Almonds (Recipe: amaretti cookies)
Adapted from an archived post, with new photos, links and recipe.
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.
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.
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.
10 oz peeled almonds
1-1/2 cups sugar less 1 Tbsp
3 egg whites
Pinch of sea salt
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.