Sunday, November 27, 2005

Amaretti


I kicked off our Christmas cookie season by whipping up a batch of Amaretti. Absurdly simple, these are some of my favorites ... basically meringue cookies with ground almonds mixed in. They were made much easier by the fact that I found Almond Meal at the Central Market so I didn't have to grind the almonds in the food processor. I also saw Pecan Meal and Hazelnut Meal there and am now wondering how those would work in variations.

I'm not usually fond of meringues but love these so they had to go into the freezer ASAP otherwise we wouldn't have had many left.

This recipe came from my mother and I'm not sure what cookbook it came from. However, it is not too different from other such recipes I've seen ... except it is a great deal simpler than some.

Step 1:
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Beat egg whites until foamy, gradually beat in sugar and almond extract. Continue beating for several minutes until whites form very stiff, shiny peaks.

Step 2:
2 cups (8 ounces) finely ground, blanched almonds
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Stir in almonds and cornstarch until well combined.

Drop generous tablespoon of batter into small mounds about 2" apart on parchment-lined, baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 17-22 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 30 cookies.

Chewy Variation:
Beat egg whites with a fork until broken up and slightly frothy. Stir in sugar until combined; then mix in remaining ingredients (and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon optional cardamom if desired) to make very stiff paste.

With moistened hands, form scant tablespoons of paste into 11/4" balls. Arrange 2" apart on baking sheets. Use moistened fingertips to flatten each ball slightly. Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes or until firm and very lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. These are like traditional macaroons.

Flavor Variation Update:
I tried these yesterday with finely ground pecans and vanilla instead of the almond extract. Mmmm, mmmm good!

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