enough to remove, then allow the cookies to cool completely on the rack.

Can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container overnight.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Cod with raisins, nuts and apples
Tagine of lamb with apricots
Señora Gonzales' mole colorado
Chicken with prunes and almonds
Chocolate spice cookies

Comments

can i use ground almond, will it be too fine?

These sound so good!!

What a heel, I'd say he just loved almonds.
Love almonds. Never made Amaretti cookies, yours look like beauties.

Really exciting blog.
I am SUCH big almond fan.
These bad-boys look awesome.
Mind if I link you on my blog?

Yum, almond cookies. I love almonds. Almonds are, in fact, closely related to peaches; they're in the same genus, Prunus, along with plums, apricots, cherries, etc. Both Prunus and the rose genus, Rosa, are in the rose family, Rosaceae (along with apples Malus, pears Pyrus, blackberries and raspberries Rubus, strawberries Fragaria, quince Cydonia, and more -- what a great family!).

Oh wow, these cookies sound really good. I love anything with almonds! I also love the story, mythology is always so interesting.

As I recall, Penelope spent a lot of time waiting for Ulysses, too.

Love this recipe. The ingredients seem nearly identical to the Italian imports I enjoy from the supermarket.

What a beautiful story! My favorite way to eat almonds is as "Snow Almonds". Peeled almonds brined in salt water and kept in the fridge. They're the absolutely perfect snack for a hot summer day.

Oh, wow! I don't remember seeing this recipe in the book. I'm glad you've highlighted it.

Paz (sucker for princess tales, too)

Do you think almond meal would work?

Vivien, Peabody: I'm sure it would work, but the texture might be a bit different. Isn't almond meal just very finely ground almonds? If it comes in different granulations, get a more coarse one. If either of you try it, please let me know the result.

Tasha, they were delicious. I'm not a huge almond lover, but I really loved these cookies.

MyKitchen, I'll definitely be making these again. I love cookies that are both crunchy and chewy, and while I'm not a huge almond fan, I did think these were great.

Richard, I do hope you love these cookies. We did.

Ford, thanks so much for adding to our collective knowledge!

Jason, it's so much fun to find out the stories (real or not) about some of the pantry items.

Susan, these cookies had a definite Italian feel about them. I could imagine enjoying them with a coffee at a cafe in Venice on a sunny afternoon.

Ann, I've never tried that, but it sounds delicious!

Paz, there are so many lovely little recipes in this cookbook. We made a few more that I'll be sharing next week.

Thank heaven for this recipe – I have some left over almonds from baking some cookies and I am hoping that this works well.
What I find interesting is that prior to being domesticated almonds were poisonous, that heaven for mutations. Often in the mid eastern markets at the end of summer you can get fresh almonds and you just eat them, but can be quite the drama because getting that covering off is just not for the faint of heart if the almonds are not absolutely fresh.

Great-looking cookies and, as always, a good post to go with the good food.

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

I finally found some amaretti cookies at Marshall's, but I am bookmarking this for when I need more! I know that when I went looking for them, they were to be used in some recipes, but now I can't remember which ones. How do you use yours (other than just eating them!)

Yum, nothing like cookies made with almonds!

You can really tell a story and make a recipe fell much more than just that. It's a pleasure coming back to your blog!

I didn't realize that you could make your own amaretti, wonderful!
Almonds are my favourite nuts.

I love hearing stories and histories behind food and recipes ... and those cookies look pretty darn good too!

Kim, I don't think I've ever had fresh almonds!

Dorie, so glad you stopped by. These cookies were so delicious, the perfect ending to a very Italian-inspired dinner.

Sarah, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment!

Pam, Marshall's and TJ Maxx often have wonderful food treats and discounts on cookware and tableware. I love these stores. I must say that I don't do anything with these cookies other than eat them as soon as they're cool enough. Delicious!

Veron, I'm not really an almond lover, but I do love these cookies. I hope you'll try them.

Monica, thank you -- any food that has a story is more fun than one that doesn't... but every food has some kind of story (real or fiction) of how it came into being.

Natashya, these aren't the round shape of amaretti that you buy in a tin, but they are the real flavors.

Cate, I love finding stories for all of you to enjoy!

Beautiful photos! By the way, I recently came across some almonds in my pantry that might have been from King Tut's tomb ... but let's not get into my issues in keeping my kitchen organized.

Amaretti cookies are so good. Making your own sounds like fun.

TW, I found some of those in my freezer....

Kevin, these had a rich taste of almonds that was really lovely.

I made amaretti cookies last year after falling in love with them at an Italian deli near my office. They were delicious, but expensive to make with so many nuts. I did enjoy them a lot, though, so it might be worth making them again!

Lydia, these look more like Greek "amygdalota" than amaretti (which is fine by me).

Greece's almond trees are now abloom!

I can imagine the crunchiness of this cookie, I still need to buy the ingredients and make it the most yummy cookie in our home ;D

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