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Cookies with Nuts
Mary's Amaretti cookies
Mary's Amaretti cookies (using roasted almonds, brown and white sugar, vegetable oil, and amaretto extract)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time & special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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For dough*
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup (light) brown sugar
1/2 cup regular white table sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
1 2/3 cups almonds with peel, roasted and finely ground
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons "Magic" baking powder
3 tablespoons "Amaretto" extract

For coating
about 1 cup icing sugar (OR, 1 cup white table sugar)

Equipment needed
2 extra-large "Dollar Shop" aluminum baking pans (12 X 18 X 1 1/4-inches)
Parchment paper
1 1/2-inch round-shaped cookie cutter

* Makes about 3 1/2 dozen "soft-centered" amaretti cookies.


Roast almonds. Cool. Grind. Put aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs.

Add white and brown sugar and beat vigorously for about 2 minutes (Do not cream the mixture).

Add oil and beat vigorously some more -- about 2 minutes.

Add roasted, finely ground almonds and mix well -- about 2 minutes.

Add "amaretto" extract and blend very well -- about 1 minute.

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

Slowly add flour mixture to the sugar-egg-nut mixture until well blended. The resulting dough is very soft.

Take a large serving platter or a large rectangle baking pan and line it with parchment paper (N.B. This step has nothing to do with the cooking of the dough, but rather, with helping the dough "rest.").

Place the soft, sticky dough on top of the serving platter or rectangle baking pan which has been lined with parchment paper.

Place another parchment paper on top of the dough, and then flatten it out a little.

Cover with a clean cloth.

Place the dough in the fridge and let it rest for about two hours (This will make the dough less sticky.).

After the dough has rested, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the cloth from the dough (but retain the parchment paper).

Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough so that it is about 1/4 inch thick.

Remove the parchment paper that is on top of the dough and using a 1 1/2-inch round-shaped cookie cutter cut out rounds.

Shape the rounds into 1 inch balls.

Roll the balls in icing sugar OR, in white table sugar (Traditionally this style of cookie is rolled in table sugar, but icing sugar might produce a more attractive cookie).

Place the sugar-coated dough balls at least 2 inches apart (The cookies will spread substantially!) on an appropriate baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

Press together any scraps of left-over dough, roll to 1/4 inch thick, cut out rounds, shape into balls, coat with icing sugar (OR, table sugar) and then place them on the baking pan.

When the first baking pan is filled up with cookies place it in the preheated 350 degrees F. and bake until ready about 12 to 15 minutes (To ensure even heating it is better to bake one pan of cookies at a time rather than place 2 pans of cookies in the oven as this might impede the baking process).

When the first pan of cookies is ready, remove from the oven (The cookies will continue to cook and harden a little more while they are cooling.).

Cool the cookies (at room temperature).

Repeat all the above steps for the second batch of cookies.

Place the cookies (once cooled) in a large clear plastic bag and tie with a twist (Don't pile them up too much as this will remove some of the icing sugar).

Keep the cookies in the fridge until needed.

Serve at room temperature (Fresh is best when it comes to home-made sweets).


This recipe was adapted from my Zia Rosina's, "Amaretti dei Poveri" -- "Poor Man's Amaretti" or "Poor People's Amaretti" (Called this way because it is less expensive to make than other traditional Italian amaretti recipes that require a lot more almonds). While I had the pleasure of tasting my aunt's cookies and loved them, when I tried to duplicate them using her recipe I wasn't able to do so. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because she is a great cook, able to do a lot with a little, and I am just your average cook who needs things simplified. That's why I took on the challenge of making my own take on the "Amaretti dei Poveri" traditional Molisana recipe. I like to do things that don't require a great deal of work or skill. I find cookies difficult to do (Easy to burn though), and actually avoided doing them all my life (When my kids, both boys, were growing up, they made their own cookies!). In any case, I tried many different versions of this recipe -- used bitter almond extract (quite nice), sweet almond extract (Not much punch to it) as well as amaretto extract. I found that by using amaretto extract one gets cookies that taste a lot like the ones available at large supermarkets, which is not necessarily a bad thing as most store-bought packaged amaretti cookies taste good (Too bad they come with lots of artificial ingredients). Sure, the amaretto extract used in this home-made recipe is artificial and that's not good (The cost of any "pure" extract would be prohibitive), still its only one ingredient used (While the store-bought cookies have half a dozen), and at least, the almonds and eggs are 100 per cent "natural". Amaretti extract (artificial or not) is intense but mild at the same time which may sound contradictory but maybe that's why it is so lovely. I could have tried using raw, natural "bitter almonds" (3 or 4 raw bitter almonds could easily replace the artificial amaretto extract in this recipe) but I didn't. I wanted to keep this cookie recipe as simple as possible, as those are the only ones I myself ever attempt to do. I didn't try using natural bitter almonds, but I did experiment with natural almonds -- both the raw kind and the roasted kind and decided I preferred the use of roasted almonds, but then I'm partial to roasted almonds, loving them more than anything else in the world -- well, anything that's edible. Raw natural almonds roasted at home will produce much better tasting cookies than using store-bought roasted almonds, sadly roasting them at home adds a lot of labour (Not a good thing), also one risks burning them (It's hard to roast almonds!) but that's just how it is. Choices have to be made . Whatever works, whatever is best for you, whatever.... (What a word, this whatever.... yes, no, maybe?). Regarding the look of the cookie -- whether to coat them with icing sugar or with table sugar -- I couldn't and still can't make up my mind about that. Traditionally, amaretti cookies are coated with table sugar (One of the reasons for this is that icing sugar was not available in the Italian countryside prior to World War II). Table sugar makes for a very good coating; still, icing sugar does seem to make the cookies look more attractive, so that's always a plus, especially when one is making them for guests. Also, icing sugar hides beside looking nice, hides imperfections a lot better than table sugar -- so I definitely lean towards the use of icing sugar. The recipe I came up with satisfied me. I think it might appeal to others. I hope so. In any case, commercially available, nicely packaged, North American, supermarket amaretti cookies generally taste very good, and those who don't mind the artificial ingredients can go ahead and enjoy them, but those who like their cookies home-made and expect some nutritional value from eating them, might appreciate this recipe (and other similar ones). Frankly, I prefer "amaretti dei poveri" cookies to the the more expensive, flourless amaretti cookies that are often sold in high-end Italian pastry shops -- they're far too sweet and pasty to my liking, and they're definitely over-priced, but that's neither here or there. When it comes to cookies, the only opinion that counts is the one who is making them or eating them. Enough said. Personal comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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