Pignoli

About this dish

  • Serves: 20 or so
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Method: oven baking

These cookies are chewey almond macaroons, typically available in Italian coffee houses, and sometimes coated entirely in pine nuts (pignoli, thus the name). A dessicated version is available from a famous liquer company (Amaretto diSaronni?), in square red tins with a circular yellow, white, and black logo. The recipe is my mother’s, but there’s no real history associated with it. I think she found it somewhere. Mostly made near Christmas.

This recipe is a little different than most on the net I’ve seen – most others use only egg whites or omit the flour or baking powder. I definitely recommend this version – it’s much lighter.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound almond paste
    • I get mine from a local Italian market. It’s like stiff PlayDough – not soft like toothpaste, like you find in those silly little tubes in the grocery. Make sure it’s fresh, too. It should be heady with aroma.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • (optional) pignoli – a.k.a. pine nuts.
    • They don’t really taste like much, and they can be hard to find. But if you can’t get them, just skip that part. Don’t use almonds (that’d be silly) or any other nuts.
  • Granulated sugar to roll them in – 1 C is more than enough

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Don’t worry about greasing the pan – the almond paste has enough oil to kill a horse.

Bring the almond paste to room temp. If it’s dry, grate it on a very coarse grater (the one with the 1/4″ holes), or add a _small_ amount of water (or better, some Amaretto liquer) to bring it back to life. Fresh paste won’t need anything, though. You can run this part through a mixer (a KitchenAid with the paddle, not the hook), but make sure it’s heavy-duty.

Mix in the egg and egg white until incorporated. Add in the powdered sugar, flour, and baking powder. If the mix is soft, chill it in the refrigerator at this point, about 1/2 hour.

Shape into 3/4″ balls. Either: – press 3 pignoli nuts into a star in the top, then roll in granulated sugar – just roll in granulated sugar – roll the _top half_ in pignoli (not the entire ball!)

Place on a cookie sheet. These balls will ‘melt’ down, like similar balls of chocolate-chip cookie mix would, so keep some distance (4 on the short side, 5-6 on the long).

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

The cookie should be golden; lighter is better than darker, though.

Let cool PART WAY, then dislodge them from the pan with a spatula. Do this before they cool all the way; at that point, they’re brittle, and will shatter.

Makes 45-60 cookies, depending on how big your 3/4″ is 🙂

Eat with cappucino (of course!), or as a garnish on vanilla ice cream.