Monday, January 12, 2015

Crispy Chewy Almond Cookies {Amaretti}

It's early January, cold and gray here in Germany and the snow from two weeks ago that was so beautiful and dazzling white as it laid fresh on the ground now lingers in slushy little piles that are the saddest remnants of their former selves.

It's easy to be a little melancholy right now. The weather is less than inspirational for sure. And all of the festive excitement of the holidays is a memory. Germany really has a love affair with Christmas that lasts for a good 6 weeks and the withdrawl from the festivity is tough to take.  The Christmas markets are over.  The twinkly lights and ornaments have been packed away and (in our case) the tree has been drug down the street to the neighborhood collection spot in a parking lot. It really is a sad sight to see- all of those beautiful trees just tossed into a big pile next to a soccer stadium and bus stop.

I'm not the kind of girl who makes New Year's resolutions. Probably because I know I'd never stick to them. I always try to do a little better with my health, eat a little better, stay on top of housework more. You know, the standard stuff.  It's not really working out just yet, but I promise when the weather gets better and the baby goes back to her normal sleepy schedule...

I do have to admit that I'm a little excited about a new "Mom and baby" yoga class starting soon, truth be told.  I happen to really like my yoga instructor and I could certainly use the help.  After three c-sections my core is.......well......let's not even go there. 

So you're not going to get a ton of new year healthy recipes from me (not really sorry about that, sorry!).  In my opinion, healthy eating really only works if you allow yourself a little treat now and again.  So I'll handle the little treats for you if you can manage the healthy part on your own.  Deal?  Deal.

Crispy Chewy Almond Cookies {Amaretti}
Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
For the printable recipe, click here.

These cookies are delightfully good.  There is a perfect balance between the shatteringly crisp exterior and chewy center that cannot be beat.  They are based on one of my favorites, the Italian pignoli cookie, but it turns out that I didn't have pine nuts in my freezer so I quickly decided to use the sliced almonds that were there instead and was totally pleased with the results (even my kids ate them and they hate nuts!).  I also ended up making my own almond paste for this cookie, something I had never done before.  I guess Germans don't use it (but they seem to really love marzipan- odd) because it was nonexistent in the local stores.  I actually really loved my homemade almond paste much more than the store bought stuff and it was so easy I may never buy it again.  If you don't have already ground almonds available just whiz some whole or slivered almonds up in your food processor or blender so that you end up with 1 1/2 cups of the ground stuff. 

Almond Paste:

1 1/2 cups ground almonds (or almond flour)
1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or almond extract if you want it extra almond-y)
1 egg white

Place the ground almonds into a food processor and pulse until the almonds begin to form a paste.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you have a thick paste.  The almond paste can be refrigerated at this point for up to three days.

Cookie dough:

2 egg whites
1 recipe almond paste
2 tbs honey
3 tbs all purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl beat the egg whites until they begin to get frothy.  Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, blend the almond paste into the egg whites in small increments until just blended in.  Add the honey and flour and beat until fully combined.

Spoon quarter sized mounds of the cookie dough 2 inches apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet (you could also pipe the dough with a piping bag).  Bake for 7-9 minutes until the tops of the cookies turn golden, they have spread and the tops have crackled.  Let them cool completely on the parchment or baking mat before peeling off.  To speed things up you can slide the parchment with the cookies onto a wire rack and replace it with a clean parchment to bake a second batch while the first batch cools.  You can continue to swap out the two sheets of parchment until all the cookies are baked.

The cookies keep well in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

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