Monday, November 14, 2011

Pignoli Cookies + Homemade Almond Paste

I loooooove these cookies!!!!  They are so good- some of my favorite cookies ever.  Chewy inside, firm on the outside, and the nice crunch of pine nuts.  I toasted my pine nuts first, but the toasting went a little overboard because I thought I had a few minutes for a bathroom break.... oops.  It turns out they toast in the oven anyway though, so you don't really need to.  I can't buy almond paste here, but never fear, because I made my own quite easily with ground almonds, powdered sugar, and egg whites.  I used my food processor to make the almond paste first (a few days before making the actual cookies) and then used it again to make the actual cookies.  Sadly, my food processor died while I was making the cookies.  :(  I don't think the dough was really to blame, but the fact that my food processor is about 6 years old now.  :(  Poor food processor (and me). 

I'm not sure if these cookies are authentic Italian or Italian-American, but either way, they are delicious.  :) For the almond paste, I just used purchased pre-gound almonds.  You can grind them yourself, if you want, OR just use purchased almond paste.  It is fun to make it yourself though, and you control the ingredients.  Also, my Almond Paste recipe makes one pound (16 oz); you only need 12 oz. for the Pignoli cookies.  You can use the rest of the Almond Paste in another recipe.
When making the Pignoli dough, just add one egg white first and see how that is- you want a firm, almost stiff, but not dry, dough.  Mine was too wet at first- maybe because of the homemade almond paste, but I added 1-2 more tablespoons ground almonds and it fixed it.  It was still a bit too wet- hence the spreading, but it still worked ok and they tasted great.  I think they're supposed to look like these Spanish cookies- a little more mound-like.  Anyway, start with one egg white, then add half of the other one, and the rest of that one if needed.  Also, sticking the dough in the fridge helps to firm it up a little. 

Note: I made these again May 2014 and took some new photos (first two pics above; the photo below if from original post) and used only one egg white so they didn't spread as much.  I didn't bother toasting the pine nuts first, either, and it was fine.
Pignoli Cookies
adapted from Allrecipes

12 ounces almond paste
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 egg whites, divided use
almond extract, to taste, optional
1 1/2 cups pine nuts (I just used 1 cup)

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.               

2.  Mix almond paste and granulated sugar in food processor until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar and 1 egg white; process until smooth.  If you think the mixture needs another egg white (or part of one) add one until the right texture is achieved.  If desired, add some almond extract at this point.

3.  Whisk remaining  egg white in small bowl. Place pine nuts on shallow plate. With lightly floured hands roll dough into 1 inch balls. Coat balls in egg whites, shaking off excess, then roll in pine nuts, pressing lightly to stick. Arrange balls on cookie sheets, and flatten slightly to form a 1 1/2 inch round.               

4.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let stand on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Homemade Almond Paste
from Food
makes one pound

8 ounces almonds, blanched and very finely ground (OR 8 oz. pre-ground almonds)

8 ounces powdered sugar
1 egg white 

1.  Grind your almonds in a food processor, if you don't have pre-ground almonds.  Add add the sugar and grind.  Gradually add your egg white while running the food processor.  Process until firm and smooth.

2.  Stores in the fridge for a while (a few weeks, I think).

**This post and photos are property of **


LadyJayPee said...

How AWESOME to make your own almond paste! You're AMAZING! ☺

What A Dish! said...

Well thanks, little lady! It was easy and fun. :) And so much cheaper than buying it! (Not that I can, over here, but I might get some online).

LadyJayPee said...

Chocolate covered marzipan candy!? (Except the raw egg white, unless you can bake it somehow?)

What A Dish! said...

That's the prob- with the raw egg white! I've seen other recipes where you can make almond paste with almonds, sugar, corn syrup and water, so maybe the corn syrup and water would act like the egg white and hold it together. But making that candy would be delish, and a fun gift, too! I think I'm going to make some almondy- blondie bars I saw on an Almond Paste company website, they looked really good. I just need to get a rest from all the sugar first!

Ralph Carnesecchi said...

Great recipe with good cautionary notes...and this coming from an Italian Guy with a passion for cooking.
Two optional ingredients may add to the flavor and texture....lemon or orange zest and 2 tablespoons of syrup. Be careful what syrup you use. I used to use the syrup sold at Sams Club for many years. This year they changed the Brand of syrup and I have had nothing but disasters....use what you know from past experience. All syrups are not the same

What A Dish! said...

Thanks for the comment, Ralph! Do you mean add the zest and syrup to the cookie dough, or the almond paste? I'm sure lemon would taste wonderful! Also, do you mean corn syrup or brown rice syrup or a different kind?