These lovely chewy cookies are perfect. Although the title of this post mentions pistachios the cookies can have whatever topping you wish. In fact I used pistachios, toasted chopped hazelnut and glace cherries for mine. But I could easily have used some desiccated coconut too, or made an indent and filled it with jam as well. Indeed the list of things to add to the top is almost limitless.
I had the idea for these cookies as I was reviewing pignoli which are an Italian cookie. They have the same almond cookie dough but it is rolled in, or topped with pine nuts. However pine nuts are very expensive indeed. Though as a special treat pignoli may be great, but I wanted a much cheaper cookie.
So I decided to simply make the cookie dough and top each cookie with a pistachios. Then it occurred to me that I could use other toppings too. Hence the title of the post could have been, as the video is, called Almond Cookies with Pistachios – and more.
The cookies are very similar in texture to amaretti, another favourite Italian cookie, or biscuit. Almond paste is the base of the cookie dough. Many stores sell almond paste. However it is also very easy to make, which is what I did. Almond paste is similar to marzipan. However marzipan is much sweeter since it contains more sugar.
Almond paste is really just a combination of ground almonds and sugar. Some people, as I did, include some lemon zest too. For extra flavour a little almond extract is a good idea. Water is added too, in just sufficient quantity to bind it all together. Some versions will use egg whites instead of water, but that is not necessary for this version. Indeed it is preferable not to use egg whites in making the paste since it can be stored for longer with just water.
If possible it is a good idea to make the paste in advance, to allow the flavour to develop. However it can be used on the day it is made and will give great results.
I made my almond paste in advance. However in the video I make another batch, which could then be frozen for later use. The paste freezes well and will keep for 3 months. The recipe below will make slightly more than the 500g of almond paste needed. But it can all be used, it will just need slightly more egg white to get to the required consistency.
Making the cookies
Once the paste is made and has been chilled to firm it up it is ready to use in the cookies. They are very simple to make using just the paste with a little more sugar and some egg white.
The paste is broken into chunks and added to a processor with the sugar. Then it is processed into small clumps. Sufficient egg white is added a little at a time, as processing continues, until the dough is of a consistency that can be spooned or piped.
Then the paste can be piped onto a parchment lined tray, or spooned and shaped into round domes, and topped with pistachios and whatever else you wish.
Then it is time to bake the cookies. The cookies must be allowed to cool on the parchment paper. That is very important. If you try to transfer them from the parchment paper before they are fully cooled the undersides will simply tear apart.
As I mentioned, earlier, I used pistachios, roasted chopped hazelnut and glace cherries to make three different cookies.
I intended to pipe my cookie dough but, at the last minute, I decided to simply spoon the mixture onto the parchment paper. Then I used a slightly wet finger to shape the dough into rounds, slightly domed.
I added my toppings and then baked the cookies. I did specify baking for between 10 and 15 minutes, until the edges begin to colour. My cookies were baked for 15 minutes. The edges coloured and I could see that the tops were nicely set. So I removed them from the oven and left them on the trays until they had cooled completely. Then I carefully peeled the parchment from the underside of each cookie. That process has to be done carefully, since the inside of the cookies is very soft. Indeed it may help if the cookies are chilled a little before removing from the parchment paper, but I didn’t try that.
The cookies tasted fantastic. The wonderful almond flavour was present and the texture of the cookies was so soft and chewy. The nuts gave extra texture and flavour too. The ones with glace cherries also worked very well, particularly since cherries pair so well with almonds.
Another excellent cookie/biscuit is Amaretti.
Almond Cookies with PistachiosCourse: Biscuits, CookiesDifficulty: Easy
- Almond Paste(can be made in advance and stored in the fridge)
250g(2 1/2 cups) ground almonds
250g(1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
2.5 ml(1/2 tsp) almond extract
zest from one lemon
up to 60ml(4 tbsp) water
500g(18 oz) almond paste
80g(6 tbsp + 1 tsp) caster sugar
20g(about 3 tbsp) icing sugar
10g(2 tsp) honey
2 medium egg whites, beaten(large in USA), you may not need it all
pistachios, chopped toasted hazelnut, glace cherries(halved), or similar to top.
- To make the almond paste place the ground almonds and caster sugar into a food processor.
- Process them for about a minute, just to break them down a little more.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and add in the zest then stir to combine it.
- Add the almond extract and stir again.
- Pour in about half of the water and stir around until the mixture begins to clump a little.
- Add a little more water and stir again, testing by squeezing some of the mixture in a hand to see if it clumps.
- When the mixture will clump in the hand without being too crumbly you don’t need to add more water.
- Tip the mixture out on a work surface and use your hands to squeeze it into a firm block. It should hold together well.
- Wrap the paste in plastic wrap and refrigerate until required.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
- Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.
- Break the almond paste into chunks and place them in a food processor bowl.
- Add the caster and icing sugars and process until the mixture is broken down into small chunks, and quite fluffy.
- Add the honey and process briefly until the mixture clumps a little.
- Slowly add the beaten egg whites, processing again, until the mixture forms a paste which would be easy to pipe or spoon. You may not need all of the egg whites.
- Spoon mounds of the paste onto the parchment paper, leaving a good gap between each(or you can place the paste into a piping bag and pipe it out into mounds). I used about 30 grams for each mound.
- Use a slightly wet finger to form the mounds into rounds with a slight dome.
- Place the pistachios, hazelnuts, and/or glace cherries on the domes and gently press to adhere.
- Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes until the tops are set and the edges begin to colour.
- Remove the trays from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on those trays before very carefully peeling the parchment paper from the undersides.