Monday, November 15, 2010

A Little Nutty

I don't think I've ever met a nut I didn't like. That said, I trade them all (even the pecans of my childhood) for an almond. Roasted, covered in chocolate, chopped up in cookies--all good in my book. And then... and then there's almond paste. Almond paste is made from sugar and ground almonds. It's the base for marzipan and for a host of other delectable delights.

At the top of this list are two traditional Italian treats, the tri-colored cookie and the pignoli. I didn't grow up with either of these cookies, but I have come to love them as my own. Through the years, I've become quite adept at the tri-colored, but I've never attempted the pignoli. Until now. It all started in a meeting. I was chatting with a couple of colleagues and one (who shall remain nameless for his own protection) went on and on about his mom's pignoli cookies.

In true Literate Baker fashion, I went back to my office and spent the better part of my lunch hour trolling for recipes. Although almond paste and egg whites and pine nuts featured prominently in every one, there was much variation. Some called for flour, some didn't. Some demanded confectioner's sugar, some granulated.

Normally, I would experiment until I found the version I liked best. Given the price of pine nuts, I wasn't too keen on that approach. I knew better than to ask an Italian woman for her recipe, so I asked my colleague if he could just find out whether or not I should be using flour. Apparently, that was the magical question. She was so appalled that I would even think about putting flour in them that she took pity on me and shared her recipe.  

This worked better than playing helpless female at Home Depot; I'll have to remember that for future use.

Now that you know the story, you know I can't give you the recipe. I can (obviously) tell you never to entertain a recipe that calls for flour. I can also tell you that the Pignoli Cookies II recipe published on is a good place to start.

It's like no cookie dough I've ever seen.

Scooped out and sprinkled with pine nuts.
I may have beaten the egg whites a tad too much.  The cookies puffed a little bit more than I would have liked, leaving air pockets in them.  Otherwise, I think I'm in love.  The almond flavor is so intense and the texture is a crispy-chewy nirvana.  I contemplated cramming more pine nuts on top, but the flavor balance is just right, so I'm going to leave the ratio as is.

So, thanks, nameless colleague guy.  I've got a few set aside just for you.

Moral of the story?  Don't be afraid to beg.  Or bribe.  All's fair in love and cookies.  (Okay, that last part is a bit much, but I like the way it sounds.)  Go nuts everyone and...

Keep it sweet. Pin It

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