2 ½ c
sliced, blanched almonds
almond paste, cut into 1-inch pieces
granulated sugar, plus additional for coating the macaroons
The almond macaroons known as amaretti are undoubtedly the iconic sweet of Italy, made and enjoyed in every region, with versions that can be hyper-local from town to town, or even household to household. This is a hybrid of favorites I’ve sampled over the years. Pure almond paste provides a soft, chewy center. I prefer to gently flavor them with Amaretto rather than the harshness of almond extract. They remain soft and chewy for a few days if stored in an airtight container, but I must confess I may even like them more a few days after their prime.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the sliced, blanched almonds in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast for 12 to 14 minutes, until the almonds are golden brown and aromatic. Remove the sheet from the oven slide the parchment with the nuts onto a cool surface to cool.
- When the nuts are cool, place them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add ¼ cup of the confectioner’s sugar and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the almond paste and process until the mixture looks like sand. Add the remaining confectioner’s sugar, granulated sugar and kosher salt, and pulse to combine the ingredients well.
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites with the vanilla and amaretto; add to the food processor and process until you have a dough that gathers into a ball.
- Remove the dough from the processor, place in a bowl and press plastic wrap onto the surface. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes. In the meantime, line two baking sheets with parchment.
- To make the cookies, place ½ cup of additional granulated sugar into a shallow bowl. Pinch off heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll into a ball. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar to coat them, and place them on the baking sheets about an inch apart. Lightly press the balls down to flatten them slightly.
- Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are evenly light golden brown. Slide the amaretti off the baking sheets and onto a rack to cool, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.