These almond paste cookies, one of my favorite recipes ever, have been around in various forms in my family for as long as I can remember. My earlier memories of these cookies are kind of hazy, but a quick chat with my mom confirmed that my grandparents used to bring them back from their trips to Sicily throughout my childhood. My first trip to Sicily at the age of 16 cemented these in my memory forever; I would eat them (and marzipan – notice an almond-flavored theme here?) whenever I could get my hands on them. My grandfather would make them at home as well, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that my aunt discovered a little secret that would bring these cookies to a whole new level – Fiori di Sicilia. Aptly named “Flowers of Sicily,” this extract is a combination of citrus and vanilla. When added to these almond paste cookies, it gives them that little something extra, making them taste exactly as I remember.
The cookies are soft and chewy, with a strong almond paste flavor and just that hint of lemony citrus from the Fiori di Sicilia. They come together in no time at all – seriously, like 5 minutes – and require very few ingredients. Some of you may recognize them as pignoli cookies – some variations of these involve rolling the dough in pine nuts, or pignoli, before baking; you could also top them with sliced or slivered almonds. Personally, I prefer the “naked” version, with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Many sites around the Internet describe them as Christmas cookies, making them perfect for this time of year!
Most recently, I made these cookies as part of the 2013 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I first heard about this event last year, and I was so excited to have the chance to participate this time around! It was really a lot of fun – I received the names of 3 fellow food bloggers, and sent a dozen of my cookies to each of them. In return, I received a dozen cookies each from 3 more food bloggers. Even better, the cookie swap is not just a fun blogger event – it’s a fundraiser for a good cause. Through a nominal participation fee, extra donations, and matched donations from Dixie Crystals, OXO, Gold Medal Flour and Grandma’s Molasses, the event raised almost $14,000 for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Really impressive, and something I’m happy to have been a part of.
For the actual swap, my cookies went out to Annalise at Sweet Anna’s, Renee at How to be Awesome on $20 a Day, and Heather at Bake Create Love. I was so glad to have a chance to connect with these great women, and have enjoyed checking out each of their blogs!
In addition, sending a huge thank you to my cookie senders, Kelly at Healthy Living Revelations, Kellie at The Suburban Soapbox, and Kelley at Miss Information! That’s right, 3 Kelly/ie/ey’s I received Mocha Brownie Cookies with Mint M&M’s from The Suburban Soapbox, Crack Bars from Healthy Living Revelations, and Almond Cranberry Chocolate Biscotti from Miss Information. I really enjoyed all of them, and can’t wait to see the recipes on their respective blogs. Needless to say, between all these and the 2 batches of macarons I made the past couple days, our house is overflowing with cookies right now Not exactly a bad thing!
I’m really glad I participated in the cookie swap, and can’t wait to do it again next year. Another huge thank you to Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil and Julie at The Little Kitchen for organizing the event! Now it’s your turn – Christmas is coming up soon, and these would make a great addition to any holiday baking list. Enjoy!
- 20 ounces almond paste
- 2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (optional – you could also sub in bitter almond oil, a little lemon or orange oil, or just leave it out. It’s worth it though!)
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond paste, sugar and salt. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the egg whites, then beat until fully incorporated. Mix in the extracts.
Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons and place on the prepared pans. Dust the cookies generously with confectioner’s sugar, then use 3 of your fingers to smoosh the cookies down a bit, leaving indentations in the tops. Bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes, or until set. Allow to cook right on the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough as needed.
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour