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Cookies with Nuts
Amaretti dei Poveri (Poor Man's Amaretti, using raw almonds, brown sugar, vegetable oil and bitter almond extract)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Special events
Contributed by: Pauline Fresco (Zia Rosina Melfi's traditional Molisana recipe)

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4 "large" eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Magic baking powder
2 oz [6 tablespoons] BITTER almond extract
1 cup natural raw almonds, with skin, ground fine*
3 cups flour (about 1/2 cup more if needed)
4 tablespoons of water

For coating cookies
Granular sugar [regular, white, table table]

* Raw almonds [NOT roasted] with their skin still on and freshly ground at home in a food processor will result in better-tasting cookies than store-bought ground blanched almonds; store-bought ground almonds lack flavor and should be avoided.


In a medium bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs with white and brown sugar.

Add oil and beat some more.

Add water and bitter almond extract.

Add ground almonds.

In a separate bowl, sift flour and baking powder together.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, and beat until well incorporated. The resulting dough should be soft, but not batter-like; if the dough is too soft and sticky, add a touch more flour -- about 1/2 cup.

Cover the bowl with the dough in it with Saran plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (The dough should harden a little while it is in the fridge).

Remove from the fridge and take a small piece of dough.

Using the palms of your hands shape the piece of dough into a 1-inch ball.

Roll the ball of dough in granular sugar.

Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Keep processing the dough, placing the cookies on the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake on the middle rack at 350 degrees F. for 15 to 18 minutes.



In Molise this recipe was considered a poor man's version of amaretti cookies, because the recipe was less expensive to make than traditional amaretti cookies which use almost no flour, and lots of expensive almonds. In a recent conversation Zia Rosina Melfi (aunt to Pauline Fresco and Mary Melfi) noted that in Casacalenda, Molise most people were able to use natural "bitter" almonds rather than artificial "bitter" almond extract as the bitter almonds grew locally (Her own father had a tree on his property of bitter almonds). Zia Rosina Melfi noted that she switched to using "bitter" almond extract when she arrived in Canada, as in the 1960s shops did not sell natural bitter almonds. Also, Zia Rosina Melfi mentioned that she sometimes adds a touch more flour than her original recipe calls for. It all depends on the actual size of the eggs -- "large" is not necessarily "large" despite what it says on the packaging. So when the eggs are larger than usual, she does add about 1/2 cup more flour to the dough. Also, she noted that it is very important to allow the dough to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or better yet, overnight, as this will harden the dough, and make it easier to shape the dough into balls.... The "amaretti dei poveri" shown in this entry were made by Rosina Melfi and they were photographed by Mary Melfi who had the good fortune of tasting her wonderful cookies, but who had the misfortune of misunderstanding her recipe directions, having assumed her directions for "almond extract," meant, "sweet almond extract," when it had actually meant "bitter" almond extract. A big mistake. Apologies to the cook. Comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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