A stack of cookie books along with loose recipe cards which have been pulled out of recipe binders sit on the kitchen counter reminding me that I should get started with my holiday baking.
For the next few weeks the kitchen will become a cookie factory by day but by dinner time not a trace of the day's work will remain and the room will once again return to it's normal routine. Flour and sugar containers will empty out as fast as they are filled and the fragrance of melting chocolate will fill the house for days.
The search for every empty container begins and trays that will hold an assortment of cookies for giving away to family, friends and neighbours will be placed close by ready to be filled.
Some cookies are just standard for this time of year and expected to appear among the assortment but now and then a new recipe is added and time will tell if it becomes a traditional favourite.
Amaretti is the Italian name for macaroon. Crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside these cookies have adorned many cookie trays at Italian weddings and any other occasion worth celebrating.
Almonds, glace or crystallized cherries and chocolate are among some of the more familiar decorations that top these cookies and the dough is sometimes tinted in various colours I suppose just to make things a little more interesting.
I’ve tried a few recipes for Amaretti over the years but was unsuccessful in replicating that chewy almond center like those sold in Italian bakeries. Several years ago I came across a recipe for these cookies in a magazine which called for almond paste as the main ingredient. The recipe sat in my “to try out file” for a very long time as I had no clue where to buy almond paste.
On a trip to the U.S. to visit relatives a few years back I had my first encounter with a seven pound tin of pure almond paste and have now made a point of purchasing another tin each time we visit.
The awaiting Amaretti recipe finally met with the almond paste and the rest is history. I’ve been making these cookies for many years since then and consider them to be as good if not better than store bought.
Translated, the word Amaretti means “little bitter things” hardly words that would strike a craving for them. I believe that bitter almonds were part of the original Amaretti recipe thus giving them this less than appealing name. I'm sure there’s a small amount of bitter almonds in the paste that I buy which accounts for the intense almond flavour in the cookie.
These delightfully delicious, sweet cookies are anything but bitter and I believe some words are better left untranslated!
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup confectioners sugar
¼ cup unsifted flour
Pinch of salt
8 ounces almond paste
2 egg whites
- Grease and flour cookie sheets or line with parchment paper
- Sift together flour, both sugars and salt.
- Break almond paste into small pieces in a separate bowl.
- Add the egg whites and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Stir in dry ingredients with wooden spoon or spatula.
- Tint part of the dough with a few drops green food colouring (optional.)
- Pipe onto prepared sheets and bake in a preheated 325 degree F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove onto wire rack to cool.
- Makes 20 to 25 cookies.
Notes, Tips and Suggestions
- Do not use marzipan in this recipe as it contains a greater ratio of sugar than almond paste and will not give good results. (believe me, I've tried it)
- Dough can also be formed into small balls and rolled in coarsely chopped almonds before baking.
- Place cherries or almonds on cookies before baking but if decorating with chocolate it must be melted and added after the cookies are baked and cooled.
- These cookies freeze very well.