Crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, with delicious almond goodness – these Italian cookies are little bites of heaven
Have you ever had a dream about baking or cooking something and then not been able to get it out of your head until you make said thing? Or is it just me that bakes in their dreams? Well, either way, I had a dream about baking Amaretti cookies and they were all I could think about! Which is weird considering they were a complete disaster in my dream (which turned out to be a little prophetic!) – but I adore Amaretti cookies, if a bakery has them I will always buy a dozen and eat them all in one day! So I set out to try and make these little beauties
It seems my dream was pretty accurate though and these innocent looking cookies were a nightmare to make. I don’t even know how many failed batches I made before I made that perfect batch, it was enough that I almost gave up, I only kept going because I love these darn cookies so much! What is it about almond flour based cookies that are so tricky (I still haven’t mastered French Macarons)? I read countless recipes online, all of which differed fairly substantially so they ended up making me feel even more lost at times!
I tried lots of different things based on the recipes I’d read online and what I knew the cookies should taste and feel like. I tried – whole eggs added at once, egg yolks and egg whites added separately, egg yolks and whipped egg whites, just the whipped egg whites and just egg whites not whipped. I tried – making my own ground almonds, blanching the almonds before grinding and ready ground almonds. I also experimented with adding almond extract and different types of sugar they were rolled in!
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I lost count of how many failed batches I had! I almost had to take out a mortgage to pay for all the almonds I went through (seriously, why are nuts so expensive?!). In the end, what worked for me was just egg whites by themselves, no whipping and ready ground almonds. If you can I would encourage you to make your own ground almonds, but with my food processor I just can’t get them as finely ground as I needed for the texture I wanted before it started to turn into butter. Whatever way you get your hands on ground almonds, you need to make sure they’ve been blanched first for the best taste. I also added a little almond extract to add a boost of flavour and rolled them in caster sugar to get that crisp outside.
I hope my failures haven’t put you off attempting to make these for yourself, because the end result really is worth the effort. In theory my recipe should give you the same results as me, but it’s a very temperamental dough and it needs to be just the right consistency for them to play nice – if your eggs are slightly bigger than mine or your almond flour slightly drier, you’re gonna get different results. So the key is to look at the dough and add a little more egg white or almonds if it’s too dry or too wet. This recipe calls for 250g ground almonds and 5 egg whites, but I would recommend having extra almonds and an extra egg white on hand so you can add a little more if needed. The dough itself is vey wet and sticky – it looks like kind of like the start of a cake batter after you’ve creamed the butter and sugar and started to mix in 1 egg! If that description leaves you a little confused, I’ve included a photo below (apologies for the poor quality, it was taken quickly with my iphone in bad lighting).
Since it’s such a sticky dough it can be hard to roll into balls, the best way to do it I found (without making a huge mess and ending up with more dough on your hands than in the cookies) was to wet your hands and coat lightly in caster sugar. My other tip for these cookies is to use a light coloured baking sheet so the bottoms don’t cook too quickly, if you only have dark ones line it with three sheets of greaseproof paper. This dough doesn’t lend itself well to resting either, it’ll be fine to sit in the bowl while you’re baking a batch but if you roll them into balls and leave them out (or even in the fridge) for even a few hours the egg whites will start to separate from the dough – I learned this the hard way!
What you’re looking for in a successful batch are cookies that spread only a small amount and rise up a little in the centre, and of course you want them to crack. If your dough is too soft they’ll spread out in a mess (I wish I took a photo of my worst spread batch to share with you, they looked like a coconut macaroons ugly step brother!), if it’s too dry you’ll have hard, round balls with no cracking. These are definitely a goldie locks type cookie dough – it has to be just right or they’re gonna throw a tantrum (at least in this fairy tale cookie analogy no bears are gonna interrupt your post cookie nap… unless maybe you live in Canada or something!)
I’m gonna bring these delicious bites of heaven to Fiesta Friday this week – because honestly, these cookies deserve a party! Come join us, there’ll be lots of yummy treats for the eyes, ears and mouth!
(note for subscribers: I’m using a new service to send out my new posts by email which is much better for me and should hopefully be creating an easier reading experience for you – however you may have been noticing a few of my old posts coming to your email, it does this whenever I edit a post for the first time since setting up the service, so apologies for that! However you won’t receive the same post more than once no matter how many edits I make!)
Now for the recipe, I’ll try and be as detailed as possible but if you have any questions just give me a shout 🙂
- 250g finely ground almonds
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 200g caster sugar (extra fine granulated) - plus extra for rolling
- 5 large egg whites
- Preheat the oven to 160C/350F. Line a light coloured baking sheet with 2 sheets of greaseproof paper.
- Mix the almonds, extract and sugar in a bowl.
- Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing to combine. Until you have a soft, sticky dough that's almost coming together. See notes for more info
- Roll into small balls, about 1 -1.5 inches, and roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet with a little space between each one (they won't spread very much so not a lot of space needed)
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are turning a light golden and are cracked along the top
- Cool on tray for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire wrack
- Dough should be very wet and sticky - it will look like the start of a cake batter mix after you've creamed butter and sugar and started to mix in the first egg. See main post for photo reference.
- You may need to add more almonds or more egg whites to get the right consistency. For every 10g of almonds you add, add 8g of sugar. If you're adding more egg whites, just pour a little in at a time.
- If you're unsure if the dough is right, bake one first and then adjust dough as needed - if the cookie is a hard ball with no cracks you need more eggs whites, if it's spread out way too much then you need more almonds.
- Store cookies in air tight container 1-2 weeks