Mmm... Amaretti! These are such delicious cookies. They are made with almonds, egg whites and sugar, which is their basic construction, but you can dress them up with a little liqueur and lemon zest! I am really at heart a chocolate person. Desserts, cookies and cakes that aren't chocolate really have to bring it to keep me interested. These certainly keep my attention! I store these in mason jars in the pantry. You can either eat them by themselves, which is absolutely divine, or you can have them with a coffee or espresso. To go really crazy, immerse the cookies in amaretto or frangelico, then crumble with your hands over vanilla ice cream... Mmm...
Amaretti with Lemon and Frangelico
8 ounces raw whole almonds
1 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 a small lemon
2 Tbsp. frangelico or amaretto
demerara or plain sugar cubes (2) for topping
Preheat your oven to 325. We are first going to prepare our almonds! This is cool, you are making almond flour. First, we need to get these little guys out of their skins- boil some water on the stove. Once the water is boiling, pop in the raw almonds, leave them in for about 2 minutes. The skins will start to look a little bit loose and wrinkly. Remove the almonds and place them on a thick kitchen towel. Either rub the whole group of almonds with the towel, or, individually, squeeze them to pop off their skins. They should come off really, really easily. Discard the skins. On an ungreased baking sheet, spread out the skinless almonds in a single layer. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove and shake them around, then another 5 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet.
Once your almonds are cool, place them in your food processor with a 1/2 cup of sugar. Process until finely ground, but no more. You don't want to make paste! It should still be dry in nature. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg whites until they are opaque, voluminous, but still slightly soft, then add 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat until the mixture is stiffer, but still slightly flexible. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and liqueur, then the almond mixture and remaining sugar, fold gently with a spatula, trying to keep as much volume as possible, but mixing completely.
Prepare a baking sheet (or 2) with parchment paper. Prepare the dough in either a zip lock bag or a pastry bag with a medium sized tip. Spoon the mixture into the bag and if you're using a zip lock bag, work it down to one corner with your hands from the outside, then cut a little hole in the tip of that corner. Use as you would a standard pastry bag. Pipe small rounds of dough, at least 1 1/2" apart from one another, about 11/2" wide. Don't worry if they have little peaks on the top, they will go away on their own during the time you let them 'rest.'
Using a mortar and pestle, crush 1-2 sugar cubes. The reason to use sugar cubes for topping sugar is that it is comparatively drier vs. standard sugar. Therefore, it won't be absorbed into the cookie, it will stay crisp and visible on the top. Once you've crushed the sugar cubes, you can use any type of sugar cube here, but brown probably looks prettier! Go ahead and sprinkle a pinch or two over each small cookie. Allow the cookies to rest for about 3 hours.
After their 'rest,' bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes. How will you know they are done? They should have a little bit of color, but not a lot. Also, if you try to remove one from the parchment using a spatula and it leaves behind some residue, it needs to go back in the oven. They will be fairly firm, since it is a sugar and egg white cookie, but they will also be deliciously chewy if they aren't overcooked. Enjoy! These make wonderful presents!