Amaretti (pronounced "am-ah-REHT-tee") is the Italian name for macaroons, which means little bitter things. These small, domed-shaped cookies that are crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft inside, originated in Venice Italy during the Renaissance period. Amaretti cookies are made from either ground almonds or almond paste, along with sugar and egg whites and can be flavored with chocolate or liqueurs. Oftentimes, two baked cookies are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam. Traditionally these cookies were served with a sweet dessert wine or liqueur, but they are also a wonderful accompaniment to a bowl of ice cream, sherbets, or mousses. Another favorite way to use these cookies is to finely grind them and then add them to desserts (such as trifles) for added texture and flavor. For this Amaretti Cookie recipe I have used almond paste which is a combination of equal parts ground blanched almonds and sugar, mixed with glucose, corn syrup or egg whites. It has a pliable yet grainy texture with a sweet almond flavor. Sold in cans or tubes, I recommend using the canned variety as I think it has a superior taste. As a side note, almond paste is also used in pastry making and confectionery to cover cakes and pastries, as well as forming into different shapes and figures. Any unused portions of almost paste can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or else frozen. You can make the Amaretti Cookie batter in either an electric mixer or a food processor. I have given instructions for both methods. This recipe is adapted from Nick Malgieri's excellent book Great Italian Desserts.more
ounces (225 grams) canned almond paste
cup (200 grams) superfine or castor white sugar
large (60 grams) egg whites
Extra white sugar or Swedish pearl sugar for dusting cookies
Note: Make your own superfine sugar by processing regular granulated white sugar in your food processor for about 30 seconds or until sugar is ground very fine.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) plain tip. Using Food Processor: Break the almond paste into small pieces and place in bowl of food processor, with the sugar. Pulse until the mixture is very fine. Add the egg whites in three additions, processing well after each addition. Continue processing the dough until very smooth (about one minute). Using Electric Mixer: Break the almond paste into small pieces and place in bowl of electric mixer along with the sugar. Mix on low speed until very fine. Add the egg whites in three additions, mixing well after each addition. Continue mixing the dough until very smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Fill the pastry bag with the almond mixture. Pipe 1 1/2 inch (3.75 cm) mounds onto the parchment paper, spacing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. After you have filled the baking sheet with cookie mounds, take a damp paper towel and lightly press the top of each cookie to smooth out the surface (you want to smooth out the tip of dough at the top of each cookie caused from piping). Lightly sprinkle a little sugar on top of each cookie. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cookies have risen, are a deep golden color and have tiny cracks. Remove from the oven and place baking pan on a rack to cool. When cool gently peel cookies from parchment. If they stick to parchment, turn the paper over, take a damp paper towel and gently wipe the bottom of the parchment paper to loosen the cookie. Makes about 40 cookies.