Monday, December 22, 2008

83. Pignoli Cookies (p. 683)

My favorite cookies in the whole world come from the little Italian bakery at the end of my street. They are crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, and they have an amazing almond flavor. I've always wanted to make them, but I could never find a recipe. In fact I don't even know what they're called, since I just ask for "those little almond cookies."

Well, thanks to this recipe, I can make "those little almond cookies" whenever I want. The key to these cookies is the almond paste, which, The Book emphasizes, is not marzipan. I'd never seen almond paste before, so when I found it in the store, I was at first surprised by how light the can was for its size. Then when I opened it, I was further surprised that it had the look and texture of those gum erasers that artists use.

I crumbled up two cans of the almond past into my food processor, and combined it with some confectioners sugar, and pulsed it until it was ground into a fine meal. Then I transfered the mixture into a bowl and beat in some egg whites and honey. (Much to my surprise, there is no flour in these cookies.) This is one of those recipes that I really wish I had a stand mixer for. The Book says to beat for five minutes. The dough was pretty thick, and after about the third minute, my handheld mixer was struggling. I called it quits at about four minutes when my mixer started to smell like smoke. In the end, it was all right, although, I think a little more beating at a higer speed (which a stand mixer could have done) would have made the cookies a little airy-er.

I spooned the dough into a pastry bag and piped little rounds onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. I pressed pine nuts into the top of each cookie. (At first I started making a pretty starburst design with the pine nuts, but after the second dozen, I moved on to a more abstract "sprinkle them and press them wherever they land" design.) I cooked them for the full fifteen minutes called for in The Book (some trays took a couple more minutes to turn golden). Then I slid the parchment onto racks to cool, and when the cookies were cool enough to handle, I peeled them off the parchment paper.

I made these cookies as a gift for my grandmother, who also loves "those little almond cookies." She was thrilled. They are exactly the same as the ones from the bakery down the street. The only difference is that the bakery puts slivered almonds on top instead of pine nuts. I like pine nuts, but I prefer the almonds on these cookies, and that's how I'll make them next time. That, and I'll wait until I have a stand mixer to make them again, because I don't think that my electric hand mixer could survive another batch of these. (Are you listening, Santa?)

Date Cooked: December 13, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A-

1 comment:

Jessica said...

So did you get a stand mixer for Christmas? I love mine!

The closest my hand mixer got to death was some heavy cocoa/peanut butter started making a disturbing smoke smell...