During our many travels the last few months we ended up spending a quick weekend visiting family in Minnesota. It just so happened our visit coincided with a tasting event for their local Star Tribune's annual holiday cookie competition. We spent a great afternoon sampling delicious cookies, and got to leave with new recipes in hand, and it was great seeing some new variations on old holiday classics. The winner this year were these tasty Italian almond cookies - little soft balls of almondy, lemony deliciousness rolled in powdered sugar.
A few things drew me to this recipe... I find that without outside guidance my baking sometimes gets repetitive, alternating between chocolate, peanut butter, and chocolate and peanut butter, sometimes mixing it up with some caramel... Not that any of my taste testers (friends), complain, but its still nice to mix it up. This recipe provided a nice alternative to the classic chocolate chip cookie. I also liked that this recipe is a similar base to the macarons I'm obsessed with making, but much easier to make. I had just brought back some fresh cinnamon from a vacation to Zanzibar last week, so I rolled some of the cookies in a cinnamon/sugar mixture instead of the powdered sugar called for in the original recipe.
My taste testers were torn which flavor was better. The cinnamon/sugar ones almost taste like a marzipan snickerdoodle, but the powdered sugar really lets the lemon and almond shine through. If you are as indecisive as me, and make both of them, comment below and let me know what you prefer! These cookies are delicious the same day they are made, and still pretty good the next day, if stored in an airtight container. The main flaw in these cookies is that with their little size its easy to eat "just one more..."
Italian Almond Cookies:
barely adapted from the Star Tribune holiday cookie competition
Makes 2.5 dozen cookies
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one large lemon
1 egg white (ideally at room temperature)
2 1/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup sugar
powdered sugar OR 1 Tb white sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon
Make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 176c/350f and line two cookie trays with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix the honey, almond extract, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. If your honey is not liquidy, microwave it for 10 seconds before using it.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks.
- Using a rubber spatula add the wet ingredients to the beaten egg whites, followed by the almond flour and sugar. The mixture will look sorta crumbly, just press it together with your spatula.
- Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and give it a few kneads until it looks well mixed and cohesive. Split the dough in half and roll/coerce each half into logs, about one inch thick and one foot long. Use a sharp knife and cut the logs into cookies, 1/2 inch in width. Gently shape each cookie into an oval shape, then roll it generously in your topping of choice. (I did half the cookies in powdered sugar, and half in cinnamon/sugar), and place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared cookie tray.
- Bake for 12 minutes, until they are slightly browned and cracking a little, don't overbake!
- Cool on a wire tray.
Best the same day they are made, but otherwise keep in an airtight container.