This is a recipe that I learned to make years ago, and I really mean many many years ago, such that I can’t really remember where it came from. This is basically a simple marzipan of sugar, almonds and egg whites, which are very reminiscent of Italian amaretti morbidi – soft amaretti cookies, although I always thing the “morbidi” part sounds more sinister than it is. Sort of like “morbid amaretti”. Just a little example of a false friend that you need to watch out for when learning a language.
Funny thing about this recipe is that it has an odd habit of coming out a little bit different each time you make it – sometimes to cookies flatten out and become chewy, other times they stay as they are, with more of a baked-marzipan quality to them. Whichever way these go, these little Italian-style cookies are unfailingly delicious. In keeping with the Italian theme, la donne e mobile indeed.
These cookies are also pleasingly not-too-sweet, with a little pure almond oil just to make them more aromatic. The sweet almond flavour is balanced with the toasted flavour of the pine nuts. Not only do they look quite funky, but they taste great. If you want something more like a petit four, make smaller cookies, and to fancy things up, dredge with a little icing sugar just before serving. Basta!
To make pine nut cookies (makes 18-20):
• 160g ground almonds
• 250g caster sugar
• 2 egg whites
• 5-6 drops almond extract
• 200g pine nuts or flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper and grease lightly.
Place the pine nuts/flaked almonds in a bowl and put to one side.
Whip the egg whites until lightly frothy. Add the ground almonds, caster sugar and almond oil, and work until you have a smooth, quite sticky dough.
Use a teaspoon to form walnut-sized balls, roll smooth with your hands, then roll each ball in the pine nuts/flaked almonds. Arrange on the baking sheet, at least 5cm/2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until the nuts are just lightly golden – we don’t want they to get too dark. If the cookies are cooking too quickly on one side, turn the baking sheets round during baking.
Worth making? Super-simple and absolutely delicious. Really easy, and easily adaptable to whatever nuts you happen to have to hand. Perfect if you’ve got to whip up some biscuits at the last minute.